I campaigned for Jody Hice and Barry Loudermilk in Georgia. They both said they were opposed to John Boehner as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Today, the both voted for him, having previously voted against him in the Republican Conference.
They both stood behind that as their justification to vote for him today, but their constituents thought otherwise. For an hour on the radio in Atlanta tonight, donors of theirs, voters of theirs, and other supporters called in to say they felt betrayed and that we had all been played.
I don’t blame the voters. These guys had promised to oppose John Boehner. It was their first act and they broke their promise. But they are not somehow suddenly not my friends. They are good men. They just flinched at their first time on the firing line.
While they should and will be held accountable, they also deserve some measure of grace. If I believe in a God of second chances, then I need to give second chances. But there is more than that and I think a lot of conservatives lost sight of it.
Republicans are playing a short game. Cycle to cycle they want to hold a majority and must win the fights necessary to hold that majority. Their entire operation is built on election cycles. Conservatives are not playing that game. Conservatives are playing a longer game to move the country in a particular direction.
The votes of congressmen for John Boehner, when they had promised to vote against him, do matter and their faltering out of the gate is discouraging and disappointing to so many who helped them, stood by them, defended them, and thought they were making a change for the better. But this one vote is not singularly, monumentally important in the long term. There are other fights on other days that will also matter.
A practical side of this is that these guys are now elected. They will be there for two years.
Should they be thrown out of the conservative movement for this vote today? What about next week when they might be with us? Should we not let them find some redemption, some chance to learn their lesson, and some chance to get it right? We, in the conservative movement, do not institutionally have those attributes of power the Leadership does. We do not have the mechanisms of fundraising and perks of power they have. The allure of Leadership sucks away the souls of many. Turning our backs on friends because we are disappointed at their first vote — however big we may see it — just makes it even easier for them to drift permanently away.
A number of these guys waffled on their first venture out to the firing line. They campaigned and broke their promise. Remind them of that. Hold that up. But do not deny them the opportunity to vote right on other measures. Do not make them feel so un-welcomed that they stray permanently.
A number of others showed real leadership. Congressman Gohmert, again, showed he was willing to stand and fight. Congressman Jim Bridenstine showed the attributes of the new leader of the House conservatives. Congressman Meadows showed he will stand to defend liberty even when the odds are against him.
Put more bluntly, do not put your faith in men, particularly politicians. Our job is to mitigate the suck in Washington and, over time, change it. I have no doubt a number of the men who disappointed us today will be with us on other votes and are still net improvements over many of those they replaced — men who would not have just voted for Boehner today, but caved to him on immigration and so much more in the future. Conservatives win in small numbers made large over time, not in silver bullet votes that slay the leviathan in one vote out of the gate.
This morning, major news headlines from multiple outlets contained the Republican Leadership’s talking point. John Boehner had it in the bag, there would be not even twenty votes against him, and because of that he could now permanently ignore the paper tiger that is the conservative base of the party.
Instead, just as I predicted filling in for Rush Limbaugh on December 26th, there were twenty-five votes against Boehner. Others caved, but will not want to be ignored. The Republican Leadership woke up this morning thinking that they had just wetted a conservative paper tiger. Instead, they realized it remains a force to be reckoned with in the House, with numbers greater than they thought, and the base that trained the tiger is now even more pissed off.
Happy governing. Conservatives, slowly but surely, continue to mitigate the suck.