It is easy to criticize elected officials. With the increase in partisanship, public discussion of issues too often becomes mired in party politics: Republican vs. Democrat instead of public good vs. public harm.
But I’ve been impressed this past week by the public comments of two elected officials. Both are conservative Republicans, but both traded “knee-jerk” for “thoughtful.”
The first example is a southern Utah legislator. State Sen. Evan Vickers, a business owner, used his local newspaper to explain the coming Utah decision to bow out or participate in the expansion of Medicaid coverage. He didn’t toss a verbal firebomb at Pres. Obama; he even respectfully identified “Obamacare” as the Affordable Care Act.
He explained that after three years the state would be on the hook for an additional $40 million per year if it accepted the full expansion. He also noted that if the state opted out, deserving poor could be harmed and federal tax money collected from Utahns would be handed to other states. After a well-balanced explanation, he honestly said, “I am now unsure what the best thing to do is, but welcome your input as this debate continues.”
How refreshing for a politician to admit both sides have valid arguments! How equally refreshing to hear a politician admit that he hasn’t yet made up his mind, that he wants to hear further opinions and get informed voter input!
This is the kind of representation we used to have in Washington, D.C., when Republicans and Democrats broke bread together and hammered out policies for the good of the country instead of for meeting the tests of rabid political action committees.
The second example of leadership comes from Davis County when County Attorney Troy Rawlings refused to sign a legal brief for a single valid reason: he hadn’t had the chance to read it!
He called the brief, a “friend of the court” argument against same-sex marriage, a “political stunt” rather than good lawyering. Said Rawlings: “ We did not want to simply sign our name onto a document when we had no control whatsoever over the production and editingЙIt would be like signing a blank check.”
I’m sure there are a few Republicans angry by his hesitancy. But these are the same folks who complained that Congress passed the Affordable Care Act without reading what they were voting for! Hey, you can’t have it both ways; either you read the text before agreeing to sign it or you don’t.
This is the same professionalism we saw when Rawlings refused to shuffle his feet and try an “end-around” against U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby’s ruling on Utah’s Amendment 3.
As the county attorney, Rawlings correctly pointed out it as his duty to carry out a district judge’s directive. It made no difference what Troy’s personal beliefs were. We live under a rule of law Р and if a chief legal officer in the county doesn’t understand that, we might as well toss the U.S. Constitution in the trash.
Both Sen. Vickers and County Attorney Rawlings showed there is an alternative to the partisan Harry Reid-Mike Lee chest-thumping. And that’s the best political news I’ve heard in months!