House of Love 

Think about the idea of Mia Love and Colleen Bliss in office

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I am attracted to the attractiveness of Mia Love’s candidacy in the 4th Congressional District. I can’t help it. To have a smart black woman named Love representing Utah in the House of Representatives is such an attractive prospect.

I am also attracted to the attractiveness of Colleen Bliss’ candidacy in House District 41. I can’t help it. To have a smart, energetic woman named Bliss in the Utah Legislature is such an attractive prospect.

Think about it. Love in one dysfunctional House, Bliss in another! (If only Ms. Reason were on the ballot!) ’Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished, in Hamlet’s longing words. Come November, voters in Riverton and Bluffdale can make the felicitous choice of both Love and Bliss. Or they can opt for Love without Bliss or Bliss without Love. The Loveless option is my preference. Love masks old-think at a time when new-think is desperately needed. Even Ted Cruz’s horse-holder Mike Lee has figured that out.

I don’t claim to have any expertise in politics, but who can overlook the dire straits in which we find ourselves? The ship of state founders as politicians, immobilized by self-interest, retreat to their staterooms to tweet inanity. Make a list of the country’s festering problems, and you’ll find “reform” appears as often as a bad-air day in Salt Lake City. Campaign-finance reform, tax reform, Medicaid reform, immigration reform, education reform, penal reform—it is a long list, and growing longer in this age of intransigence. Climate change is in a category of its own.

The government response to it has been so sluggish that nothing is in place to reform. In Utah, with Gov. Gary Herbert setting the pace, legislators drag their feet, pausing to kick another can down the road or to dance to a lobbyist’s tune. Reform is as unwelcome as a tax increase.

Not so on the other side of the Wasatch. Republicans in Washington are reading the handwriting on the wall, and a cadre of young turks is plotting reform, explains a story in the New York Times Magazine. These “reformicons” are party insiders who “believe the health of the GOP hinges on jettisoning its age-old doctrine—orgiastic tax-cutting, the slashing of government programs, the championing of Wall Street—and using an altogether different vocabulary, backed by specific proposals, that will reconnect the party to middle-class and low-income voters.” The Republicans also have to reconnect with Reagan Democrats and woo independents if they are to become the dominant party envisaged by Karl Rove. No doubt the reformicons were watching closely in June as Mississippi’s Republican primary was decided by the votes of black Democrats.

The reformicons reportedly have Mike Lee’s ear, but I don’t think the message has trickled down to Love. Neither does she seem to have taken note of the turning tide in public opinion. The Tea Party’s disapproval ratings are above 50 percent and rising. Its talking points are worn out. Love could burnish her attractiveness with a measure of centrist reform expressed in “an altogether different vocabulary.”

So, too, could Dan McCay, the one-term legislator whom Bliss intends to unseat. A longtime affiliate of the libertarian organization FreedomWorks, McCay espouses its mantra of “less government, lower taxes and more economic freedom.” So does Love. Granted, the rhetoric is attractive on its face, but will it “reconnect the [GOP] to middle-class and low-income voters”? I doubt it. It didn’t in Mississippi. It doesn’t resonate because it is old-think and immoderate.

Who among conservative Utahns actually believes free-market capitalism is going to cleanse our polluted air? It seems more likely that government regulation and tax revenue will be required to do the job. I think most people can live with that. They just want government to be efficient regardless of its size.

But they also want it to be responsive. That it isn’t causes what longtime pollster Andrew Kohut calls “chronic disillusionment.” Despite overwhelming public support for giving legal status to undocumented immigrants and requiring background checks for gun purchases, the congress refuses to act. More than 60 percent of Americans told Bloomberg pollsters they would gladly pay more for oil and gas if doing so would reduce carbon emissions, but a carbon tax is anathema in the halls of Congress. Doctrinaire politicians—Republican or Democrat—are sand in the gears of government. We need more Howard Bakers and fewer Ted Cruzes in Washington.

For that reason, I find Bliss more attractive than McCay. I see her as a Baker challenging a Cruz. Bliss, a retired teacher and sometimes city councilwoman in Bluffdale, promises “to promote moderation and cooperation in public policy.” Granted, moderation and cooperation do not cause goose bumps, but the underlying commitment offers more hope than the old-think bromides espoused by McCay.

By all accounts, Love’s attractiveness and bank account will deliver the 4th District House seat to her. I wish her well. She will be one of only 20 congresswomen. I do worry that her old-think conservatism will lead her into a bad crowd that confuses the verbs “to govern” and “to obstruct.” I don’t worry that Bliss will be co-opted. But as a woman and a moderate Democrat, she will face challenges of her own in Utah’s House of Representatives.

Bella Abzug, the ardent feminist who served in congress in the 1970s, was right when she said, “This woman’s place is in the House (of Representatives).” A year from now, I hope to write that dysfunction has yielded to Love and Bliss.

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