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Brass Tacks

By Alfred FRIENDLY Jr.

There is nothing like an honest-to-God reactionary in politics to revive one's basic distrust of the voter. At the same time, the popularity of a political escapist acts to reassure one of the stubborn individualism which supposedly built the nation.

In Utah there is such a reactionary. J. Bracken Lee, two-term governor of the state, national chairmon of For America, and opponent of Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom, would be nothing more than a political farce, except for the possibility that he will be elected to the United States Senate on Tuesday.

Lee is campaigning against the incumbent, Republican Arthur Watkins, and a Democratic hopeful named Frank E. (Ted) Moss. Watkins is notable for nothing beyond his chairmanship of the McCarthy censure committee. Moss, as county attorney of Salt Lake County, had most of his crime-busting thunder stolen by Salt Lake City's over-vigilant, FBI-trained police chief. Moss did manage to beat an unknown young attorney named Brigham Roberts for the Democratic nomination, but he is not well known in the state or in its most populous areas.

But if Moss and Watkins are relatively colorless, Lee's independent candidacy has the same fantastic tinges as his political views. To Lee, politics is not the art of the possible; his platform rests on promises to reinstitute the incredible. He is against the income tax, but not just its harshness; he wants repeal of the 16th Amendment. He wants to stop the draft, break U.S. ties with the United Nations, give up our foreign aid programs, institute a national right-to-work law, and halt all Federal assistance to the school system. These planks make up the dream world of J. Bracken Lee.

As the great day approaches, all the candidates' heavy artillery is going into action. For Watkins this means Ezra Taft Benson, Secretary of Agriculture and Member of the Council of Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In Morman Utah the second title is the more important, and an active campaign by Benson might swing an extraordinarily close vote for Watkins. Lee, however, had vigorous Church approval during his terms as Governor, and no religious issue has been raised during the campaign.

If Lee is elected to the Senate, he will be a relatively useless and noisy ornament. He might provide companionship for fellow-maverick Bill Langer of North Dakota, but it will be hard to construe his victory as any resurgence of American reaction. As the candidates go into their final windups, responsible pulse-takers still predict a Watkins win. Such is the course of sanity, but sanity tends to be so dull.

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