Mero Moment: Pointless Protests

This week I want to talk about political protests. I was at the state Capitol earlier this year, on the last night of the last day of the 2011 legislative session, when out of nowhere about a hundred aging hippies and University of Utah students showed up chanting and marching and banging drums in protest over the passage of the GRAMA bill. The display was more than annoying; in my mind it was embarrassing. Even more so, it was irrelevant.

The GRAMA bill was eventually vetoed, giving protesters the idea that their public display had some effect, but more rational minds knew that the most effective opposition to GRAMA came from voices the protesters refer to as “insiders” or “the establishment.” Constructive political influence in Utah comes from people who are both influential and constructive. The angry mobs rarely have influence and, if they do at all, it’s fleeting.

I was reminded again of this reality yesterday as the Legislature was berated by Utah’s whiny progressives over the hot-button issue of redistricting. When will people learn that by the time the Legislature is in a special session, the issue – whatever the issue – has already been settled? And yet, there they were, the protesters, angry and inflamed that some injustice had occurred, behaving as if representative democracy had been turned over to the Third Reich. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon actually stated, “This [process] is downright rigged and everybody knows it.” He called it “un-American.”

Democrats wonder why they’re constantly on the short end of the stick. That’s why. They say things like that. There’s little difference between those kinds of statements uttered by Democratic faithful and anything crazy uttered by political fringe groups. Un-American? A public process that’s been more transparent than any other redistricting process in recent memory? A process that created a public web site where anyone could submit a redistricting plan? A process that actually chose a plan submitted by a citizen from Logan? A process that ended with all but one member of the House of Representatives agreeing on a plan? That’s “un-American”?

And now the angry mob is looking to file a lawsuit to stop representative democracy from working. What they can’t do through public opinion and at the ballot box, they seek to do through unelected judges, which will only have the effect of making these critics even more irrelevant in Utah.

In the face of these threatened lawsuits, House Speaker Becky Lockhart wrote last week,

It’s been disappointing, though perhaps not surprising, to hear of the planned lawsuits over a redistricting effort that is not only incomplete, but has been the most open and inclusive in Utah’s history.

The legal maneuvering comes from those who want us to break the basic laws of mathematics and the political will of the people of Utah. They think they shouldn’t have to face the same realities everyone else will. They’ve decided to attempt to achieve through the courts what cannot be attained through the duly elected representatives of the people. …

Their talk is cheap. Their threats are opportunistic. Their verbal bomb-throwing is meant to obscure the reality of a fair process. …

If the naysayers think they’ve got themselves a lawsuit after that, there’s really only one thing left to say: Bring it on.

To which I say, Amen.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero.