Good riddance Orrin Hatch

KRT US NEWS STORY SLUGGED: BUSH KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY CHUCK KENNEDY/KRT (May 9) WASHINGTON, DC — Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), speaks on the judicial nomination process to reporters at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Friday, May 9, 2003. Pictured from left are Sen. Lyndsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Zell Miller (R-GA), Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-KY), Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sen. Bill Frist. Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen, both Bush nominees, have been waiting for an up-or-down vote from the Senate. (nk) 2003

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Orrin Hatch is stepping down after 42 years of service to the state of Utah as the longest-serving Republican Senator in U.S. history.

Hatch has been reelected 7 times having started his tenure in 1977. For you traditional Dixie State University students, that date probably doesn’t mean much — you likely weren’t born until nearly a decade or two later. He served long enough for you to finish your degree an average of ten times (or long enough for us less traditional students to have already left and come back).

To put it frankly, Hatch is a dinosaur. By the time he’s gone, he’ll have served half of his 83 living years in the same position. Utah deserves some new blood and some fresh perspective.

Maybe I should thank him for his service, but really, I’m not certain just who he’s been serving. I’ll take the safe stance and just thank him for finally stepping down.

Congrats, Orrin: you finally fulfilled your duty as a senator, a statesman and a patriot by starting to clean up Washington. You’re about 30 years late, sir.

His run as senator has been marked by inconsistent stances, back room deals and a surprising knack for being affable and maintaining his popularity during election years. Maybe a short cultural memory is to blame for his constant reelection or maybe Utah’s populace just collectively sucks at accepting change — but whatever the reason, Hatch has held on despite not voting terribly conservatively for the past 40 some years while living in one of the most conservative states in the nation.

I’m not here to take a political side as I sit somewhere in the center of the aisle. My objection to Hatch is the objection I have to every senator who sticks around past two terms: you’re missing the point.

Term limits are a beautiful thing. They allow no one person to obtain too much traction and power in the governance of our country. While arguments have been made for the usefulness of the various committees that long-term senators are able to inhabit, none of them hold water when compared with the corruption that is readily apparent in those with 20 plus years in office.

In 1913, the way the senate was elected changed dramatically. The people in a given state used to vote for their state legislators who would then vote and appoint their senators. With the 17th Amendment, that changed. Now, the people appoint the senate by popular vote.

This doesn’t seem so bad on the face of it until you consider that this is a bit like having the customers of a shop choose who works there. They don’t really see what goes on behind the scenes, but would choose the person who was most popular, looked the best, brought them out the best free stuff — the list goes on.

They don’t actually see the entirety of the work this employee is doing and the books are frequently a mess. The job offers some incredibly attractive benefits: a paycheck they more or less set for themselves (to the tune of $174,000 a year, currently), the best healthcare and other benefits possible, travel stipends, and as few as 133 working days a year (that’s nearly half of what the average American is required to work at a full time job). And all the employee have to do to keep his or her incredibly cushy job is look good once every six years so that the more-or-less disinterested customers keep hiring them back.

Short of repealing the 17th Amendment, the only real check to these people’s power is us. Please, get informed, be involved in the political process, and pissed when these men and women don’t live up to their office and our expectations. They won’t limit their own power.

Orrin, you kept up appearances. You stayed in office. I’m sure you accomplished some great goals for yourself. But the thing I’ll most remember you for is finally leaving. Thank you.