A visit to political 'crazytown' in Layton

Tuesday , August 26, 2014 - 5:00 PM

Standard-Examiner contributor

If you’re the type of person who believes that the United States of America would be in better shape if only the people had more power and control, well, I’m here to tell you that you’re sadly mistaken.

Let me be clear, when I use the word “people,” I refer to your neighbors and citizens who pay attention to politics and current events. I may even be referring to you, dear reader.

Understand, when it comes to politics in this great land of ours, I was awfully cynical and jaded before two weeks ago. But now I’m so much worse.

My oldest daughter, Rachel, is the outstanding mother of a 20-month-old boy. Best grandson ever. She and her fine husband — I’m fortunate enough to have two sons-in-law in the top-quality category – are interested in doing what they can to make sure government serves its purpose. That means voting, after studying the issues and the candidates listed up and down the ballot, and conversing with their friends and neighbors about topics that concern, in their case, Ogden, Weber County, Utah and the United States.

I may be partly responsible for them paying attention to what goes on in government, as I’m always mouthing off about politics and politicians. Which is why they asked if I’d like to meet them at town hall meetings in Layton and Ogden featuring 1st Congressional District Rep. Rob Bishop (in Layton) and, the following week, both Bishop and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (at Weber State University).

Like an idiot, I agreed to show up.

Honest to goodness, by the conclusion of the Layton meeting, I nearly wept for the future of the republic. It was like a parody of the right-wingy-dingy frothing you hear on Tea-Party-loving radio, Internet and TV programs.

Granted, I arrived late, so maybe a clear-headed centrist managed to snag Bishop’s attention long enough to ask a question that wasn’t prefaced by or drenched in loathing for President Obama or U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. When I asked my daughter if the 20 minutes I missed was any different from the 40 minutes I witnessed, she answered, “Not really.”

Other than blasting evil “guvmint” policies on federal lands and the military, my favorite “question” of the night was an elderly gentleman’s demand that Bishop reveal all he knew about Saladin, the 12th-century Muslim who beat back the Christian Crusaders to reclaim Palestine. When Bishop said the Crusaders’ defeat was the extent of his knowledge concerning Saladin, the man scoffed, mentioned something unflattering about Bishop’s head coming off his shoulders due to his ignorance on the subject and, after some coaxing, finally sat back down.

A week later, when Bishop and Herbert tag-teamed at WSU, the lunacy was turned down a few notches from Layton’s 11. There were a few questions about things like gasoline prices — What would Bishop and Herbert do to lower them? — that were clearly time-wasters. Others were heartfelt and worthy of discussion, such as funding for mental health, especially for veterans of our nation’s decade-plus of wars and multiple deployments.

But Herbert tended to go on and on and on — we heard someone use the word “filibuster” to describe his responses; or, thinking back, maybe that was me — leaving too little time for answers to questions about the nation’s crushing student loan debt, the effect of sequestration on military spending at Hill Air Force Base and the future of Common Core standards in Utah’s public schools.

The WSU town hall walked me back a few steps away from the ledge where Layton had pushed me, but it’s easy to see why politicians take extreme positions: The people who vote and who populate party conventions are the same wackadoodles who attend town hall meetings. Like yours truly. It’s Crazytown.

Email Don Porter at dportercolumn@hotmail.com.

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