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photo credit: CSE/UVU
It has been an interesting experience witnessing the political spin and media analysis resulting from this weekend’s Utah Republican nominating convention. There the delegates accomplished a feat that few imagined possible until recent weeks: terminating the re-election bid of a powerful, wealthy, well-connected, three term incumbent who has not been marred by any scandal or major controversy.
Along the way, Utah GOP state delegates have been called all sorts of names as a result of their actions: extreme, right-wing tea-baggers, intolerant, and courtesy of Utah’s own Chris Cannon, ignorant. Few media outlets are reporting the truth, namely, that those who imposed a term limit on the incumbent are informed patriots who scrutinized Bennett’s record in detail, found it in many important instances wholly inconsistent with the principles of the party’s platform, and determined to become involved in the political process in order to ensure consequences were enacted accordingly.
If you listen to the D.C. press, you’d think that the delegates were a pack of rabid hyenas playing “king of the hill”. Consider a couple examples:
As for the bigger picture, Bennett’s convention defeat is yet another reminder of a Republican Party that has very little tolerance for those who fail to toe the right-wing line in every instance. The examples keep piling up — Arlen Specter, Dede Scozzafava, Charlie Crist — and the “purge” is likely not complete. The goal, apparently, is to create a smaller, more rigid, less reasonable party, which discourages diversity of thought.
Utah’s results also send a message to Republican lawmakers who might consider constructive lawmaking: don’t do it. The GOP base doesn’t want responsible leaders who’ll try to solve problems; it wants hard-right ideologues. (source)
The long-promised purge is on, in other words, and anyone fantasizing about bipartisanship can choke on that hope.
But in purging impure Republicans from the ranks, Tea Partyers ultimately may manage to further shrink the GOP by alienating those repelled by purity tests. Nothing dissuades like righteousness. And though Tea Partyers pledge allegiance to no party, Republicans clearly are more aligned with Tea Party principles than are Democrats.
If good-faith, conservative legislators such as Bennett fail to pass muster, who will be brave enough to legislate?
If no one, then what? (source)
Further adding to the fomenting rage, we have some highlights compiled in yesterday’s op-ed by Jonah Goldberg:
Inside the Beltway, the shock is even more profound. Most of the news stories describe Bennett as being “ousted” or “kicked out” of the GOP, as if he didn’t lose the contest fair and square. The pundits’ descriptions are even more stark. “A guy like Bob Bennett, who is a right-wing conservative, is being driven out because he’s not sufficiently conservative?” asked an incredulous Juan Williams on Fox News. “If I lived in Utah, I’m going to give up Bob Bennett and his seniority and connections?”
On Meet the Press, New York Times columnist David Brooks fumed, “This is a damn outrage.” The Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne Jr. lamented, “It’s almost a nonviolent coup.” Presumably he meant it was almost a coup, not almost nonviolent. Regardless, it’s a curious way to describe a perfectly peaceful democratic process.
The conventional Beltway interpretation is that Bennett fell victim to the growing right-wing “extremism” of the Republican party, fueled by those Huns, the “tea partiers.”
This is not an altogether crazy interpretation, but it is an insufficient one. It assumes that those who voted him out at the state GOP convention were irrational ideologues who cannot grasp their own interests.
What they’re not letting on to is that Senator Bennett was not a “good-faith conservative legislator”, nor an “outstanding conservative”, as Mitch McConnell said, and that “constructive lawmaking” is an insidious synonym for what really is selling out the American people and running roughshod over the Constitution to which our “representatives” have sworn an oath. Ignoring the fact that tea partiers did not dominate the convention as heavily as was claimed, the press seem unwilling to concede that informed constituents of the Senator simply do not like what he’s been up to.
One commentator lamented that “We are in a moment when anger seems more important than experience or wisdom.” As a state delegate myself, I take issue with calling the incumbent wise, and experience is not a favorable point when it is used to repeatedly pursue legislation for which Congress has not been granted authority. Prostitutes have experience, but I would not recommend them as potential romantic interests. Likewise, a Senator who time and time again votes against liberty, against limited government, and against wise and prudent use of my forcibly confiscated money through taxation has experience that I simply cannot see as a reason for support.
But what about anger? Yes, I am angry. We are trillions of dollars in debt, we have soldiers in over 140 countries, we have a massive federal government that has exceeded its constitutional bounds continuously and at an alarming pace, we have two political parties that at their core have become so similar as to be indistinguishable, we have a devalued dollar, smothering amounts of regulation, and a long list of other issues that keep me up in the night wondering what my reaction and response should be. I’m angry—not in a heated, aggressive way, but in a channeled and productive manner; voicing my concern and voting my mind is one of many outlets for this increasingly pressurized steam. I balance anger, however, with information and dedication to principle. My vote to remove the incumbent from office was not out of spite, nor a vote against him. It was, rather, a vote for the things he has come to stand against: life, liberty, and my own pursuit of happiness.
Senator Bennett did not lose because of TARP, his health care bill, or any one vote. He lost because his voting record as a whole was substandard and without excuse. He lost because he had shown through repeated votes that he was no friend of the Constitution. He lost because he was not a truth teller; last year he derided the Constitution as “an outmoded document for an agrarian society,” while as recently as last week, while trying to court Constitution-loving delegates, said such things as “I yield to no one in my respect and love for the Constitution,” and “My oath of office to uphold and defend [the Constitution] is as sacred to me as any other covenant I have ever made.” He even went so far as to state that he refers to himself as a “constitutionalist”. In the end, Senator Bennett’s record spoke far louder than his words—especially those preceding an important election.
Our beloved commentator referenced above concluded his diatribe with the following: “The departure of Senator Bob Bennett is a small event in a national tidal wave of witless extremism and thoughtlessness.” He errs in assuming that the delegates have given no thought to their actions. To the contrary, most delegates spent several hours per day assuming their duties and preparing to cast an informed vote. Far from extreme, these delegates have been selected as guardians of the party, and ultimately determined that the incumbent did not sufficiently adhere to the party’s platform and the Constitution to which he swore an oath, despite his alleged respect and love for it.
Bennett’s partner-in-crime on his preferred health care legislation has responded that “The Congress cannot and will not function properly if legislators are no longer allowed to govern responsibly and independently.” It is with the intent of ensuring that Congress does govern more responsibly that the incumbent has been denied his party’s nomination. As for independence—another term for ignoring the will of the people and the principles to which elected officials should adhere—we’re through with it. We’ve had enough mavericks, independents, and flip-flopping, power-seeking politicians; it’s time for some fidelity to principle and real statesmanship.