What does Bennett’s ouster mean?

Timothy Kincaid

May 10th, 2010

Republican Utah Senator Bob Bennett was denied the GOP nomination this year by his party’s convention (he came in third, and thus will not be on the ballot in the primary election). This is likely the result of Tea Party activism and is being touted as the result of “people wanting a Republican Party that is conservative.”

Social conservatives such as Rick Santorum have been all over the news declaring this to be a victory for “real conservatives”, by which he means those who share his troglodyte views. Some right wingers are going so far as to claim that Bennett was dumped because he “voted for gay rights activist Roberta Achtenberg to be Assistant Secretary for Equal Opportunity at HUD.” In 1993. Seventeen years ago.


No one voting this past weekend based their decision on Roberta Achtenberg. And very few were likely swayed by Bennett being “too gay supportive.” While there are Senators on the Hill who are far less friendly, Bennett was hardly known for his wild social liberalism.

Nor are the candidates who beat him in the voting and going on to the primary raging homophobes running on a “traditional family” platform. Neither of the campaign website for Tim Bridgewater (who got 57% on the third vote) nor Mike Lee (43%) address gay rights in general or specific on their issues pages. And, believe me, they address a lot of issues.

And, although Utah has been in the center of gay rights conflict over the past year, these candidates have been pretty much quiet on gay issues. In fact, as best I can find the only time they addresses gay issues specifically was when six of the eight candidates including Bennett and Bridgewater (Lee canceled due to illness) went to a Log Cabin event to answer questions and appeal for the Log Cabin vote (which was reported as significant). (Salt Lake City Weekly)

Will the next Senator from Utah be supportive of equality? No.

But when we hear social conservatives translating voter dissatisfaction with current elected representatives and fury over what is perceived as fiscal irresponsibility and arguing it to be mandate for their favorite right-wing social agenda items, we should recognize it for what it is: spin, bluster, and nonsense.

John in the Bay Area

May 10th, 2010

I have to wonder if there was something that Bennett did that displeased the Mormon Church. I find it interesting that in Utah, people are quick to mention the importance of the teabaggers in taking down a sitting senator, but no interest at all in how the Mormon Church viewed the various candidates in the race. I am guessing that a non-Mormon candidate would have no chance of winning.


May 11th, 2010

Because gay marriage has not been a campaign issue, I don’t think we are letting our guard down with whomever becomes the next Senator from Utah. 
Perhaps some Utahns (Mormons in particular) are feeling bruised by all the negativity associated with their anti-gay marriage posture; they are trying to tone it down a bit.  That’s why they don’t want to mention anything about gay rights in their campaigning.  Plus, it’s a moot point.   It was said recently in a popular newspaper editorial that a roll of toilet paper could win an election in Utah if it has GOP’s name on it.  There is no need to bring in gay rights as a campaigning topic.
Of a more interesting development:  The Salt Lake City based Zions Bank (Zions Bancorp, owned by most Mormons and mostly by the LDS Church) had to incorporate protection to prohibit gay discrimination in their corporate policies.   This was after the Board of Directors didn’t think they needed such wording in their equal employment opportunity policy.  Some say it was pressure from a group of investors in NYC that forced the change in policy.  
Personally, I’m thinking there was some sort of subtle but strong persuasion from the majority owner (the LDS Church) to change Zions Bancorp anti-discrimination policy.  Why?  Because of the potential harm from the all the negativity that would come from looking anti-gay.  Of course, I have no way of proving it. 
But, the same mentality that pervades on the Board of Directors at Zions Bank where all 10 members voted against gay equality is probably the very same mentality with the two other GOP hopefuls for US Senate.   
We need to stay wary.     

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