Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. – Mark Twain
Gerrymandering is a pretty good story. In it, the evil Republican legislature crammed a proposal down the throat of Utah voters to disenfranchise them from voting for the Democrats who they really wanted in office in the first place. As a professional bomb-thrower, Utah State Senator Jim Dabakis is all too eager to keep on repeating the story as it gets handed down from session to session. I mean, it’s a lot easier than saying “gee, as party chair I kind of made a mess of things and we dropped to record low representation in the legislature because I suck at my job (that I was only half-doing because I was WAY too busy chasing down a fancy senate seat)”.
The problem is that facts are kind of a stubborn thing, even to stubborn people like Jim. When it came down to voting time, his own party voted overwhelmingly in favor of the new legislative districts (one vote in each body against the new House districts; eight more in the House against the new Senate districts). You’d think a former party chair and current Senator would be aware of such things, wouldn’t you? I’d find it highly implausible that Jim would misrepresent the facts with a false narrative without being fully aware he was doing so.
Jim claims that nearly 2/5 of all votes cast in the state go to Democrats. If you drill down into 2014 election results for all US House districts, you find that the only race that even comes close to that figure is House District 4, the Love-Owens race. In fact, only 31.75% of the votes for House races went to Democrats and District 4 was the only race in which they beat that average. The two senate races they won? Both unopposed. Almost all of the House races they won are in the northern third of Salt Lake County. In House districts they voted in favor of. You can go over the election results for yourself to see how far off he is from the claim.
But here’s something else: registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats in Utah over 5:1. Even with a sizeable chunk of unaffiliated voters that might maybe possibly swing either way, that’s an almost insurmountable lead to overcome. The results speak for themselves: most unaffiliated voters are Republicans in all but registration.
So with all of the data showing pretty conclusively that Utah is about as Democratic in elected officials as it is in electorate, why would a pretty prominent Democrat decide to fall back on a lie to get Democrats riled up? Does he just enjoy stirring the pot, hoping to get people angry enough to do the party grunt work that evidently isn’t being done? Is he covering up the poor performance of Utah Democratic Party leadership, something a number of Democrats I know have grumbled about? Maybe he really believes the lie? Help us out, Senator. I think we deserve a good explanation.