Muddy politics

Enid Greene will always remember the hisses.

As she took the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives–for the first time since the public had learned that her now ex-husband embezzled more than $1 million to fund her campaign–a group of female Democrats began to hiss from the back of the chamber.

“They were like little snakes,” the former Utah congresswoman said.

The noise continued even after the Chair pounded his gavel repeatedly, but Republican Greene kept speaking.

Then, after she finished her speech, one lone Democrat from across the aisle stood and began to clap.

Greene said this sort of bipartisan friendship and civility is hard to find in Congress today.

But Democrats aren’t the only members of Congress guilty of unsavory behavior, she said.

“There’s plenty of blame to go around for everybody,” said Greene, who is now the state Republican Party chairwoman.

Greene made her remarks during a panel discussion with former Utah Congress members at the Hinckley Institute of Politics on Wednesday. She spoke alongside former Congressman Bill Orton, D-Utah, and Senator Jake Garn, R-Utah.

The speakers agreed that personal attacks and bitter divisions have become too prevalent in Congress today.

“Congress is not the same place we served–it’s overly partisan and personally nasty,” Garn said.

Orton said the political mudslinging is occurring because it works.

“The (Republicans) won power in 1994 by personal attacks,” Orton said. “You don’t win by being nice–the way you win is by attacking.”

While the speakers said politicians in Congress have changed for the worse, they said voters are the only ones who can hold their representatives accountable by not voting for nasty candidates.

“When you start slinging mud, you need to have your feet held to the fire,” Greene said. “I think the public is ready for something else.”

Andy Sollish, a senior philosophy major, said voters can discourage their representatives from behaving negatively by focusing on the issues rather than parties or individual politicians.

“Mudslinging doesn’t really matter if people care about the issues,” he said.

Former Senator Jake Garn, R-Utah; former Congressman Bill Orton, D-Utah; and former Congresswoman Enid Green, R-Utah, discuss the importance of young people getting involved in politics and the harsh divisions between political parties at the Hinckley Institute of Politics on yesterday morning.