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This week is caucus week in Utah politics. It is a time when responsible citizens get involved directly in shaping policy and political culture for the next two years. But if you sit at home and miss your neighborhood caucus meeting, you have little reason to complain if things aren’t to your liking. If you’ve never been to a caucus meeting, or it’s been a while since you’ve been, you can go to the websiteUtahDelegateTraining.org and receive a brief education on Utah’s caucus/convention process and learn how you can be most effective there.

There’s a lot to consider in the beginning of this mean season of politics. While Sutherland Institute doesn’t have, nor ever will have, an opinion about who to vote for, I do have an insight or two about the political culture in Utah right now.

Let me use Senator Orrin Hatch as a case study. When I worked in Washington, D.C., I wasn’t very fond of him. Back then, I felt much like the critics I hear today complaining about him – that he’s done too much compromising and too few acts of courage against an ever-growing federal government. Mostly I felt that Utah, of all places, shouldn’t waste an important Senate seat on someone who isn’t courageous in fighting for limited government.

Today, I find myself fond of Senator Hatch. That’s not to take anything away from his main Republican opponent, Dan Liljenquist. I like Dan, a lot. I think he’d make a fine senator from Utah. But my point is that Senator Hatch has been a fine senator from Utah, too, and I’ve only recently noticed this because of the political attacks against him. The truth is that Senator Hatch deserves much more respect for serving Utah in the United States Senate than I’ve ever given him credit for.

Who is to say what any of us would do in the same role for 36 years? My point is this: “Judge not lest ye be judged.” The disrespect being heaped upon Orrin Hatch is uncalled for. I might disagree with many decisions he’s made in his 36 years of senatorial service but those decisions were his to make and, who knows, what we saw over those years as too much compromise might very well have been the right decisions that needed to be made in those moments to preserve what little bit of self-restraint remained in the hearts and minds of the central planners and big spenders among his colleagues.

For instance, I know Orrin Hatch gave us the SCHIP health program. But what if we discovered that his compromise in favor of SCHIP was a saving grace from what health care socialists really wanted to do back then and that now we call Obamacare?

In politics there are enough opportunities for criticism without us also looking to disrespect our political leaders. I’m one of the first people to criticize President Obama over nearly everything he’s done. But you know what? He’s president of the United States and I’m not. It’s one thing for me to disagree with him over policy. It’s quite another thing for me to disrespect him as a man and as the man in the office we hold sacred in this free society.

I saw Senator Hatch the other day and he seemed defensive under all of the political attacks that have been thrown his way by out-of-state lobbies. He seemed almost indignant about it – as if he were saying, “I don’t deserve this!” At first I felt that sentiment arrogant but then I realized he doesn’t deserve it because no man is his personal judge. Disagree with his policies all you want with him. But the United States Senate is a meat grinder, and for anyone who thinks that new candidates will be immune to that meat grinder, well, they’re delusional. Check in on Utah’s other senator, Mike Lee, in 10 years if you don’t believe me.

I don’t know who I’ll be voting for in the race for United States senator this year. What I do know is that I see these candidates differently now, especially the ones who have been in the arena for so long. They deserve our respect for even stepping in the arena, and I will not be their judge.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

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