It seems to me that my state legislature, the Utah State Legislature, tends to busy itself with identity politics rather than legislation. While identity politics often refers to appealling to some minority by putting up minority candidates, in this case the Utah State Legislature appeals to paleocon/libertarian ideologues by passing the craziest laws imaginable. Most of these are symbolic moves, standing no chance of surviving judicial review, and are a colossal waste of money as a result. Hopefully, they won’t make their way out of the legislature (but sometimes they do). It is like the local caucuses just send their craziest, most strident members out as state representatives and senators so that they won’t bother them anymore with their paranoid theories regarding the UN or the Federal Reserve.

In this session, we have had resolutions rejecting health care legislation that doesn’t exist yet, an attempt to tie Martin Luther King, Jr to gun ownership advocacy (stay classy, Utah Legislature), an amendment attacking affirmative action (except for religion), two resolutions (at least) asserting states’ rights (again, focusing on potential federal actions that have not been proposed and aren’t being enacted), a bill privatizing state parks, a resolution formally questioning climate science, and finally, and most irritatingly, passed a law that will certainly get us embroiled in a lengthy, expensive test case for gun’s rights for which there is already a test case.

The last law demonstrates that the legislature isn’t interested in the interests of its constituents so much as it is interested in declaring itself the most conservative legislature in the states. I’m certain that before the session ends there will be various resolutions trying to make it even harder to get an abortion or to get welfare in Utah. I’m absolutely certain that cuts will be made to higher education while demands for quality and efficiency will be increased. Heck, they are putting ads on school buses, why should higher ed be left out?

In any case, the motivation for all this seems to be an attempt to demonstrate that the legislature is hard-core conservative. And it is, no one is questioning that. But the legislature’s quest to establish, over and over again, its conservative bona fides means that the lengths it goes to are crazier and crazier, each session trying to outdo the one before it. Why limit education spending, when you can just eliminate 12th grade?

Most of the reason that they can get away with this is because of a sense of conservative identity politics. However, instead of representing an oppressed and underserved minority, the conservative demagogues supporting this nonsense argue that they represent an oppressed and underserved majority. So they blithely adopt resolutions against the UN, thinking that people back home don’t object because they support it. This is wrong. People back home don’t object because they don’t have a clue what the state legislature is up to. They don’t even know who their state representative is. The perceived unimportance of the legislature is what allows this craziness to continue (who cares what those yahoos at the capital do?). But while they are wasting time of these pet, crazy topics, there is real, important stuff going on. Budgets are being decided, programs are being support (or not). Do you want those decisions in the hands of people who don’t understand the use and value of an amicus brief?

Utah is a laughingstock, not because of religious prejudice, but because our legislature consists of a group of people who spend their time debating climate science and evolution in schools instead of actually running the state. But, in this age of state budget cuts, I suppose it might be cheaper than sticking them in treatment facilities.

Bookmark Radical Moderation

Advertisements