ALPINE — Last week, the Utah public was amazed to find out that their District 3 representative, Jason Chaffetz, would not seek re-election in 2018. For constituents from Cottonwood Heights to Blanding, the news came as a shock, leaving most wondering whether it was scandal or ambition.
It seems that the only thing everyone agreed on was that the reasoning rang hollow. For the political elite across the state, the possibility of Chaffetz retiring had already been whispered. Reports indicate that before the announcement, calls were being made rallying support among legislators and influence makers behind Deidre Henderson to replace Chaffetz.
Within hours of the announcement, state senators, statewide officials and political celebrities were posting and commenting about their unyielding support for state Sen. Henderson. There was no explanation why, or specific details, but it was understood that it was simply her turn.
Henderson is articulate, friendly and politically active, but she is not revolutionary and will never be accused of being solutions-oriented. The answer is clear: the political elite use their superior resources and contacts to coronate a candidate, rather than allowing the public to hear a fair and open exchange of ideas.
This kind of political gamesmanship is exactly why such a negative opinion of politics and politicians persists; this is also the reason that liberty-minded folks must commit to exposing the machinations behind the curtain and demanding integrity in politics. The reason that Chaffetz is abandoning this post was sold to the public as an altruistic, “family first” decision. Few, if anyone, truly believes this reasoning. Chaffetz is a man who just two years ago ran for speaker of the House, but he is suddenly tired of the Washington game? Now that his children are adults, he’s all of a sudden interested in becoming "Mr. Family."
Those supporting Chaffetz’s former campaign manager, Deidre Henderson, are working the phones. The public is so desensitized to these political games that the ethically vacuous activity they see doesn’t even come as a surprise. Folks who are otherwise upstanding citizens who claim to care about integrity are professing to be OK with this process because, “this is how politics works.”
A small band of political elite bartering their influence and contacts to pull the real decision-making away from the public is not how politics should work. Instead, we should all, each and every one of us, be outraged.
This process has exposed the systemic problems with the current political system. In “let-them-eat-cake” style, the political elite are in the early stages of attempting to pull a fast one on the voting public, placing upon us the overwhelming pressure to abandon our political duty to evaluate and then hold candidates for the United States Congress accountable. To those who value transparency, liberty and governance with authority derived from the governed and not the few in power, the actions of the political elite to elevate without evaluation Deidre Henderson should be viewed as an affront to the people. This dishonesty and lack of integrity displayed by those in power should be taken to the voting booth. This is not their seat to give away. They have usurped the will of the people.
I would encourage voters and political observers to look to their values and hold these elite Utah politicos to at least that standard. Call your legislators and demand to know when they received the first call to support Sen. Henderson. Remind them that when you voted for them you expected them to put the interests of the district ahead of their ambitions, and that conspiring to coronate Chaffetz’s former employee as his replacement is the kind of underhanded political dealings that should not be tolerated.
The Libertarian Party speaks truth to power, works hard to expose corruption and dishonesty in our public institutions, and focuses on advancing small government, liberty-loving candidates. We will be involved in every way possible to ensure that the citizens of District 3 are not left without a choice, or forced to choose a candidate with no substantial understanding or history of real solutions.
Let’s hold the political elite accountable and take our agency back!
Joseph Buchman is chairman of the Libertarian Party of Utah. Buchman has a Ph.D. in media from Indiana University and has spent his career teaching marketing, finance and communications and working with Ph.D. candidates.