There is no reason to begrudge the members of the Utah House of Representatives, who are expected to do a lot of very important stuff in a very short time, a moment of frivolity.
So when Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, rose on the House floor Tuesday to propose House Resolution 3 — “House Resolution Honoring Donovan Mitchell over Shaquille O’Neal” — it was, at worst, a harmless bit of fun. (There was a bit of a wardrobe malfunction, though. Brikeland, the advocate, wore a referee’s shirt while Speaker Brad Wilson, the presiding officer, wore a Jazz jersey. It should have been the other way around.)
It was all a way for some local politicians to get a piece of the media fury that arose after former NBA star O’Neal, interviewing standout player Mitchell on national TV after another Utah Jazz win, dissed the Salt Lake City favorite, saying he didn’t have the skills to take it to the next level. Which is, of course, ridiculous.
What’s troubling — about the Legislature, not Shaq — is that the brief stunt was a benign example of an often much nastier aspect of our politics and culture. The allegiance to members of your own team, no matter what.
Even as Birkeland and Wilson and the rest of us enjoy a momentary hoot over a feud between millionaire athletes, reflexively take the side of the local guy — and rightly honor Mitchell’s many charitable contributions to the community — members of their same Republican Party continue to engage in a form of team spirit that endangers the future of democracy in America.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes continues to defend his indefensible efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and has little to say about the fact that the Republican Attorneys General Association, of which he is a past chairman, has its fingerprints all over the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. Only one member of the Utah Legislature seems to care, having announced an intention to file a resolution of impeachment against Reyes, and he, of course, is a Democrat.
Reps. Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart, both Utah Republicans, were among the majority of House Republicans who groundlessly voted to deny recognition of the certified election returns of a state, turning their backs on the Constitution they claim to revere and the state sovereignty they claim to support, out of nothing but a slavish loyalty to the now blessedly former president, the fascist Donald Trump.
Sen. Mike Lee couldn’t stomach that denial of truth. But he did vote the other day to halt the impeachment trial of Trump, ignoring that such an impeachment article is the proper response to Trump’s clear incitement of that insurrection.
Mitt Romney, Utah’s other senator, was among only five of that body’s Republicans who voted to let the proceedings continue. And he bluntly burned through all the phony palaver about the need to find political unity when he challenged his fellow pachyderms to put first things first.
“If you want to see national unity, you really have to rely on truth and justice,” Romney said, “and justice being carried out is something which American people expect.”
Or, as Romney’s friends in the Black Lives Matter marches would have on their signs, “No justice, no peace.”
Romney’s idea that some of the damage to the Capitol building be left as it is rather than papered over in an effort to forget what happened — and what almost happened — is an excellent one.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to worship at the feet of Donald Trump.
And no other Republicans seem to have a problem with one of their newest members of Congress, Georgia’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who threatened to have journalists who attended an open town hall arrested when she didn’t like their questions, who insists that school shootings were staged, threatened to shoot gun-safety advocates who were survivors of the Parkland, Florida, attack, called for Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, among others, to be killed, and thinks that wildfires in California were caused by giant lasers in space.
Why do so many Republicans still do these things and so many other party members let them get away with it?
Tribalism. Loyalty to their team. No matter what. No matter what levels of political foolishness, even violence, it causes.
If politicians — other than Mitt Romney — won’t disagree with, even abandon, members of their party when they are so astonishingly wrong, then our only hope is that the voters will.
George Pyle, opinion editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, had a really, really hard time admitting that “Attack of the Clones” wasn’t a very good movie.