Last week, conservative Dan Liljenquist surprised everyone by denying Orrin Hatch an outright victory at the convention, forcing a competitive primary. This, despite millions of dollars spent by Hatch urging newcomers to astroturf the convention on behalf of the old bull.
Ever since Hatch perceived a threat on his right flank two years ago, he has latched himself onto the junior senator, Mike Lee, and has been transformed into a born-again conservative.
Many argue that Hatch has sufficiently repented from his old ways of bailouts, amnesty, and government-run healthcare. They contend that he has moved so far to the right that it’s not worth taking a swing at him. However, they are forgetting a time-tested truism of the senators who represent conservative states. They are conservative for the two years preceding their reelection until they resort back to their old ways after reelection.
Moreover, even in his current capacity as Hatch 2.0, he is still no Mike Lee.
Just consider Hatch’s stance on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). As the Salt Lake City Tribune reminds us, “Hatch not only helped create the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, he also led two successful efforts since then to reauthorize the federal government’s signature bill to combat domestic abuse.” Yet, he voted against the reauthorization last week.
In an effort to explain his vote, Hatch resorted to the typical “split the baby” pale pastel approach to Republican opposition of Democrat legislation. He contends that while he supports the underlying law, he has misgivings about the “new and divisive projects.”
On the face of it, that’s a fair position to hold. But it is also a revealing one.
Ever since Mike Lee tossed out former Senator Bob Bennett at the 2010 Utah Republican convention, Senator Hatch has undergone a catharsis and has been voting in lockstep with Senator Lee. He wants us to believe that there is no difference between them and that there is no reason to search for a conservative alternative more in the image of Mike Lee. It’s issues like this that reveal why we need someone better. Mike Lee is opposing the bill on its underlying merits, rightfully noting that the entire premise of VAWA steps on the primacy of state and local police powers and their ability to combat homegrown issues in the best way they choose. Hatch is a champion of this travesty.
Again, Hatch will note that he strongly opposes the new version of VAWA. But is is precisely this reason why we don’t need people like Hatch in the Senate. No, Orrin Hatch is no RINO. He’s not one of the 15 Republican members who voted for the new, corrupted version of VAWA. However, he helped create the law in the first place. In a sense, he is a man without a political country, and therein lies the problem with senators like Orrin Hatch. They help create big government programs and ideas, such as SChip, VAWA, Dream Act, and bailouts, and then act like they are stupefied when Democrats take those ideas and exacerbate their ill effects.
We need more members who will not be ensnared into the cycle of big government to begin with; we don’t need senators who will help lead an uphill battle to reign in the statism that they helped create.