Webb’s Wrap: Niceness prevails at debate . . . Trump’s comments . . . Rep. Nelson on federalism

I’m sure there have been some really nice debates in Utah political history. But Thursday evenings’s 1st Congressional District debate between Blake Moore and Darren Parry was one of the friendliest debates I’ve ever seen.

As it went on, I kind of enjoyed it, once I shed my cynical political observer mode. It was actually refreshing watching two really sincere, if very inexperienced, guys talk nicely to each other. It certainly wasn’t a reflection of today’s nasty politics.
For Moore, the Republican and odds-on winner, the partisanship will come soon enough once he gets to Washington.

One thing is clear: Moore is not an arch-conservative ideologue. It was rather striking that he didn’t bash Democrats, didn’t bash Nancy Pelosi, didn’t attempt to nationalize the race by tying his opponent to national Democrats. The president and all the divisive issues in Washington were barely mentioned.

Both candidates were obviously very inexperienced, and they struggled to answer some questions. They hadn’t mastered the art of answering a question with an anecdote or by using an example, or with a personal experience.

At age 40, Moore represents a new generation of Utahns in politics. I hope he brings a fresh, problem-solving perspective to Congress and doesn’t get caught up in angry partisanship.

My opinion. “Don’t take Trump literally, but take him seriously.” That’s how some of us who like many of Trump’s policies and actions justify brushing off the president’s more cringe-worthy comments. “Don’t listen to what he says; watch what he actually does.” That’s another good rationalization.

I don’t know why Trump says outlandish things. I wish he wouldn’t, but he can’t help it. Maybe he just enjoys driving Democrats and the liberal news media into absolute apoplexy by declining, for example, to commit to an orderly transfer of power if he loses the election. It was almost as silly as Hillary Clinton advising Joe Biden not the concede the election “under any circumstances . . .”

I’ve always assumed it makes sense to keep one’s opponents as restrained as possible. But Trump likes to see them foaming at the mouth, predicting the end of the world as we know it if he stays in office. He’s very successful at goading the news media, but he makes a lot of us nervous in the process.

Reader Response.  Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, sent along some thoughts about federalism in response to my recent essay on the topic of federalism during a crisis.

Federalism – the division of powers between the federal and state governments, is vital to our Republic.  The only check on federal power is state power.  Of course, the Tenth Amendment reserves most powers to the states, but Congress typically ignores that.  The Tenth Amendment should be required reading for all members of Congress-most do not understand the difference between Congress and state legislatures.  They seek to address the same problems, but with a national scope.  Over the past several decades, we have seen power shift progressively from the states to the federal government.  Unlike water, which flows downhill, government power tends to flow uphill-from local to state government and from states to the federal government.

The covid-19 pandemic has renewed the power struggles at all levels of government.  Most people, having grown accustomed to federal solutions to all problems, look to the federal government to “fix it,” and blame Pres. Trump for supposed failure in addressing the pandemic.

Under the current pandemic, the same rules of federalism should apply, leaving the response primarily to state and local governments. But, again, whether its flood, fire, earthquake or pandemic, people have been conditioned to expect a federal solution.  The federal government has a role in coordinating state efforts, sharing data and facilitating development of a vaccine.  The federal government may also provide financial assistance, since it has no intention or apparent need of balancing its budget, and spending money is about the only thing on which Congress can agree.  However, we’ve witnessed that the federal government is not very good even at spending money, given the widespread fraud which resulted from the federal relief bill.

Parting shot. My wife, Jan, and I were driving on I-15 the other day and whole platoon of expensive and gorgeous sports cars zoomed past us, engines roaring, weaving in and out of traffic. I don’t know what they were doing or where they were going, but I admit to a little sinful covetousness. I said to Jan, “Just think, if I hadn’t bought a backhoe and a couple of tractors, maybe we could be having fun in a hot sports car.” She didn’t even hesitate: “I’d rather have the tractors and backhoe.” I don’t know if she’s becoming a farm girl, or if she just doesn’t like sports cars.

If you have a comment, an item you think should be publicized, or just want to tell me I’m an idiot, shoot me a message at [email protected].