The Dabakis Factor: a guide to ignoring facts and slamming Republicans

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” John Adams.


I think Senator Jim Dabakis forgot to check the votes before he decided to slam the Republican members of the Utah House for killing a bill that would have allowed Tesla to sell cars in Utah.

The Dabakis Factor: a guide to ignoring facts and slamming Republicans
Sen. Jim Dabakis.

In a bizarre twist during the Utah’s Legislature’s 2015 session, the predominantly conservative House killed a law that would have rewritten how cars are sold in Utah, denying Tesla–an auto-manufacturer–the right to sell cars without a dealership.

I wrote about the bill during the session, noting that “car manufacturers cannot own more than 45% of an auto dealership and that you cannot buy a new car online if the seller doesn’t have a franchise in the state.”

Not surprisingly, auto-dealerships opposed the bill, arguing that the current law is fine. Their quote in the Salt Lake Tribune about the current law was, literally, “It has worked very well.”

Horses worked very well, too, but we all upgraded to an automobile when we realized the benefits.

But that’s all just opinion. What isn’t opinion is who voted for the bill and who did not.

Calling it a “a Sophie’s Choice for legislators[,]” Dabakis took to his blog (somewhat inchoately) to blast Republicans in the House, accusing them of cronyism as they voted  on a conflict between “free enterprise vs. upsetting a cash cow donor group.”

He went on, speculating that it was a feeling of distaste for environmentally friendly vehicles among the GOP:

Why? Perhaps a lot of GOP representatives hate, hate, hate energy-efficient cars. Seriously. Or, perhaps the powerful lobby of new car dealers didn’t want competition from the start-up Tesla? Who can blame them? Who wants competition?

Dabakis should have checked out the votes on the bill before he hit “post” on his rant. It was Democrats who voted en mass to oppose the bill, not Republicans.

The bill failed 32 to 41, with the just under a majority of House Republicans supporting the bill (29 voted Yea, while 31 voted Nay).

Meanwhile, it was House Democrats that voted almost unanimously as a block  to oppose it (see the votes here and below). Given an opportunity to stand for something, demonstrate their influence, small though it may be, House Democrats solidly came down on the side of protectionism and subsidies for oil (per Dabakis, again) and against the free market and energy efficiency.  Their ten votes could have passed the bill with a solid majority. Even a swing of five could have seen to it that the bill passed.

Facts are stubborn things, and the fact is that given the opportunity, Democrats showed they were just as beholden as half of their Republican colleagues to whatever forces persuaded the House to kill the Tesla bill.

This isn’t really a new tactic for Dabakis. He regularly paints Republicans in dark hues for the very same things that he winks at for Democrats (for example, attacking Governor Herbert, President Neiderhauser, and Speaker Hughes over closing discussions about Healthy Utah while forgetting that President Obama, President Reid, and Speaker Pelosi did the same thing back in 2009). In person, he’s an extremely personable individual, able to read his audience and adjust accordingly. And maybe that’s what’s going on here: he’s communicating with his echo chamber, his base, and not the general public. Dabakis is expecting, if not hoping, that no one will look beyond the surface of his allegations.

This is politics, after all. But it’s cheap politics, and it does little to strengthen political discourse and debate. It’s a method that cheapens trust and that should be eschewed by serious policy makers.

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The vote on HB 394, sponsored by Rep. Kim Coleman, denied Tesla the opportunity to sell its cars in Utah without a dealership.
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