Weber County Chair sets Ogden Standard Examiner straight on Democratic candidates
This guest column appeared in the December 3, 2009 Ogden Standard Examiner
As many know, I've had a long and friendly history with the paper. I have supported and stood up for it, even when the "Sub-Standard-Exaggerator" jokes started flying.
I occasionally disagree with the editorial columns, but generally find them to be fair and professional. Which is why I was so shocked and disappointed when I read the first two sentences of the third paragraph of the Nov. 24 editorial, "Bennett's Utah GOP problem."
I hope the Standard will pardon me for taking these comments personally. Three years ago, at the urging of friends and party leaders, my wife and I agreed to take on Rob Bishop on behalf of the Democratic Party.
That 10 months ended up being the greatest sacrifice of our lives, not excluding five years as an LDS bishop. We sunk $32,000 of our own money into that race, using a loan we're still paying. Only those who have had the experience can understand what it takes out of us and our families.
There's a reason almost every Democratic candidate for Utah's 1st Congressional District burns out and drops out of politics after that one race. All of this was done in a quest that we had a 99.9 percent chance of losing.
I can think of a few adjectives to describe that experience. Quixotic comes to mind. Maybe even foolishly naive. But "Caspar Milquetoast?" Sorry, I'm just not connecting the dots on that one.
Those few sentences were obviously a clumsy reference to the admitted fact that we lose a whole lot more races than we win. But there is a disconnect between the quality of the candidates in question and the cultural tendency of Utahns to vote Republican.
I choose these words carefully. I am convinced that the majority of Utahns agree with the mainstream, common-sense views of our Utah Democratic candiates when compared with their Republican opponents (reference the remainder of the Bennett editorial). But the "I'm a Utahn so I guess I'm a Republican" cultural thing means we have a frustrating time just getting people to listen to us.
Despite these frustrations, Utah Democrats keep coming back, year after year, swallowing their disappointment and continuing to field and support good candidates. We do this for three reasons. We are loyal Americans who love our communities. We believe balanced government really will make Utah a better state.
And, most importantly, we believe that government should work for everyone, not just those who can afford to pay a lobbyist to give Jazz suite tickets to legislators.
The Standard-Examiner has strongly supported these values over the years. That's why the "Caspar Milquetoast" comment was so distressing. How does such a dismissive and patronizing attack on some of Utah's most loyal and dedicated citizens square with the paper's oft stated values on Utah government?
Having said this, I know we all have bad days. Heaven knows I've been known to stick my foot in my mouth on occasion. The Standard has a great advantage in that it has a newspaper to publicly correct its mistakes. I hope it will take the opportunity to do so.
A good place to start would be a friendly lunch with respected Salt Lake City businessman and civic leader Sam Granato.
I can assure everyone that his campaign co-chairs, Frank Layden and Mac Christensen, will certify he's no "Caspar Milquetoast."
Steve Olsen is chairman of the Weber County Democratic Party.