9 min readNov 15, 2020


Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Despite Captain-Moroni/Democracy-Is-Not-The-Objective Mike Lee and I’m-Taking-A-Leave-of-Absence-To-Stop-The-Steal Sean Reyes and Benghazi/How-Could-I-Look-My-15-Year-Old-Daughter-In-The-Eye Jason Chaffetz, Utah’s four distinct seasons and stunning, wildly varied geography make living here worth the unyielding embarrassment.


Senator Mike Lee

Just after midnight on October 8, 2020, Trump’s I-Didn’t-Vote-For-Him-In-2016 co-campaign manager in Utah, Senator Lee, tweeted:

“Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prospefity [sic] are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.”

An odd middle-of-the-night tweet from a sitting United States senator less than a month out from the 2020 presidential election, I thought.

In response to sustained criticism over the tweet, Lee tried to mitigate the damage by pointing out the United States is not a pure democracy but instead a representative constitutional republic. True. But weak, given the timing, his cultish support for an authoritarian, and the party of Trump’s relentless efforts to disenfranchise a majority of the electorate and maintain the shrinking white minority’s rule in the United States. White authoritarian rule coupled with a strong, thinly veiled undertone of racism is the clear inference I drew from Lee’s “democracy is not the objective but . . . prospefity is” perfidy.

Looks like Lee might be taking his originalism a little too seriously. Yes, we white men know what’s best for the lot of you.

Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Warming up the partisan crowd at a super-spreader rally in Arizona in late October 2020, COVID-positive Senator Mike Lee, co-chair of Trump’s campaign in Utah, made the incredulous comparison of Trump to a beloved Book of Mormon prophet and angel in Mormon lore, that east-facing, golden figure who stands atop Mormon temples throughout the world, ready to trumpet in the second coming of Christ.

To my Mormon friends, my Latter-day Saint friends, think of him as Captain Moroni. He seeks not power, but to pull it down.

He seeks not the praise of the world or the ‘fake news,’ but he seeks the well-being and the peace of the American people.

People unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon or its Captain Moroni may not understand the absurdity of Lee’s targeted religious pandering. His target audience — Mormons on the political fence — will, or should. Thankfully, enough Mormon Arizonans, including the dead ones by proxy if you believe the Trump tripe, didn’t buy it.

The only dead Arizonan whose vote I care about is John McCain’s. I’m guessing McCain gave Trump one more thumbs down.

In a prior life I read the Book of Mormon many times. I’ll leave to others the veracity of the Mormon canon as recorded history of peoples in the ancient Americas. That’s not the point.

The point is Lee’s embarrassing and dishonest political misuse of a profoundly righteous, honest, moral, selfless, religious symbol to compare with the most irreverent, irreligious, dishonest, immoral, corrupt and profoundly selfish and self-centered power-hungry person ever to occupy the White House, indeed the very worst and most dangerous person in the United States.

Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Lee also is lending his support to Trump’s dangerously false claim that the American people should not trust the outcome of the election — unless it went for Trump, of course. Contrary to the projections of self-anointed militias made up of guys fixated on personal inadequacy, guys who really need to get laid, transparency does not involve armed civilians storming locations in states in which Trump was ahead to stop the count, cancel votes where he was behind or otherwise interfere with the process. For transparency, they could have watched the live feeds.

To the extent Trump ever pretended to govern, he abandoned his charade after his convincing defeat. The national and domestic security of the United States is most vulnerable right now, and the Senator Lees of the country are placing their egos, hubris and political fortunes well ahead of the security of the country and preservation of, as Lee might remonstrate, our representative constitutional republic.

Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes

In a stunning show of selfless patriotism, Utah Attorney General Reyes took personal leave to help his president by observing vote counting in a sister state. Nevada, apparently, lacks the machinery and acuity fairly to count votes, a skillset objective outsider Reyes must have in abundance. Reyes claimed to have observed “voting irregularities.” Hmmm. I wonder if those irregularities were of the same caliber claimed, under oath, by affiants in Trump’s many frivolous — and failed — lawsuits in swing states.

I suspect General Reyes teamed up with Michael McDonald, the chair of Nevada’s state Republican Party, to salvage six electoral votes for Trump. McDonald’s scandal-ridden history qualified him as the perfect “MAGA minion to lead his Nevada voter fraud snipe hunt.” Reyes, it appears, became part of that “scattered squad of Trump loyalists overhyping fact-free claims and lawsuits that continue to be shredded by state Attorney General Aaron Ford and swatted down in court.” Utah must be so proud. Unfortunately — and embarrassingly — a majority of Utahns undoubtedly are.

“Widespread voter fraud enabled by a lack of ballot-count observers? Nope. Armies of out-of-state Democrats flowing into Nevada to cast ballots? Try again. Would you believe throngs of dead people turned out for Joe Biden in the Silver State? They didn’t.

“’With ceaseless fluffing — he just kind of looms, more than anything else — from McDonald at feckless press conferences, the Trump campaign’s ‘Stop the Steal’ smokescreen has falsely alleged deceased Southern Nevadans whose names remained on voter rolls cast ballots. It isn’t true, but that didn’t stop former acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker from repeating the disinformation to a Fox News anchor: ‘Well, again, I think we have places like Nevada where thousands of dead voters voted who shouldn’t have.’” Dead voters who shouldn’t have voted voted, Mr. Whitaker?

Reyes’ selfless generosity provoked a response from the Nevada Attorney General: “I would ask that he mind his own business, frankly.” Looking a gift horse in the mouth, he characterized Mr. Reyes’ involvement as a “disrespectful slap in the face.”

Reyes, like Lee, is lending his support to Trump’s dangerously false claim that the American people should not trust an electoral college outcome of 306–232 — an historic masssive landslide, if you believed Trump in 2016. Unfortunately for them and the likes of them, having tied their wagon to Trump they will live with zero credibility going forward.


If credible evidence emerges that the Biden campaign invited, encouraged, colluded or conspired with a foreign power to influence the outcome of the 2020 presidential election — say into the hundreds of surreptitious contacts with foreign agents, back channel discussions, and shared voter and campaign information for specific electronic targeting by foreign actors — I will join in the chorus of calls to conduct a thorough, transparent, independent investigation. If credible evidence establishes that Mr. Biden engages in criminal obstruction of any such investigation, I will gladly call for his impeachment.

Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Former Utah 3rd District Congressman Jason Chaffetz

For me it began with Chaffetz, although Trump weighed heavily in my decision to blog. This from my first post on January 30, 2017:

My itch to blog grew as our most embarrassing congressman [at the time] politicized tragedy and used verifiably false data, unabashed partisanship, and a powerful chairmanship for self-promotion. His lack of self-awareness and introspection and aggressive self-aggrandizing serve him well in the current regime. A brief moment of hope surprised us all, I suspect, when he expressed outrage, albeit feigned for political theater we would learn, over his candidate’s unvarnished hubris about what he does — and is entitled to do — to women because he is . . . well . . . him.

The news clip we deserved to see?

“After father’s moral abandonment, court grants 15-year-old’s emancipation petition and terminates parental rights. Reached for comment, Chaffetz renounced his daughter: ‘If malignant narcissism, xenophobia, misogyny, alternative facts, racial and religious discrimination, fear-mongering, nuclear proliferation, conflicts of interest, breaching alliances, undermining US credibility throughout the world, and governance by impulse, and a very very important father, are not good enough for her, she deserves to be on her own. Good riddance. Hillary Clinton’s emails could have been hacked, for heck’s sake. And did I mention how important her father is?’”

As I explained in a June 25, 2017 post:

Chaffetz’s most significant political defeat was Hillary’s loss to Trump, pretty much removing him as the face of Fox News and seriously depleting purpose and meaning for him to remain in Congress.

So he quit.

I publicly thanked him for doing his part, finally, to begin making America great again. I also included a few of his greatest hits:

I’m out! I can no longer in good conscience endorse this person for president. It is some of the most abhorrent and offensive comments that you can possibly imagine. My wife and I, we have a 15 year old daughter, and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can’t endorse this person.

Look, I think I went through a lot of gyrations that people in Utah and across the country [did]. I can’t imagine what the world would look like if Hillary Clinton were president right now. I mean — Blech.

President-elect Trump’s obligation is to comply with the laws on the books. It appears he is going to great lengths to be as responsible as possible and comply with those requirements.

He’s already rich. He’s very rich. I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more. I just don’t see it like that.

Somebody’ll do something stupid at some point, and we’ll be all over it. I think the people who voted for Donald trump went into it with eyes wide open. Everybody knew he was rich, everybody knew he had lots of different entanglements. . . . These other little intrigues about a wealthy family making money is a bit of a sideshow.

He seems to be acting prematurely at best, without doing investigation or thorough looks. He’s rendering opinions publicly that really cause you to scratch your head. We need the Office of Government Ethics to act ethically. Ironically, that’s not what they’re doing.

*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to and Rob’s next novel, a beautifully written suspense drama that takes place in Utah, Wyoming and Norway, will be published by Signature Books November17, 2020 fall. This novel, The Contortionists, which Rob himself narrates for the audio version, is a psychological page-turner about a missing child in a predominantly Mormon community.

**Richard J Van Wagoner is my father. His list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in and are hers




Exercising my right not to remain silent. Criminal defense and First Amendment attorney.