Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sen. Wyden on bipartisanship

An op-ed piece originally published in the Washington Post, republished by the Salt Lake Tribune.
Wyden, of course, is the co-sponsor with Bennett of the "infamous" Wyden-Bennett health care plan that played a large role in Bennett's defeat. I really enjoyed it, and it made me mourn the loss of Senator Bennett all over again.

Here are some highlights:

In fact, some in my party will undoubtedly criticize me for writing kind words about my friend Sen. Bob Bennett, just as some in Bob's party thought that his working with a Democrat was sufficient grounds for losing his seat in the U.S. Senate. In other words, many of the most committed activists believe that the only way for Republicans to win legislatively is for Democrats to lose, and vice versa...

I still think I had a pretty good idea for health reform -- despite its rejection by significant Democratic and Republican leaders -- but so did Bob Bennett. I was on the Senate floor three years ago when Bob walked across the center aisle to tell me he was willing to work with me on health reform. I had been meeting with him and other Senate colleagues for many weeks to talk about the Healthy Americans Act and what I believed was a historic opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to work together on an important issue...

While I'll let others debate what became of the Wyden-Bennett health-reform bill, our effort married the best, most principled ideas that both parties had been promoting for decades. Like most Democrats, my fundamental principle was guaranteeing quality, affordable health coverage for all Americans. Like most Republicans, Bob felt strongly that market forces be used to promote expanded consumer choice and competition. Our legislation did both. As long as I would help Bob achieve his marketplace principles and avoid bigger government, Bob said he could back me on getting everyone insured...

Bob Bennett is one of the most conservative men I have ever known, but he is also one of the best. Even in defeat, he told me that he doesn't for one minute regret working with me to try to do something important for the country, which is why I consider his loss so tragic. The country needs more senators who think like Bob Bennett, not fewer.

While it may be tempting to read the recent elections as a rejection of principled bipartisanship, polling shows that the majority of the American people are sick of the status quo, and the status quo is a Washington obsessed with legislating as though Congress' sole function is to play a wholly partisan, zero-sum game. The American people want us to put our nation ahead of party allegiances. They want us to do more than devise ways to gain and maintain power. They want us to be constructive with that power...

The regrettable irony of what transpired in Utah's Republican convention is that a small number of hyperpartisan activists have just ensured that Utah's contribution to the Senate will be less bipartisanship and more of the status quo in Washington. If that is the change that partisans are offering the nation, let's make certain the American public understands.

Allow electronic signatures on petitions

It's 2010 now, and I say it's time to start recognizing e-signatures on petitions as long as it can be reasonably proven that the person signing the signature is the person they claim to be. The idea of using the last four digits of a person's driver's license as verification sounds fine to me. Why not make it easier for people to participate in the political process?

From the Deseret News' Aaron Falk, this article about the legal fight in Utah about the issue.

Farley Anderson wants to see his name on the ballot come November, despite Lt. Gov. Greg Bell's decision to reject a petition that included 40 e-signatures.

Along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, Anderson will get his chance to argue his case before the Utah Supreme Court next week.

"Every person who participated in the electronic process thought about the issues, of their own fruition participated," Anderson said Monday. "It's far more empowering than when a petition is simply thrust in the face of someone. A lot of people will sign simply to get you out of their face. This way, people are actually casting a valid vote for something they believed in."

The high court will hear Anderson's arguments June 2.

The court's ruling could impact the efforts of the Utahns for Ethical Government citizen petition seeking legislative ethics reform. The UEG effort would likely need to count electronic signatures to meet the 95,000-signature requirement to get its initiative on the ballot, officials said, but Bell has rejected electronic signatures for both initiative and candidate petitions.

UEG attorney Alan Smith said he expects the group to file a friend of the court brief in the case.

Anderson, from the small Cache Valley town of Paradise, collected 960 signatures on paper but would need at least 40 of the signatures he collected electronically to also be counted for his name to appear on the ballot.

County clerks in Salt Lake, Washington, Kane and Sanpete counties verified the signatures. County clerks check the signatures by verifying the names on the petitions are registered voters and that there are no duplicates.

Bell, who is also the state's election officer, ruled the signatures invalid.

"They're required to submit to us 1,000 certified and executed and acknowledged signatures," said Mark Thomas, a spokesman for Bell. "We don't believe they have met that."

Anderson, a self-described "guinea pig" candidate for the electronic cause, said his online petitions used the additional security of asking for the last four digits of the signer's driver's license number.

As a matter of law, a signature should hold the same weight, regardless if it is collected on paper or online, said the ACLU in Utah's legal director, Darcy Goddard.

"Under the common law … a signature is any mark that the signing party intends to be her signature," she said.

ACLU attorneys said state laws regarding petitions put additional burdens on unaffiliated candidates and prevent equal opportunities at the ballot.

"Access to the ballot and governmental process should be free and equal and available to all, not those who are powerful, not those who are affiliated with political parties," said Brent V. Manning, who represents Anderson.

Obama's Fake Facebook Feed

Political junkies - you'll love this site on Slate.com

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Utah GOP Convention

I haven't had time to post much lately, but these are my impressions of the convention.

The Good:

It was fun to be around so many other people who care about politics. When we were in the convention room for the voting all the delegates were seated by county. It was inspiring to hear each of the counties called by name and to hear all of the delegates from that county cheer.

The voting was VERY organized. I don't know who the voting coordinator was, but I would definitely vote for her if she was running for office.

The Bad:

While I was wandering around listening to the candidates before the convention was called to order, I saw someone standing outside of Tim Bridgewater's booth shaking hands with people as they walked by. What was remarkable to me is that he was dressed in a suit and tie with a missionary name tag on. I don't know if he was not actually a missionary but was wearing an old name tag, or if he was a missionary and was at the convention for some reason. Either way, TOTALLY inappropriate.

I was sad that Bob Bennett lost, of course, since I was supporting him. I was going to vote for Tim Bridgewater as my second choice, but when he started ranting about socialism in his final speech just like all the others candidates had done, I left. Not much difference between one far-right candidate and another far-right candidate.

The Ugly:

I sat next to a lady who was a nice grandmotherly type. Then I started talking to her and I couldn't believe the conversation we had. Someone mentioned Mitt Romney in one of the speeches and she said, "I like Mitt Romney, but he's never going to be elected president because other Republicans don't like him." So far, I pretty much agreed with her. Then she went on, "They won't let Mitt Romney be president, but they'll elect a MOO-slim who wasn't even born in this country with no second thoughts about it. Can you believe it? A MOO-slim... he's not even a citizen..." I didn't want to start a fight or anything so my first instinct was to just smile and nod and then change the subject, but I just can't stand to listen to such crazy things without responding somehow. So I said, "Oh, are you talking about President Obama?" "Yes, Obama's a MOO-slim, didn't you hear about that big scandal?" "Where did you hear that, Rush Limbaugh?" hopefully with enough scorn in my voice to signal that I'm not a fan. "Well, no Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity..." I'm sure she could probably see the look of disapproval on my face. So she continued, "He's very accurate, he fact-checks everything he says. There's a midwife from Kenya who saw him born, she talked about it and then she disappeared. Doesn't that sound suspicious, she says Obama was born in Kenya and then she disappears?" The whole time she was talking I could feel the blood rushing to my face. I realized it was pointless to argue about something she was obviously convinced of, so I just muttered, "Well, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree about that" and we moved on to other topics. But I still feel angry when I think about it. Not so much angry at her, I think she is well-meaning enough. I'm angry at the people in the media like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity who tell people half-truths to get ratings. They take people's fears and prejudices and twist them for their own political (and monetary) interests. It makes me sick that these people are taking over my party.

Now, the Democrats also have their conspiracy theories, like the 9/11 truthers. But I'm talking about the Republicans here, so we'll stick to the paranoia in my own floundering party. Do we really want a group of people in charge of the Utah Republican party who are getting all their information from Glenn Beck and friends and accepting it as the gospel truth? I know I don't.
Are all the clear-thinking people in the Republican party going to just sit back and let it happen? We'll see. A moderate Democrat seems to be a lot closer to my political views than these Obama-is-a-socialist-don't-even-talk-to-democrats-let's-do-nuclear-testing-in-Utah Republicans.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Now I'm getting depressed

From an Opinion column in the New York Times today

"The combined message that has been sent over the past two weeks is that there is entirely too much bipartisan cooperation going on in Washington and voters want to see an end to it."