Friday, June 24, 2011

One Is Too Many

The symbol of the skep (a type of beehive) is a ubiquitous symbol in Utah. It represents to many the industrious nature of Mormons. There was a conscious decision to relate the societal structure of of the frontier Mormon settlement in Utah with a colony of eusocial insects. Despite the fact that such an association has gathered up images of Orwellian dictatorship and a loss of individuality like a snowball rolling down the frozen sledding hill of time the image is still lovingly propagated.

When the Mormon settlers chose the skep as a symbol of their industriousness in the mid 1800s the skep had been supplanted as the beehive design of choice. The modern Langstroth hive would be invented just over four years after Brigham Young looked out over the Salt Lake Valley and proclaimed: “This is The Place”.
Image from the Utah State Flag

Today use of skeps for beekeeping is illegal in many states. Because the comb is fused to the wicker bell it is almost impossible to check the hive for disease or parasites. The bees should be especially happy about the obsolescence of the skep as the way honey is harvested from a skep is to place the skep in a press and squish it, and every living thing in it, till the honey leaks out. On the plus side skep honey should have a much higher protein content.

For some the details of the skep-type hive are also representative of aspects of Utah's authoritarian culture.

It seems like there are adds with smiling faces atop a tag-line stating they are Mormon placed all over everywhere in both virtual and real environments. They could be saying “I'm a bee”. Maybe they are saying “join the hive and get some honey”. Scrutinizing the mechanism of Utah's authoritarian machine can come across like a slap across those million smiling “I'm a Mormon” testifying faces.

But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.” – George Orwell 1984

I joke about Utah and its one party system. The ideal of a one-party system in a democracy is one where a community is so similarly-minded that election results are foregone conclusions. Kinda like Chicago and the string of amazing victories by the Mayors Daily. Sometimes, however, one party is just a bit too much democracy for Utah.

I've written earlier about how John Huntsman was elected to governor using moneys from only a handful of individual donors. It turns out that he only needed a handful of individual votes to get elected also.

When Huntsman began his campaign for governor the sitting governor was the hugely popular Olene Walker. Olene was easily the hardest-working person in Utah politics. Her approval ratings were typically above 70%; I remember hearing that they hit 85% at times. If the voters of Utah elected Olene there would have been no question that it would have been the result of singleness of preference, but they never got the chance.

On May 8th 2004 the Utah state Republican convention elected not to put Olene on the ballot for the June 22nd primary. Instead they decided to run Nolan Karras against John Huntsman. Who was Nolan Karras? Most people never will know. Huntsman was nominated with a plurality of the vote.

Olene went on to become president of Primary at the Bloomington 7th ward. Huntsman went on to a 2008 gubernatorial re-election where he won 77.7% of the popular vote.

To the nation Huntsman will always be remembered as the guy who delivered a rousing nominating speech for Sarah Palin at the 2008 Republican National convention.

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