Meteorologically (yes, it’s a big word for us), the tornado and hurricane seasons are over. Politically, all sorts of man-made tempests are battering the nation's capital and all of society. We explore the impact on Utah politics.
Americans have been inundated with reports of sexual harassment and assault by nationally known leaders in the entertainment, political and news industries. Is this a short-lived controversy or will there be spillover effects on campaigns and politics — even in Utah?
Pignanelli: "Intimidation, harassment and violence have no place in a democracy." — Mo Ibrahim
Politicos love to disparage Hollywood types as clueless and unattached from reality — incurring little disagreement. Now, boastful commitments to “human rights” made by entertainment leaders are blemished by their participation in, or complicity with, awful behavior. Those who tried to halt such atrocities were exiled. (My sister filed a successful sexual harassment lawsuit against a business partner of Harvey Weinstein, and was rewarded by banishment from the industry.)
Thankfully, recent actions by courageous female sufferers has forever redrawn the lines of behavior — that will spill into politics. Disparity of power prevents practical consent to sexual activities between a boss and his employee. Even among peers, unsolicited and refused amorous conduct will no longer be tolerated. Violators of the new norm risk exposure.
The "outing" of offenders will significantly impact national and Utah political activities. For too long (as I witnessed firsthand) left-wing and right-wing organizations enthusiastically supported officials, candidates and activists despite verified documentation of their outrageous behavior. What I usually heard was "We know [so-and-so] is a real monster, but he/she is so great on our issues." Such nonsense ends.
The cinematic world can claim real, not imaginary, results. Dozens of their brave women, not muscled superheroes, delivered actual justice to society.
Webb: The days of locker-room antics and boys-will-be-boys attitudes that have victimized women with impunity are hopefully over, or nearly so. And it’s about time. As the brother of five sisters, father of five daughters and husband of one wife (for more than 40 years), I’m happy to see the creeps feel what it’s like to be harassed via media exposure.
This spectacle of women coming forward and powerful men apologizing, backpedaling and being defensive actually demonstrates real societal progress. For decades, vulgar behavior has mostly been brushed off. Women, to their credit, aren’t standing for it any longer, and that’s a positive development.
This story isn’t ending anytime soon. Too many women have been victimized over too many years, and they finally feel safe coming forward. Sexual harassment is always bad, but is especially so when women are in vulnerable situations, at the mercy of a boss or someone who can exert influence over their lives. It has occurred and continues to occur among all segments of society, but especially among men with money, power and fame who think they can get away with anything. Expect more revelations.
With Republicans having failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, the current storm thrashing Washington is tax reform. Will it happen or not? What's the impact on local politics?
Pignanelli: Please excuse the hyperbole, but failure to pass the tax reform package could wreak political disaster for all Americans as the remaining nominal faith in government institutions disappears. Steve Bannon and his dark army will be empowered and thereby target incumbent moderate Republicans (including members of the Utah delegation). The stock market will likely tumble and investment by corporate America collapses. Democrats need to work with rational Republicans to develop something workable — because the message to Americans is imperative.
Webb: The nation’s convoluted, economy-distorting, growth-depressing tax structure badly needs reform and simplification. But it’s going to be incredibly difficult. Real reform means eliminating tax breaks and exemptions in the face of an army of lobbyists and business groups, and really all of us, who benefit from some of them.
There will be winners and losers. With billions of dollars on the table, the losers won’t readily surrender.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch is smack in the middle of tax reform, trying to do what’s right for taxpayers and the country. It could be a signature achievement in Hatch’s 42-year career and allow him to retire at the pinnacle of legislative achievement.
I’m going to be optimistic and say it gets done.
President Donald Trump suffers historically low disapproval ratings. Yet a majority of Republicans are sticking with him. Any impact on Republicans in Utah?
Pignanelli: Despite the giddiness of Democrats and anti-Trumpsters, current disapproval ratings will mean nothing if the economy is in good shape in fall 2018. Thus, just being against Trump is not a winning platform for Democrats and GOP moderates. The distance between local politicians and the president will depend upon the economic dynamic.
Webb: Republicans, including those in Utah, have no choice but to hang with Trump — and it’s the right thing to do. If Trump goes down, then leftist Democrats win, along with their agenda of bigger government, higher taxes, overbearing regulations and less freedom and individual responsibility.
We could write a library of books about Trump’s flaws. But the alternative is worse.
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 the president/CEO of the Special Olympics of Utah. Email: [email protected]