$16M to House Congress? Why not just stop suppressing voters?

Joel,

Did you see Jason Chaffetz’s parting gift to the American people? Just before jumping ship just halfway through his term, the snake oil salesman from Utah suggested that taxpayers provide a housing allowance for members of Congress. (This is immediately following a failed effort to reduce the housing allowance of those in the military, who, presumably, also don’t get to choose where they work and earn a lot less than Chaffet’s $174,000 salary—which he says can’t support his mortgage in Utah, an apartment in DC, and college tuition for his three children, including one at law school at the private and very expensive University of Virginia.) The legislation would provide each member of the House and Senate $2500 (or 3.8 iPhones) per month to pay for the cost of living in the Washington DC area, where rents are the fourth-highest in the nation. That is a quite modest amount and would secure just an average one bedroom apartment, with utilities.   It’s almost $7000 more per year than a person working full time in a minimum wage job in DC (which now pays $11.50) earns in a year. So I bet a lot of the poor in DC are really sympathetic to Chaffetz’s argument!

Chaffetz, who has lived in his office for 1500 days of service to Congress, justified the effort by saying that you shouldn’t have to be a millionaire to serve in government. I agree (and, in fact, I think that being a millionaire probably makes it harder to responsive to voters’ needs and concerns because being rich very often makes you unable to attend to other people)—and I think that a housing allowance is preferable to a pay raise because it gives voters a sense of control over our money.

Above, ironworker and army veteran Randy Bryce campaigns against Wisconsin Senator and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Watch it and remember why our nation is best served by people who believe that “[i]f somebody falls behind, we are so much stronger if we carry them with us.” Explains Bryce in the ad, “That’s the way I was raised. You look out for each other.”  

He’s right to be concerned. The traditional avenues of serving are extraordinarily expensive. Who can afford an unpaid government internship? Only the children of the wealthy.

Campaigns cost a lot of money, and that cuts regular folks out of the democratic process. The race for the Georgia seat recently set a new record for a House race. And it’s not just seats in Congress: a recent school board race in California cost over almost FIFTEEN MILLION dollars, and, of course, it is these local contests where talent is cultivated for state- and national-level office.

How has this much money been spent on something so many people hate? Unless you are political consultant (and if you are, you should re-evaluate your life choices, because as those billboards say, we’re all gonna die and face God one days), you get nothing but a headache and a deep disgust for your fellow Americans from the constant barrage of marketing during campaign season, which is now year-round.

The risks are high, too—sometimes prohibitively so. In Iowa, the early Democratic challenger to white nationalist Rep. Steve King dropped out of the race in part because she was facing consistent death threats from King supporters and in part because she simply could not afford to leave paid employment (and, in particular, her health care benefits) to run. Even if she won, her leave of absence prior to taking office was unsustainable.

Others of us can’t even afford to vote.

In many states, legislatures work hard to make voting difficult for vulnerable populations: in North Carolina, the state has reduced the number of places where you can secure the ID required to vote and reduced the number of hours polls were open, targeting majority African American areas, in an effort to suppress votes. The consequence is that voters now have to take time off from work to travel greater distances to find a place to get an ID and to vote.

What is the consequence of these barriers? Fewer poor people—which also means fewer people of color—run for office or vote. In a system that designed to weigh white votes heavily than the votes of people of color, people of color need to vote in higher numbers to be heard at all. Fewer people come to office from poor, working, and middle class backgrounds. Few have experienced poverty or economic struggle. They have not worked in jobs that require physical labor, and the few have served in the military. They are not teachers, pastors, nurses, or social workers. They have not worked in jobs where they were helping people but in jobs where they were making money for someone else. Chaffetz, whose background is in multilevel marketing, is a prime example.  Just over half of those in Congress are millionaires, and the median wealth of Congress continues to climb.

I’ll believe that members of Congress really intend to widen participation in democracy when I see them support public funding for elections, caps on donations to campaigns, a national holiday on election day, education grants to support students pursuing careers in government, affordable health care that isn’t linked to employment status, and zero barriers to the voting booth.  In the meantime, the call to provide housing in order to insure that “we the people” can get into office feels a little disingenuous. .

Rebecca

 

The spiritual danger of exclusion

Joel,

MCUSA, the US’s largest Mennonite denomination, meets in Orlando this week. Since the last national conference, in Kansas City, more of my friends have left the denomination, almost all over the church’s failure to honor the dignity of LGBTQ+ people, including LGBTQ+ Mennonites.

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Above, the logo for the MCUSA national convention: a red heart with a white banner through it that says, “Love is a Verb,” the theme of this year’s event. But for many of us, the theme is, year after year, Can we hold it—the denomination, our sadness, and our frustration–together?

MCUSA continues to appease factions that refuse to honor the dignity of LGBTQ+ people/”endorse sin” (depending on how you look at it), some of whom have already made good on the threat to pack up and leave the denomination. In the meantime, the compromises continue to cause queer members to lose faith. Unlike the LGBTQ+ excluding churches (Sorry, Romans 1:28-29 fans—I don’t know a nicer way to say it), who have a process for exiting, they wander away, often unsupported (though this doesn’t have to be the way. If you are a LGBTQ+ Mennonite or an LGBTQ+ person drawn to the Anabaptist faith tradition who can’t or doesn’t want to “hold it together” anymore, know that you aren’t alone—and that those who have not welcomed you do not define Anabaptism, even if they’d like to.). This is the consequence of what Mennonite pastor Joanna Harader calls “false equivalencies of harm.” At her blog Spacious Faith, she writes:

The current narrative from denominational leaders is that the harm done to two particular groups of people in the church is equivalent:
  • people who hold “traditional” views of sexuality and marriage are harmed when people disagree with their theology, when people tell them they are wrong, when they have to be church with LGBTQ people and their allies
  • LGBTQ people are harmed when they are denied full inclusion in the church, when they must defend themselves and their relationships if they want to participate in the church at all, when they are told that part of their essential identity is unacceptable to God.
Please look over these two lists again and here me very clearly: These harms are not equal.

Some people leave with churches, and some people are discarded or give up. When non-welcoming Mennonites “lose,” more people know the mercy of God’s grace and the kindness of God’s justice. When they “win,” the wideness of God’s mercy is diminished.

After months of observing and participating in conversations with Mennonites who would exclude LGBTQ+ (by sexual orientation, by identity, by behavior—however you want to define it) people, I have drawn this unpleasant conclusion: Those who would exclude LGBTQ+ Mennonites from the faith are a danger to others, to the church, and to themselves.

They are a danger to others because they fail to show unconditional love. Once others understand that there are boundaries to your love, they know that they may stumble over them. And then, instead of being vulnerable and honest with you, they feel shame, and they lie in order to stay in relationship with you because you have made it clear that they cannot be honest. They don’t change—they just don’t share themselves with you. They lose the opportunity to be loved by you. You lose authentic relationships and the opportunity to grow in friendship. And others miss the opportunity to love and be loved by you—all because you cannot or will not decide that love can be limitless.

They are a danger to the peace witness of the larger Mennonite faith. According to “Mission and Identity Report: Discerning the Mind of Christ in Conservative Mennonite Conference,” a report by Conrad Kanagy and Jacob Kanagy, 98.1% of CMC respondents to Kanagy and Kanagy’s poll said that same-sex relationships were wrong (slightly more people than those who said abortion was wrong and slightly fewer than who said viewing pornography is wrong), but just 58.1% of the members of those polled felt that Christians should not fight in wars. While it’s true that Mennonites have never perfectly rejected military violence, this peace-church distinctive has perhaps drawn more people to the faith than any other. People come to the Mennonite church not just because it is anti-war but because being anti-war, at its best, stands for so much more: the religious freedom not to support death through taxation; an optimism about peacemaking; a focus on heavenly, not national, citizenship; stewardship of the planet; an affirmation of Jesus’ reconciling ministry. Likewise, an anti-gay position tells us much. In her work on evangelical sex advice websites, sociologist Kelsy Burke argues that religious teachings on sex do more than teach about sex: they teach about gender, reproduction, marriage, and more—and conservative teachings on same-sex sexuality correspond with political conservativism.

Mennonites who choose to exclude LGBTQ+ people espouse a message that increasingly aligns with the militaristic Religious Right. As more churches abandon their Mennonite identities to evangelical ones, they compete with conservative evangelical churches. CCM leaders are aware of the temptations of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, and MCUSA needs to stay alert, too. If Mennonite churches become just another kind of politically, socially, and theologically conservative churches, here, they will lose—both to those other churches (who have had decades of practice and who, frankly, are almost always snazzier than your average Mennonite church) and to the rising tide of irreligion. (One million people have left the Southern Baptist Convention in the last 10 years.) If you are attracted to a church with an anti-LGBTQ+ message, you’re probably not looking for one with an anti-war one. On the other hand, if you are looking for a reconciling church that takes Jesus’ call to nonviolence seriously, you are also likely looking for a church that includes, not excludes, queer people. Anti-war, anti-LGBTQ+ Mennonites have few potential consumers in this religious marketplace.

These may be unfair lines to draw, and they are certainly inaccurate in some cases. (The Amish are doing a fine job, entirely through a high birth rate and rate of adult retention, of being both pacifists and anti-gay.) But the broad pattern—that Mennonites who want purity rather than hospitality are going to have to figure out how to distinguish themselves among the many anti-LGBTQ+ churches out there—is true.

When I look into the world, where Mennonites are called to “go and make disciples,” I see a lot of people earning for a faith that opposes military violence as much as they yearn for a faith that embraces LGBTQ+ people. The harvest is ready, but the workers are few.

And they are a danger to themselves. The most “compassionate” justification that LGBTQ+ excluding Mennonites have is that they “love the sinner but hate the sin” of same-sex sexual intimacy. It is because you love gay people that you must preach against them, exclude them from fellowship, shame them, and denigrate their loving relationships. The real tragedy, you say, is that this is such lonely work—and you get called “hateful” and “intolerant” for it! LGBTQ+ people don’t even appreciate your efforts to save their souls! Still, though “this will hurt me more than it hurts you,” you soldier on, doing your duty to tell LGBTQ+ people how unacceptable their love is. Because you love them, you must tell them! Because you love them, you mustn’t let them continue to walk in darkness! Because you love them, you must intervene to let them know of God’s coming wrath!

LGBTQ+ excluding Mennonites who adopt this strategy, though, are putting themselves in spiritual danger. Very often, their drive to intervene isn’t born from love by from fear that if they don’t say something, God will be angry at them. Their own identity is tied up in being a “defender” of “what the Bible says,” and their need to bolster that identity controls them. Conveniently for them, the place where they can bolster that identity is on someone who is more vulnerable than they are. (They are far more likely to scold and shame a person they know who is gay than, say, someone who is in the military.) This, ultimately, then, is an act of fear and anxiety (that your identity will falter if you don’t speak against LGBTQ+ intimacy), not love, a self-centered/self-preserving act, not one of Jesus’ unsettling hospitality.

Rebecca

The Easy Patriotism of July 4th

Joel,

Thank you for telling your story–about your journalism work in the wake of September 11, and about your mother’s passing, too.

My story is simpler. July 4th is an easy holiday for me to ignore, for an entirely earthly reason: the food is terrible. Hot dogs, mayonnaise-based salads, and cake topped with Cool-Whip violate the most important rules of holidays: they should taste good. Also, the music is so, so bad, and growing up, I lived in state where fireworks were illegal. So there wasn’t much too lose by ignoring it.

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Above, a picture of what Jell-O calls “Easy Patriotic Flag Dessert.” I love dessert, but easy patriotism makes me queasy. 

Things got more complicated when I married a Mennonite man with a family history of military service–including people who are still part of the army. Even though I’d been to a military wedding in his family, it didn’t occur to me that 4th of July would treated like a meaningful holiday. So I didn’t even think about it when we drove up to the family 4th of July picnic with “Fuck War” bumper sticker. (This was in maybe 2003? 2004? The young ‘uns here might not remember it, but we were really still at the start of a long and pointless war back then.)

Being a pacifist is countercultural, and sometimes that culture is as close as home.

The funny part, for me, is that I’m a total romantic about the founding period. Now, I also know that the founders were racist and sexist and classist and violent, but the key idea still takes my breath away in its boldness: that a person (okay, a property-owning white man) has rights not based on the notion of “blood” but on the fact that they occupy an individual human body, that bodies have rights.

There are problems with it, I know. Here is what Michel Foucault has to say:

“We are used to thinking that the expression of individuality, for example, or the exaltation of individuality is one of the forms of man’s liberation… But I wonder if the opposite is true. I have tried to show that humanism was a kind of form, was this sort of fabrication of the human being according to a certain model, and that humanism does not work at all as a liberation of man, but on the contrary works as an imprisonment of man inside certain types of moulds that are all controlled by the sovereignty of the subject.” 

But I’m not there. (My husband is a post-humanist. Academically speaking, it’s a mixed marriage.)  That founder’s dissolution between king and God means that our family histories aren’t our futures, which is an incredibly useful message for people who grow up in dysfunctional homes to here. It means that whatever status our bodies have been assigned by those in power is is not true about us, no matter how many times the bodies of women or people of color or people with disabilities are demeaned.

Sadly, this isn’t the message of July 4th in the US.

And, as a family, we are critically minded about displays of patriotism. So, no–no pledge. No national anthem; when the school band plays it, my son, who is in the brass section, sits out. No flags–not flying from the house, not on t-shirts, not even on Forever Stamps. We love America, but we think those things are symbols of its worst parts: coercion, militarism, imperialism, the idolization of violence.

So, what will we be doing on July 4? My children will probably watch the city fireworks from our porch, a safe distance from the sounds of Lee Greenwood. I think that the association with militarism is distant enough not to be meaningful for them; they probably think of marching bands and football as more of a symbol of nationalist violence.

I will be in the UK, participating in a conference on the emotions that inform backlash politics in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. They include patriotism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, anger, rage, hate, fear, anxiety. I’ll be working as part of a larger team of scholars trying to diminish the harmful effects of hate, and my focus is on those who hate. I hope it’s an act of patriotism.

Rebecca

 

 

July 4 and Mennonites

Dear Rebecca:

Do you celebrate July 4?

That’s a question I don’t think will compute for many of our non-Mennonite readers. But our church has a long history of eschewing patriotism, particularly where it curdled into militarism — the folks I grew up with in Central Kansas were descended from people who (in the popular telling) had fled from Germany to Russia to avoid fighting in German wars, then Russia to America to avoid being conscripted into Russian wars. Back in World Wars I and II, those folks had grown extremely unpopular: People with German names — a lot of them still spoke the language, assimilating slowly — wouldn’t take up arms against the Krauts! It wasn’t a popular position.

The manifestations of that theology remain unpopular in the broader culture. A few years ago, a conservative talk show host aroused popular anger against Goshen College because it didn’t play the national anthem prior to sporting events. “It is, after all, about a military battle (“bombs bursting in air,” etc.), and some Mennonites believe that any expression of patriotism, placing love of country above love of God, risks idolatry,” the New York Times reported. “Countries rise and fall; the message of Jesus is supposed to be eternal.” Goshen briefly backed down, but ultimately settled on playing a different, less bombastic song, “America the Beautiful.”

(Editor’s note: The second verse of “America the Beautiful” might sound familiar, thematically, in a lot of Mennonite churches:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet

Whose stern impassioned stress

A thoroughfare of freedom beat

Across the wilderness!

America! America!

God mend thine every flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law!

Mennonites have that pilgrim heritage, after all. And oh, how they love self-control!)

Anyway: Independence Day, when this country’s leaders decided to launch a rebel war against their British masters, is unavoidably militaristic. The fireworks!

So: Do you celebrate?

Me? Yes. Ish.

Let me tell a story. It’s one I’ve told publicly before, but it’s kind of a touchstone for me, and so it is here.

Within a few weeks of 9/11, I got in my car and started driving to New York. History was happening, and I’d become a journalist because I wanted to see history with my own eyes. So I drove cross-country on my own. I stopped to talk with people who live outside Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where B-2 bombers were flying attack missions to Afghanistan; I stopped at the Mennonite seminary in Indiana to visit friends and write a story about how pacifists were dealing with events; I visited the Pennsylvania field where Flight 93 crashed, and sat in a mortuary with the overwhelmed county coroner, sitting in his socks as he dazedly recounted his efforts of recent weeks.

And then I ended up in the city. I saw what was left of the Twin Towers, saw smoke still rising from the wreckage, and … smelled it.

More importantly, I talked with people who’d experienced the day. Most importantly, I was taken to meet a Puerto Rican family in their home – a tiny apartment where they’d raised their family, and was given lime-flavored coffee to drink while we talked, while the mother of the family talked about watching the Towers come down.

The trip made me love America, but not in a defensive how dare they attack us! way. Driving by myself and covering only the northeast quarter of the country, I’d gotten a taste of how much bigger and more diverse this country is than my Kansas upbringing had allowed me to see. Within a few years, I’d be raising a family in a tiny Philadelphia apartment, even smaller than the place I’d been hosted.

July 4 is problematic for Mennonites for reasons I listed before, and for liberals who don’t hate America, but do want to temper pride with humility, a recognition that the good things we have were often obtained through sinful, destructive means like slavery and Jim Crow and theft of the land from its original owners. And this year, let’s face it, for a lot of us this country seems a bit uglier and meaner than it did a year ago. It’s hard to feel celebratory.

But Mennonites also do community very well. It’s one reason I love them. (And they don’t do it without problems of their own either, as you well know.)

So on July 4, I will go and spend time with friends. We will eat food and my kid will play with their kids. I will enjoy the community I’ve created, and love that America contains so many different kinds of communities, and I will celebrate that as our strength.

We are large. We contain multitudes. That is my July 4.

Sincerely, Joel

P.S.: I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that July 4 is also the fourth anniversary of my mother’s death. It makes the day more complicated for me,  the need to spend time in community even more precious. FWIW.

House Appropriations Committee Takes Steps to Save the World

Joel,

A sliver of good news: the House Appropriations Committee voted last week to adopt an amendment to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). The AUMNF was passed post 9/11 to allow the president to use military force against anyone, anywhere who was part of the attacks on the US.

Despite the messes we made in wars-that-weren’t-technically-wars in Korea, Viet Nam, and the Persian Gulf, plus decades of interventions in Latin and South America, back in only ONE member of Congress (Representative Barbara Lee of California) was able to foresee that this increase in executive power would be another opportunity for a president to abuse power and the members of Congress to abdicate responsibility. Since 9/11, it’s been used to justify war-like actions from Bush, Obama, and Trump—who just last week authorized the shooting down of a Syrian plane, which prompted threats of reprisal from Russia. Lee’s warning back in 2001—that we should be “careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target”—was one that many people now wish Congress had listened to.

The AUMF should have made us shudder all along, but let’s be realistic: no one in power is going to work to share it.

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Above, a meme posted on a pro-Trump Facebook group I follow. (See what I do for you, dear readers?) Fans defend Trump’s undignified Twitter battle with Mika Brzinzki and Joe Scarborough like children on a playground—by yelling “She started it!” This is not the way to avoid a nuclear war with North Korea.

So what happened? Could it be that even the Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee are scared of their commander-in-chief’s recklessness, petty vindictiveness, and fragile masculinity? Perhaps a man whose presidency was born in from a bruised ego isn’t the person you be making the unilateral decision to send our troops into battle.

When It’s Easier to Get a Gun than a Ballot

Dear Joel,

Wouldn’t it be nice if Dana Loesch and friends cared as much about voting rights as they do gun rights?

Loesch, readers will remember from just yesterday, is a conservative talk radio host and too-frequent guest on mainstream TV news whose ad for the NRA, released this week, called for violence against a vague “them”—liberals, progressives, members of “the resistance” (like, say, all those women and this winter’s Women’s March in DC), and Black Lives Matters advocates.

It’s just a hunch, but it seems like the NRA doesn’t care about wooing centrists who think that gun rights are worth protecting as part of the civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. These folks, who claim to love the law (but mostly just love authoritarianism) love guns, not liberty.

As more and more states adopt conceal and carry and open carry and as more people choose to own guns, the NRA will have to keep upping its scary rhetoric to prove that guns rights are under attack when it’s clear that, in fact, they aren’t. Since gun rights are secure and guns are everywhere* in this country, the NRA doesn’t have much to work with in appealing to moderates.

Instead, it has to prevent members from slipping over to the even extremist Gun Owners of America. After all, if you’ve already won the “middle ground” (and the fact that conceal and carry is the “middle ground” tells you about the terror that rightwing gun advocates must feel all the time), you just keep pushing right. The only end of it can be zero regulation of guns: any gun, for any person, any place, at any time, with no government oversight of production or sales.

As, gun rights advocates think, the founders wanted (for white people, I mean).

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Above, a man with “We the People” tattooed on his forearm and a pistol on his hip. Photo from The Guardian. 

Rhetoric around gun rights consistently links back to the founding period: We need guns to fend off a possible attack by our own government. (Gun rights advocates tend to leave off the part about the racist militias that were required to maintain the brutal system of slavery, but let’s be clear: today’s gun rights arguments are also arguments for maintaining white supremacy over the lives of people of color.) Your neighbor isn’t stockpiling to fight the Germans. His ultimate enemy is the US government—or, rather, the government as he imagines it: intellectual elites promoting multiculturalism and equality at the expense of his white supremacy.

And rightwing lawmakers encourage this kind of hostility toward the government. They protect the privacy of gun dealers and owners at the expense of public safety—a courtesy not granted the vast number of US citizens who have been surveilled under the Patriot Act. Lawmakers have made it extremely difficult to collect any data on gun ownership, even in ways that protect subject privacy. The NRA has fought hard to prevent doctors from asking patients if they own a gun and secure it separately from ammunition—the security procedures recommended by the NRA itself—even though they can ask about smoke detectors, car seats, and cigarette smoking in the home.

By law, records about gun sales cannot be digitized. Because there is no standard for reporting this information, some people in gun sales submit their information on toilet paper—a contemptuous act that makes it incredibly difficult to access information about a gun when a crime using that gun has occurred. The disrespect impedes police work and undermines justice for victims of violence—two groups that the NRA says they care so much about.

But let’s say you are a Constitutional fundamentalist: the Founders wrote it, you believe it, and that settles it. Let’s take a Church of Christ approach: if it’s not specifically listed in the Constitution or can’t be inferred from a narrow reading, it’s not legit. So the Founders said, in the Constitution, that we had an individual right to own guns (or did they?), but they never said that you had to show photo ID to get one (How could they when there was no photography?) or that you had to be 18 or that you had to demonstrate basic competency with a firearm. The 2nd Amendment doesn’t say that the government should track sales or require gun registration. The proper place of guns today is just where it was in the late 18th century (or at least where the NRA imagines it was).

And yet…

The Trump administration has demanded all kinds of personal information on voters from state attorneys general. A few have refused. More must.

Because, in previous centuries of American democracy, you didn’t have to show photo ID to vote. You didn’t have to navigate a complex paper ballot. (You very often just raised your hand, shuffled to one side of the lawn or the other, or tossed a bean or some other kind of produce into a hat.) You showed up (if you could make it past political opponents who were out to stop you), and you voted. No one asked for your government issued ID. And, afterward, no one collected the last 4 digits of your social security number (because, after all, we didn’t have one).

In other words, today’s pre-voting burdens and post-voting invasions of privacy are at least as offensive to the Constitution as are gun control laws, even if you read the 2nd Amendment as generously as possible.

“Second Amendment” people should be piping up very loudly right now. Their silence lets us know that they aren’t here to protect civil liberties or even to challenge an authoritarian government. Advocating for gun rights and against voting rights makes no sense unless the goal is to protect white supremacy, not civil liberties.

And for those of us who revere voting rights, perhaps we can take a page from extremist gun rights advocates. Let the members of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, who will meet in DC on July 19, know what you think. Kansas’ Attorney General Kris Kobach (who couldn’t find a voter fraud case if it was sitting in an area nursing home) is VP of the commission, and I encourage you to reach out to him to let him know your thoughts—and, yes, toilet paper is a fine way to send them.

Rebecca

**********************************

Places I have seen guns in the last year:

  • Waiter at a restaurant open carrying as he brought me my iced tea (and, yes, I left).
  • Employee of a boat launch at a state park swimming hole (and, yes, I left, because a person wearing a gun over swimshorts is not a person I need to be near).
  • Sandwich shop—a man perhaps in his mid-20s comes in with his three young sons, one with no shoes and another wearing just a diaper. While the man couldn’t bother to dress his children or keep track of their shoes, he did manage to strap on a gun. (Note: Having contributed at least a dozen single baby and toddler shoes to the universe, I tend not to judge. But I also know that if you are too overwhelmed to dress your child, you are not going to have the attention to keep a gun secure. And, yes, I left.)

Goodbye, Jason Chaffetz!

Hi Joel,

It’s Jason Chaffetz’s last day of work (JK! The man hasn’t done his job in ages!) in Congress. He’s served as one of Utah’s Representatives to Congress since his election as part of the Tea Party sweep of 2008. He’s been a self-serving conman, a climber and a snake in the grass whose very name has become a verb meaning “to stab a mentor in the back,” as John Hunstman told the world. Chaffetz has always been at least as equally attentive to a future in reality TV or Fox News as he has to his actual job, which, unfortunately for America, has included serving as the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which ought to have been doing some oversight of Donald Trump’s violations of the emolument’s clause.

Other things to know about him: he’s cast doubts about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, his business background is in pyramid schemes, and he wasted lots of our time and money on a useless investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of Benghazi. It’s hard to figure out really, what, has been his worst moment, but I think it was when he said he wouldn’t vote for Trump because he couldn’t look his teenage daughter in the eye after the candidate bragged about sexually assaulting women simply because he was powerful, then changed his mind. Daughter Chaffetz: I hope you never, ever let him forget what a spineless act this was.

But though I can’t see why Orrin Hatch hasn’t had Chaffetz’s political ambitions strangled much sooner than this, lots of Utahns are okay with voting for a limelight-seeking, child-exploiter–which made his decision to quit partway through his current term raise eyebrows. Did the hostile town hall meetings finally get to him? Was it my constant barrage of mail and phone calls? Theories abound, though the most likely seems to be that he’s won a deal with Fox that is more profitable, either short or long term, than finishing the work he agreed to do for the Beehive State.

Above, in the reality TV show Freshman Year, then first year Representative Jason Chaffetz shows the camera how he sleeps on a cot in his office in DC as a sign that his real home is in Utah. Now he’s quitting his job early, invalidating the votes of Utahns who thought he would live up to his commitment to do the job they elected him to do. 

So, to the long list of people with every right be angry with Chaffetz (his daughter, Senator Hatch, John Hunstman, Americans who care about the Constitution, all the people NuSkin ripped off, Hillary Clinton), let’s add: all Utahns who voted for this man (and especially those who donated to his campaign), trusting that his willingness to run was a sign that he was willing to serve. Not only are Chaffetz voters not getting their money back OR their man in office, Republican delegates have been asked to make a $25 “donation” (not required but strongly encouraged) to vote in the election for his replacement.

Whoever wins Chaffetz’s spot, I’m not going to miss him, and it’s hard to imagine a representative doing less for the people he serves. Like everyone else in his life, Utah voters were just a stepping stone for Chaffetz to get to where he wants to go next.

But I will miss the ritual of calling his office and sending him mail. Perhaps it’s time to turn my attention back to one of the other junior dangers in Congress: Arkansas’ Senator Tom Cotton.

Rebecca