Hope in defeat
By Joseph Randolph
Political conservatives won a laudable victory this past week by preventing Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett from entering the Utah primary. What Bennett said by way of defense confirms that he was a man extraordinarily deserving of his fate.
The senator sealed his political non-future by voting in the affirmative for reckless and mammoth spending, and yet he self-righteously defended his votes. Asked about them, he stood upright and unrepentant: "Looking back on them, with one or two very minor exceptions, I wouldn't have cast any of them any differently even if I had known at the time they were going to cost me my career." Thus the man judges himself as a martyr; he was wronged for doing right. He stood for correct principles, consequences and citizens be what they may.
In truth, he was callously indifferent and disdainful of the citizens. Asked about the obvious anger toward him as an incumbent—though no longer now a candidate— he ascribed it all to voter hatred of Washington, and even ventured that if one is in Washington, one is the enemy of the people—that is, the citizens. What Bennett obviously but astoundingly lacks is any fortitude to tell the truth about his political demise, so he instead feints behind the easy but weak façade of victimization. The truth of the matter is that most voters do not hate Washington; they do at times hate what Washington does—and particularly so these days and in this case and to the point—what deeds Bennett did in Washington.
Not a word, however, on the wrongness of Bennett's actions from Bennett. Instead, many many words from Bennett on the wrongness of the people who put him out to pasture. His tissue of martyred principle is indicative of his willful arrogance or his hapless ignorance. Most people can forgive some ignorance; arrogance, however, and the pretence that saddles up with it sticks longer and harder in the rump of those lectured. Bennett lacks any shred of courage that would admit his wrong as he opts for the cowardice of pretending he was right and the people wrong. In other words, he will take no blame in the matter—all blame is assigned and attributed to people outside of Washington. Those would be the citizens.
The undefeated arrogance of Bennett was further exemplified in his dour warning that delegates and voters should "not take a chance on a newcomer," followed by the reason for the warning: "There's too much at stake." Bennett is badly wrong on both points. Imagine a viable business in financial trouble and investors nevertheless cautioning the management against the infusion of any new blood into the troubled business. More, the larger problem is that Bennett has the air of the career politician welded into his remark, and career politicians are almost always bad politicians. There is nevertheless great hope in the fact that Bennett's career as a politician is finished. One waits and wants to hear how many more like him will go out to pasture before November.
Then there is the hilltop plea that too much is in jeopardy to make any drastic change or turn-around, such as the Utah delegates envisioned in going around Bennett for others. Thus, candidates like Bennett try to provoke voter fears with doomsday warnings of the impending catastrophes of ignoring them or worse, firing them and starting again with another. The delegates in Utah did the right thing by doing a drastic thing. They got rid of a politician who imagined he was indispensable to the people and country he represents. Better yet, the delegates showed how precarious and vulnerable the incumbency of the wrong incumbent sits in the upcoming election. One hopes for more exhibitions of this kind of audacity we can believe in between now and November.
Joseph Randolph is an academic and writer living in Wisconsin. His 2010 book Debilitating Democracy: Power From The People, is available from Wasteland Press and Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.