Chaffetz’s lonely battles against the D.C. Council didn’t go unnoticed this year. “I find it appalling that our nation’s capital would sanction gay marriage in any way,” says Gayle Ruzicka, the president of Utah’s conservative Eagle Forum, who gave Chaffetz crucial help in 2008. “When he was taking a lead in trying to stop that, we noticed it back here. He was a brand-new freshman in an important position, and he had the courage to speak out. That doesn’t always happen.”
On the other hand, the Tea Party types who ousted Bennett and feel lukewarm about Hatch may not match the old-line social conservatives when it comes to beating up on the District. David Kirkham, one of Utah’s key Tea Party leaders, says Chaffetz’s moves have gotten plenty of ink back home. But “Don’t Tread On Me” voters might also get turned off by the sight of Chaffetz treading on others. The same slogan on District license plates also adorns Tea Party banners: “No Taxation Without Representation.”
Here’s the flip side of the factor that so worries Eleanor Holmes Norton. Those first-time politicians and Tea Partiers who wind up in Congress have ideas about the Constitution that are simultaneously simple—obey it!—and complicated. Yes, the Constitution is clear on the rights of District residents. But how can you remain true to its values if you deny 600,000 taxpaying Americans representation in the body that sets their taxes? DC Vote has dispatched activists to Tea Party protests; the visitors are often surprised to learn about the city’s bizarre governing set-up.
“We’re big believers in state’s rights,” says Kirkham. “I don’t think [Chaffetz] would do this, but if he were to arbitrarily do something against the constitutional guidelines we have or against the will of the people of Washington, we wouldn’t like that.”
If that sounds confusing, it is. But if Republicans take Congress, get used to it. At least part of the future of D.C. will depend on the mood on the street in Provo, Utah. And the fight to keep the feds out of local affairs may come down to persuading the Tea Party that local control shouldn’t end at the District line.
Jason Chaffetz's Cotside Chats
Timeline: D.C. under Home Rule
The nation's capitol, Washington, D.C., has governed itself since 1973—kinda. Despite the passing of the Home Rule Charter, which delegated power to an elected mayor and 13-member D.C. Council, Congress still oversees the District. View a timeline of Home Rule in D.C., along with a video series of Congress' greatest hits on the District, from Boy Scouts to Needle Exchange.
Tell Provo What To Do!
If Jason Chaffetz, from Utah, can tell the District how to run its government, why shouldn't Washingtonians vote on how his hometown works? For example...
In Utah County, where Provo is located, the rules for marriage licenses specify the applicants must be “male and female.” Clearly, the District’s enlightened attitude toward gay marriage hasn’t made its way out west yet. Let’s put that to a vote. (After all, at $50 a pop, the licenses could help the county keep its books balanced—and every little bit helps!)