I write a post daily from now until the state convention about why I think Orrin Hatch has no business being in the US Senate. Tearing down someone you don’t like it really easy, though, and it does nothing to highlight who is a better choice. In many cases, we say “yeah, he sucks, but what other choice do we really have?” In the US Senate race, that choice is clear: former state senator Dan Liljenquist.
Some of the biggest problems facing us as a country are fiscal. All too many Republicans and Democrats are ignoring structural problems in our entitlement systems, instead doubling down on tax cuts and/or deficit spending in the vain hope that it will create enough economic activity to plug the gap without making difficult choices. These elected officials are ignoring reality, kicking the can down the road so that future generations can pay the price for their imprudence.
Dan Liljenquist has a proven record as someone who can tackle these needed reforms. He touched the third rail of politics, entitlements, not once, but twice and lived to tell the tale. The state of Utah now stands to save many billions of dollars in retirement and Medicaid costs. These same reforms are now being implemented in dozens of other states that now look to Utah as a legislative model. Many legislators wouldn’t accomplish in three decades what Dan did in three years.
“But what about seniority”, many will cry. I say the seniority system is nearing its end. Freshmen like Mike Lee, Jim DeMint, and Rand Paul managed to be heard immediately, leading Harry Reid to remark that he had never seen new senators wield such immense influence. Dan has already proved he has the mettle to start working on day one on very serious problems. Despite being new in the Utah State Senate and being told that there’s no way he can propose major legislation, he did the legwork anyway and came out on top, passing arguably some of the most significant legislation of the past decade. Someone who can so effectively sell their good ideas is as valuable on day one as they are many years down the road.
It’s also important to have a senator whose power will not depend on which party is in power. Party power comes and goes. The only way to wield influence in those “off” years is to be a consensus-builder, something Dan has a proven record of. In addition to taking input from within his party and from the minority party, he also reached out directly to those affected by the legislative changes to see how he could win their support. In the end, what started as a controversial change in retirement for state employees became a universally-acclaimed landmark piece of legislation earning Dan the coveted Legislator of the Year award.
A legislator who can build consensus around badly-needed reforms without bench-warming first is something we desperately need right now. Waiting won’t make it better. To borrow Dan’s campaign slogan, it’s time.