Being in the IT sector, Orrin Hatch is a name that comes up an awful lot. From his insistence on blowing up fire sharers' computers to attempting to throw first-time offenders in jail for five years for sharing a single song, Hatch has demonstrated time and time again that he's a RIAA/MPAA hack and complete luddite. This says nothing of his continued votes in favor of the PATRIOT Act, support for the FTAA, accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from gaming, alcohol, and tobacco interests, voting for tax cuts and increased spending in the same year… the list goes on and on.
There's also some irony in how long he's been serving. One of his key running points when he went head-to-head with Democrat Frank Moss was Moss' 18-year tenure as a senator, claiming that such a length of service made him out of touch with his constituents. By my counts, Hatch is coming up on 20 years of service, yet has no intention of stepping aside. I guess that makes a good sound bite when you're not the one in office.
It's become very obvious to me that this man doesn't represent Utah nor would he know how to. This isn't surprising considering that he's lived in Utah for a grand total of 7 years of his life. That's not a lot of time for a man of 72.
All of this makes Pete Ashdown a breath of fresh air. What got me interested is his opposition to Hatch's repeated attempts to cater to his recording industry cronies. Hatch, it should be noted, records and releases music on an RIAA label and in addition to the aforementioned items has extended copyrights for an additional 20 years without cause, just barely keeping Disney's Steamboat Willie short out of the public domain. He opposes the DMCA and INDUCE Act. He opposes copyright extensions and the inanity of software patents. He fully suppots Net Neutrality. This alone is enough to make him a technologist's favorite person.
It doesn't stop there, though. There is a strong bent of true federalism in his environmental and education policy that demands more local control of these areas of policy. Most impressively, he understands that the Constitution restricts the federal government from doing most of what it currently does, even going to far as to cite The Federalist Papers as a source of what Article I, Section 8 really means. Ashdown's idea to make the states testing grounds for new solutions to public policy quagmires is the pinnacle of rational thought. I imagine that like so many of his fellow Americans, he's observed what a single-approach top-down solution ends up doing: solving none of the problems.
Ashdown also seems to be most interested in striking at the root causes of problems instead of trying to alleviate the symptoms. Instead of creating new government programs to subsidize the high cost of prescriptions, he wants to go after the marketing and regulations that make them so expensive in the first place. Bravo to a man brave enough to find and kill the roots instead of aimlessly hacking at the branches.
Honestly, I find the disagreements we may have on specific issues to be inconsequential. Pete Ashdown has the solid foundations of a great Senator and an even greater statesman, and Utah would be well-served to have such a man representing us in Congress. Pete Ashdown, you've earned my vote.