Happy New Year! The enormous 2012 election year is upon us and big events will occur rapid-fire, not just in the presidential election, but also in Utah. This fascinating political year will be defined by a lousy economy, a divided and dysfunctional federal government, and the possibility of the first-ever Mormon major party nominee for the U.S. presidency.
With over 50 years, between us, of participating in and watching state and national politics, we're offering some New Year's Day advice to those involved in Utah public policy:
Webb: Congratulations for putting your good names on the line and leaping into elective politics. You're off on a great adventure, so enjoy the ride. Be prepared to lose as well as win. Keep things in perspective. Talk to at least one person each day who doesn't care about and isn't following politics. Avoid negative campaigning. Stick to your principles, but don't be a purist ideologue. Be a problem-solver. Uncompromising ideologues never solve anything and never do the state or nation much good. All the great conservative politicians that I admire, including Ronald Reagan, were willing to find common ground to solve problems.
Pignanelli: "A leader must have the courage to act against an expert's advice." — James Callaghan. LaVarr is a gracious gentleman; I am not, and my advice is more direct.
Utah Democrats: Mitt Romney is the most famous living LDS adherent on the planet, and he is about to suffer a savage thrashing from national Democrats. Harsh attacks in presidential contests are a quadrennial tradition since 1800, but this is a first for a Mormon. Not only will the turnout be high in Utah to support his candidacy, a number of LDS Republicans and Independents will be furious at this treatment. Utah Democrats are advised to develop a strategy in response. This may require disagreeing with Democrats from other parts of the country. Also, this environment will not allow Utah Democrats to utilize negative campaigns.
Utah Republicans: Please stop the carping at each other — such behavior is beneath the dignity of the party in power. While some may not support the retention of incumbents, they deserve respect in the convention/delegate process. Certain activists may have issue with Sen. Orrin Hatch's length of service, but his accomplishments in behalf of the nation and state should not be diminished. All this grousing by GOP insiders about Gov. Gary Herbert is especially weird — they cannot give specifics as to major mistakes or policy blunders contrary to Republican principles. Notwithstanding a $2 million attack against him in 2010, Utah voters approved Herbert's style. In other words, please do not let the ultra-right tea party activists determine how our state leaders are selected and ultimately govern.
Pignanelli: I appeal to your better nature to ignore the anti-immigrant noise. No Utahn will benefit from creating greater hardships for those seeking a better life through grueling work — that American citizens eschew.
Webb: You have done a terrific job managing state finances in very difficult times. You have cut budgets fairly and judiciously. With revenues picking up, you now have the opportunity to invest a little, not just cut. Our state will not be successful, long-term, without excellent education, and we're slipping badly. So please invest in education as much as possible, but require real reform. Business as usual, the same old model, isn't enough. Look to excellent charter schools for reforms that produce great results.
Utah Members of Congress.
Webb: Utahns are disgusted with congressional brinkmanship, dysfunction, and gridlock. Please don't just posture for re-election and bounce from one crisis to another. Stake out the high ground by showing us a realistic (emphasis on realistic) plan to restore the country to sound financial footing. Include some carrots for the other side by increasing revenues a bit by eliminating tax loopholes while lowering overall rates. Then in the partisan battles you'll at least have the high ground.
Pignanelli: I appreciate LaVarr's optimism but someone must have slipped something extra into the eggnog he drank this holiday season. Americans will be grateful if members can avoid knifing each other.
Out-of-State Political Organizations.
Webb: Stay out of Utah! We don't need you, want you or like you, and your negative campaigning often hurts the candidate you're trying to help.
Pignanelli: Like it or not, the 527s and SuperPACs are coming to Utah. So please spend lots of money on local media.
Webb: Get engaged! Utah's voter participation is among the lowest in the country. That's embarrassing. Our political system doesn't work well without broad participation by citizens. It's not enough to simply vote in the fall. The political year starts very early. If you don't attend your March party caucus meetings, you're letting others determine candidates and public policy. Learn what happens at caucuses and how to be elected as a delegate.
Pignanelli: What LaVarr is really saying (to which I concur): Please, please, please attend your precinct caucus to ensure a rational thought process in both party conventions.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: email@example.com.