The 21st century news cycle is better called a news river — a steady torrent of issues and controversies. We review some of the flotsam in the froth:
An NBA franchise owner and a Nevada rancher have both made racist comments and generated nationwide publicity. Are we losing ground in the battle against racism and coarseness in public discourse?
Pignanelli: "Freedom of speech is primarily the right for stupid people to say dumb things" — Rickard Falkvinge
L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and rancher Cliven Bundy have a fundamental right to espouse their hateful, ignorant opinions. But the rest of the country has an equal privilege to express objections to their ridiculous statements. Opposition is best articulated in the marketplace — by protest marches, threatening boycotts, etc. (My friends roll their eyes when I piously proclaim various embargos of establishments lacking political correctness.) The good news arising from the Sterling/Bundy mess is Americans overwhelmingly reject the hint of racism.
The real problem is inconsistency (aka hypocrisy) in communications between Americans. Insults to people of color are correctly banned, but African-American entertainers sprinkle the airwaves with the "N" word and lyrics that disparage women. Poverty advocates scream discrimination unless government programs are expanded, yet Rep. Paul Ryan (and other conservatives) are attacked when making legitimate inquiries as to the effectiveness of entitlements. Civility in discourse is more than just being nice — it is honesty in conversation. There is much room for improvement.
Webb: Donald Sterling is simply a poor excuse for a human. Cliven Bundy has been out in the desert for too long under too much sun. However, as evidenced by the overwhelming revulsion to these sad outbreaks of bigotry, the country is doing better today with race relations than at any time in its history. The only politically correct group left to poke fun at is old, white Mormon Republicans like me. And I’m too dumb to take offense, so go for it.
In rightly condemning racism, we ought not to condone victim-think. Poverty, poor education, crime and joblessness aren’t necessarily caused by racism. Today, racism isn’t the biggest problem facing minority groups. I like this recent quote by Larry Elder, a conservative African-American author and radio talk-show host:
“Black unemployment went up last month from 12 percent to 12.4 percent. We have sky-high teen unemployment, especially among blacks. Fifty years of welfare state policies have de-stabilized families and created fatherless homes — all of which exacerbate problems of crime, school dropout rates, under-education and government dependency. Can black and white victicrats take a day off from being ‘offended’? Dolts — whether Bundy or Sterling — say stupid things. The real issues — under-education, lack of jobs and irresponsible breeding and parenting — have nothing to do with Sterling's jealousy .”
The talk of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman running again for president continues. What are the chances?
Pignanelli: National Republicans have a conservative governor in Huntsman, who expanded the economy of his state while cutting taxes, and would capture large sections of the minority, female and youth vote. (The 2012 Obama campaign trembled at the prospect of his candidacy.) Rumblings about Huntsman continue to percolate because his success in a presidential general election is guaranteed. But, unlike Democrats who love to nominate outsiders (i.e. Carter, Clinton, Obama ) the GOP insists on fealty to the establishment, and will exclude Huntsman. If Jeb Bush refuses to run, there will be greater pressure on Romney to try again. But having one of Utah's favorite sons on the ballot remains a distant dream.
Webb: Some Utah Romney supporters believe if they can get enough voters across the country to view the recent documentary that portrays the “real Romney,” enough of a nationwide groundswell will occur to get him to run again. People close to Romney say he will not run again. But he obviously wants to stay involved and help shape the Republican agenda.
Huntsman, I believe, will bide his time, watch the Republican field, and if an opportunity presents itself, he will jump in. But he will be careful because having experienced it once before, he knows how hard and expensive a presidential run is.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has chided his own Republican colleagues for being frightened of comprehensive immigration legislation. What will it take for House Republicans to get some spine?
Pignanelli: Several months ago, immigration was declared dead until the 2015 congressional session. However, political commentators and activists are keeping the issue alive. Currently, Democrats are burdened with an unpopular president and disliked policies. But they have a chance to keep the Senate if Republicans do not change the rhetoric towards women and Hispanics. Pure electoral politics (but any reason is good) may drive action on the issue.
Webb: Boehner does a pretty good crybaby. And that’s what Republicans are who lack courage on immigration. They know a solution would be good for the economy, good for jobs, and good for the Republican Party and its candidates — and the humane thing to do. But they’re fearful of a few far-right voters. Utahns ought to push Jason Chaffetz, Chris Stewart, Jim Matheson, Rob Bishop to get it done. And we should push Mia Love, likely to win Matheson's seat, to take a responsible position on immigration and not hide from it.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: [email protected] 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 protected]