We made it! We finally made it!
Salt Lake City has joined the pantheon of great American cities.
It wasn’t enough for Salt Lake to have a major-league professional sports team. Even though the Jazz made it to two consecutive NBA finals, that wasn’t going to be enough to elevate us to elite status. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been to an NBA finals.
Even though we hosted a wildly successful Winter Olympic games, that only put us on par with Lake Placid and Squaw Valley...and Lake Placid held the Olympics twice.
No, we finally have a major political scandal to call our own.
The John Swallow/Mark Shurtleff saga only became a full blown scandal when they were frog marched out of their houses Tuesday morning and booked into jail, with the accompanying embarrassing mug shots.
Until that time, it was just roiling below the surface. Oh, sure we had a sitting Attorney General resign because of the problems, but nobody was facing serious jail time.
Now we can thump our chests and proudly say we deserve to be on the same playing field with Chicago and New York.
Now we get the political spectacle of a trial and all of the pre-trial antics. Shurtleff got us off to a bang on Tuesday, holding an amazing (if probably ill advised) press conference accusing prosecutors of having a political motive in bringing charges against him.
Even if this never gets to a courtroom, we broke through the scandal wall in spectacular fashion.
Will this change Utah politics going forward? Probably.
This scandal was the only way Democrats could possibly hope to get rid of a bad egg Attorney General. They couldn’t beat him at the ballot box, despite all of their impassioned pleading for Utahns to consider an alternative. Voters in the Beehive State just weren’t having any of it despite the voluminous evidence that Swallow had some issues with his character.
I think Democrats are going to become very focused on trying to unearth potential scandals about Republicans. In fact I’ve heard that Democrats have been pouring over financial records from Mia Love’s time as Mayor of Saratoga Springs trying to find illegal activity. It’s probably the only way they can stop the “Love Train” come November.
That’s probably not the best way to win elections, but it could make things more entertaining for political observers like me. And I’m all for making things interesting.
I think the Swallow/Shurtleff scandal will make Utah politicians more careful in their dealings going forward. Swallow and Shurtleff will be a cautionary tale. For the foreseeable future, anytime a politician is caught doing something they ought not, the media will bring up the names Shurtleff and Swallow. Nobody wants to be the next John Swallow.
But that constant “scandal watch” could hurt Utah politics as well. With lawmakers and candidates erring on the side of caution for fear of getting caught up in a scandal, politicians will do everything they can to stay under the radar. Washington, D.C. moves from scandal to scandal to scandal without anything getting done.
From now on, if the media gets even a whiff of scandal, they will jump on it. Gotta get those clicks and pageviews, after all.
Whether Swallow and Shurtleff are guilty is for the courts to decide.
For now, relish the fact that Utah politics have reached the top (bottom) of the rubbish heap. There’s nowhere to go but down!