The years 1954 and 2002 couldn’t be more different. Back then, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to end racial segregation in public schools, while the French were poised to lose their colonial grip on Vietnam and eventually hand us a brand new conflict, even as the Korean War ground to halt. Today we lament the stock market between warnings of terrorist attacks.
Yet in one loose respect, these years are the same. No more so than in Utah. Because despite the distance between those times, the tension between rural and urban Utah remains. It goes something like this: Rural Utah is God’s country, while the Salt Lake Valley rests on the precipitous edge of becoming Gomorrah. Few in rural Utah dare send their kids to the University of Utah, that bastion of sin and “anti-Mormon” attitudes. They routinely mourn every wilderness area roped off from development by pesky environmentalists. The urban dwellers of Salt Lake Valley, meanwhile, see Utah’s backwoods as a place crawling with armed polygamists and anti-U.N. agitators.
But back to the years. In 1954, a well-organized cadre of rural Utah politicians thought it sure would be neat if they passed a constitutional amendment giving each county one senator, regardless of its population. That meant Salt Lake County would have lost a whole mess of Senate seats at the Capitol, while tiny counties like Piute or Wayne took on new and powerful dimensions of political power. You know, forget politics based on the number and will of the people. Rural Utah was going to show those city slickers who was boss. Thankfully, that ballot initiative failed.
This election year, we see the strange fruits of Republican gerrymandering at its best. With the political might of Salt Lake County now split among all three of Utah’s congressional districts, who could argue that this isn’t 1954 all over again? Of course, the tactics differ. Diluting the opposition through redrawn district lines is completely different from trying to rig the system altogether. And the one-person, one-vote rule remains. But the end goal seems little different. Almost 50 years later, you could say the shock troops of the conservative cause picked up where they left off, and finished the job.
But as the Republican Party keeps reminding us, “It’s not our job to make sure Democrats can get elected.” That’s another way of saying that the job falls on us. Vote for Rob Bishop in the 1st Congressional District and you’re sure to get your man if you care about gun rights and credit unions. Vote for Patrice Arent in Senate District 4 and you’ll definitely spoil the Republican attempt to get rid of one of our few female representatives, let alone one of the Legislature’s few intelligent voices.
• The politicians of old England may seem like a bunch of stodgy fuddy-duddies with their proper way of speaking and all, but cut them some slack. Anyway, we might as well wax romantic about Great Britain, one of the few nations where intelligent lefties can still be found. Here are two stone-cold facts. First, the floor debates at the House of Commons alone are enough to justify the existence of C-Span. Second, Labour Party Members of Parliament (MPs) have sensational taste in music. When we talk about power-hungry politicos the world over, that’s saying something. Just last month, several Labour MPs walked American musician and Love frontman Arthur Lee through the Houses of Parliament, paid Lee homage, and declared Love’s 1967 album Forever Changes “the greatest album of all time.” Not bad for Lee, an African-American whose name is hardly known here at home. After the Republicans sweep the elections, you might want to stoke your sorrows in the grooves of this psychedelic folk-pop masterpiece. We might as well reinforce Republican stereotypes about Democrats. But have you ever heard the music they listen to?