Appalling: adj., inspiring horror, dismay, or disgust.
Utah State House Majority Leader Kevin Garn getting into a hot tub naked with a 15 year old when he was 30 is appalling. Paying this woman $150,000 to keep quiet about it so as not to ruin his political career is appalling. Expecting the public to believe that nothing else happened between them is appalling ($150,000 for just sitting there? Hmmmm). Only confessing 25 years later when the story was about to become public anyway is appalling. It is made more appalling that he is a member of the church and an elected leader of our state. This is all appalling. The story inspires me to horror, dismay, and disgust.
Perhaps the most appalling thing, though, is that when he finished making his speech at the end of the legislative session on the floor of the state House, he received a standing ovation from his fellow legislators. They congratulated him on being so brave and coming clean. And if you are masochistic enough to read the comment section of the Deseret News story I linked above, you will find the vast majority of commenters applauding his courage and eviscerating that poor girl. I feel like we are living in some bizzaro world where up is down, dark is light, courage is cowardice, and right is wrong.
This is not an attempt to go after Republicans. I am fully aware that awful scandals like these happen to politicians of every political persuasion. This is about one-party rule. Republicans have ruled the legislature in Utah for decades by huge margins. As a result they have become insulated, detached from all consequences of their actions, and completely out of touch with Utah voters. So when one of their own admitted to being a pedophile on the floor of state House, a crime that would have required years in prison if the statute of limitations had not run, they applaud him and refuse to call for his resignation (he resigned anyway). He is one of the club, they like him personally, and full-throated support of his actions would carry no consequences politically. That, my friends, is the definition of appalling.
I lived in Oregon for a little while after graduating. Oregon is the opposite of Utah (though to a lesser degree). It is a liberal state with Democratic control of the legislature and governship. While I vastly preferred its policies to Utah's (strict urban planning, environmental protection, health insurance for all, emphasis on public transit), I had every intention of voting for a Republican for governor just to keep the Democrats honest and to make sure they didn't get too comfortable with their power. We didn't live in Oregon long enough to make that election, but I know that the problem cuts both ways.
Now, lest you think this will be a strictly non-partisan post, I want to also make a point about intra-party orthodoxy. Besides the fact that the Republican party has somehow become entangled with religious belief among many Utahns, the reason why one-party Republican rule is dangerous is because it is a party that requires a higher degree of orthodoxy than Democrats. The current Senate Majority Leader is a pro-life Mormon who opposes the legalization of gay marriage. Can you imagine Republicans electing as their congressional leader a pro-choice atheist who supports gay marriage? The strongest pro-life voice in Washington right now is Democrat Bart Stupak. Can you imagine the leading voice of the pro-choice movement being a Republican? The strongest conservative voices right now are Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and the Tea Party Nation.
There are no strong moderate voices in the Republican party right now (which has not always been the case). The Democrats, as evidenced by the health care debate, are ruled by moderates. If it wasn't so we would have a universal health care system right now (or a public option at the very least), stronger environmental protections, no lingering military presence in Iraq, no fear of trying terrorists in criminal court, and tough regulation of the runaway financial system. Some call the inability to unify the party behind important issues a weakness, and from a political standpoint it is because they are less likely to make the big changes we need. But a diversity of voices within a party is actually a good thing. Orthodoxy, like the threatened house cleaning of the Republican party by the far right wing, is bad. It's bad for democracy.
I would love nothing more than principled liberals with upstanding moral character, the voters' best interests at heart, and a George Washington-like ability to eschew power, to dominate our politics. But I'll repost the quote from Joseph Smith that seems more and more prescient every day:
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
The decades-long one-party rule by Republicans in Utah has created a generation of untouchable Republicans. Even states viewed as traditionally one-party dominated like Massachusetts, the Dakotas, Washington, Oregon, and Kansas regularly elect opposite party governors and Senators. But Utah doesn't, and the consequences are appalling.