Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Shutdown May Have Unintended Consequences in Utah

In my Friday political columns usually I try to stay away from national issues, avoiding being just one more voice in the maelstrom.

I should stick to Utah politics – the stuff I profess to know.


But the federal government shutdown – and the much more dangerous looming debt ceiling crisis – has gotten the better of me.

At least for this week.

The question I have is whether the shutdown/debt ceiling crisis will have any political affect on Utah’s five Republican members of Congress – Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, and Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart?

Of the five I see Lee as perhaps having some kind of local setback – his dogged, some might say irrational, fight against Obamacare and the president coming back to haunt him when he seeks re-election in 2016.

But I’m not sure even that will be the case.

The right wing of the Utah Republican Party really is a right wing.

Under the current caucus/convention system where several thousand arch-conservative state delegates may decide the political fate of GOP top-flight candidates, it’s hard to go too far to the right.

That was not always the case.

Back in the day there were elections – like the very bitter 3rd Congressional District battle of 1990 – when the arch-conservative candidate lost to the more moderate (and that is relative) in an intra-party GOP primary.

In that off-the-wall election, John Harmer was seen as too radical to then-state Sen. Karl Snow’s more reasonable politics.

Snow won the primary.

And in that final election?

Lord forbid, moderate-to-conservative Democrat Bill Orton actually won the Utah County-based seat.

Don’t worry Chaffetz. In today’s Utah there is no chance that can happen again.

Or is there?

Strange things can happen when politicians disregard the feelings of their local voters.

And that is what is happen now, as I see it.

I mean, really, are we going to fight over Obamacare for the next five or 10 years?

It is the law of the land.

Upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

(Yes, Lee is writing a book about how U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ deciding fifth vote on Obamacare was wrong-headed. But as I’ve said before, Lee appears to be a lost cause. Many in the Utah GOP establishment are befuddled by his actions.)

If the GOP-controlled U.S. House lets the United States default on its debt obligations later this month, the stock market will crash.

How many Utahns have some of their 401k money in stocks?

How will they react if they lost, nearly overnight, 10, 20 or 30 percent of their 401k value?

This is their retirement. Their children’s college money. Or even money to help pay for an LDS mission or two.

You hurt your voters this badly and they are not going to forget. Or maybe not forgive.

They may not vote for the moderate Democrat in the next U.S. House or Senate race.

But they may certainly vote for a Republican man or woman who DIDN’T throw their investments on to the trash heap.

And come 2016 – and through the Count My Vote initiative petition all the GOP candidates are on the party primary ballot – well, Katie bar the door — there could be some real-world political consequences, even in Utah, to what is happening in Washington, D.C. today.