We’ve written before that the shutdown squad members, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) specifically, have sent their poll numbers into a tail spin. Even in places like Utah they don’t appreciate a dysfunctional government. The Post’s Philip Rucker gives a vivid account of Utahans disgust.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) leave the Senate floor before the vote to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) leave the Senate floor before the vote to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A sample:

To hear grievances with Lee’s no-compromise, no-apology governing style, just head to the executive floor of Zions Bank, founded by Mormon settler Brigham Young. Bank President A. Scott Anderson, who raised money for Lee three years ago, sat in his corner office this week harboring second thoughts.

“I think people admire him for sticking to his guns and principles, but I think there are growing frustrations,” Anderson said. “If things are to happen, you can’t just stick to your principles. You have to make things work. . . . You’ve got to be practical.”

Lee’s hubris is evident. He claimed he was doing it for the people and the public was with him. But in fact, “Lee acknowledged that voters disapproved of the shutdown — especially in Utah, where the federal government is the largest employer. Shuttered national parks hurt the tourism industry and thousands of workers at military installations were furloughed.” So he knows best? (“I understand that people in Utah — and people in America, for that matter — don’t like fighting in Washington. But if we don’t have these fights, nothing changes.”)  The “I know what is best for them” is hardly consistent with the shutdown squad’s populist pretenses.

Lee, like the other shutdown squad types, can’t admit he was wrong. Ignoring the public and refusing to admit error? Sounds like the Beltway arrogance he ran against in 2010.

Even more revealing is that hard-liners must take refuge from voters in tightly controlled conventions. (“Lee came to office as part of the 2010 tea party wave, benefiting from Utah’s unique nomination system in which delegates chosen at neighborhood caucuses pick the party’s candidates at a state convention rather than in a primary.”) More moderate Republicans understandably want to change that. But why should Lee resist? Odd for a man of the people to want such an undemocratic nominating process.

The same phenomenon occurred in Virginia, where hard-line conservative Ken Cuccinelli ll maneuvered to hold a convention rather than a primary, where more moderate Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling would have had a much better chance among a broader electorate. Now, Virginia Republicans are paying the price with a tone-deaf candidate too far to the right for the Virginia electorate.

If Lee and other hard-liners were real populists, they’d care what folks back home think and take their admonitions seriously. Instead, Lee seems determined to double down. But when you have to ignore and in fact hide from voters, your claims to be the authentic voice of the people are seen for what they are — self-interested spin by an opportunistic politician. The good news is that voters eventually get to throw out such characters.

 

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.