Sunday, January 11, 2015

Suicide Isn't Smart Politics

Recently reported that the House of Representatives voted to continue Trey Gowdy's investigation of the Benghazi attacks.

What interested me as much about the article, though, was the reaction of right-wing Republicans who would rather focus on the fact that John Boehner was re-elected to the position of Speaker of the House. Somehow, Boehner's re-election makes Gowdy some kind of traitor.

I'm a Libertarian, so it's probable that Gowdy doesn't like my politics. I'm pretty sure from context that he believes the platitude that "Libertarians are right of Republicans on fiscal issues, and left of Democrats on social issues". It's balderdash. Libertarians are consistently pro-Freedom on all issues. That says nothing about whether they're individually conservative or liberal. For instance, I can be a teetotaler who is vehemently against alcohol while at the same time recognizing that my opinion doesn't rob other people of their right to put what they want in their bodies.

As much as I'd like Congress to share my views, they don't. They typically act in the interest of their parties; and those that would like to change their party's policies must do it from within, from a position of strength. So here I'm in the position of defending a politician you can assume disagrees with me on more than a few issues.

Let's point out first that Gowdy's flight was cancelled and he missed the vote entirely. So no, he didn't vote for Boehner.

However, he would have had he been there, and for good reason. With exactly zero alternative candidates nominated in the November conference (count them... zero), no number of last minute nay votes would have ousted Boehner in favor of a more conservative Speaker. This is because the Speaker must be elected by absolute majority of all Representatives. Denied a Republican majority, it would have been thrown into a House-wide election in which the Democrats would have the swing vote.

There are about forty (40) solidly conservative members of the House. It depends a bit on who you ask, but that's the number that Trey Gowdy and Mick Mulvaney claim. There are 435 voting seats in the House. That means there are 355 more non-conservatives (liberals and moderates) than conservatives. Which of those 40 conservatives is going to amass the 218 votes needed for a majority? Some media outlets have made it out to be a big deal that 25 Republicans voted against Boehner, but their votes were all over the map. The most any single candidate got was 12.

Seriously... who here thinks that Boehner's replacement would be more conservative than Boehner? Who actually believes that the Democrats would not first foment a media frenzy over the fact that Republicans given a clear majority can't even elect a leader among themselves? Who thinks they would not then cut a deal to "rescue" the country from the "crisis of leadership" and replace those missing Republican votes in exchange for choice committee memberships and other favors?

There are those who believe that a vote against the Speaker would curtail such deal-making instead of cause it. I heard from one recently who does not seem to recognize that the result for the conservatives who voted against the Speaker would be to lose that same influence and marginalize themselves.

For the record, there is no chance whatsoever that Boehner would not be re-elected. Frosty the Snowman would reign long as the King of Hell before that happened this session.

The only message a vote against the Speaker would convey is that the congressman has no idea how politics works. It would not advance conservatism; it would set it back. That same media frenzy would absolutely certainly be slanted to favor the Democrats as noted above. And quite rightly, it would take conservatives out of positions of influence. People who deliberately screw their own party so royally should be in another party. As much as I personally might love a mass exodus, that's not the kind of transformation the conservative Republicans are aiming for.

In short, for Republicans, a vote against Boehner as Speaker would be the Bad Idea that bad ideas have when they're drunk. It would be bad for all Republicans, but even worse for the conservative broncos.

There might be a news story that actually analyzes the vote rather than just tell you how to think. But those conservative voices I heard didn't bother with rational analysis. Rather, they reflexively parroted some form of "tsk, tsk, now we've seen his true stripes". This silliness would have easily been avoided had they considered consequences. Nevertheless, everyone sang the same song:
"Trey Gowdy Is Not a Conservative Leader" (
"Gowdy Reveals Who He Would Have Voted for Had He Been in Washington — and It’s Not Who You Might Expect" (
Google more on your own. For reference, reports on how the entire South Carolina delegation voted.


Mick Mulvaney appeared with Gowdy on the Bob McLain's Wednesday evening drive-time show on WORD 106.3. Mick was one of those who voted against the Speaker last time, and described the experience as a lesson learned. You cannot effect change by marginalizing yourself. This particular protest vote was poorly planned and poorly executed, and suffered from the worst flaw of poor strategic planning: there was no plan for what to do if it worked. As noted above, the results would have been catastrophic, and the dissenters had exactly nothing planned to mitigate it. Ask Jeff Duncan, who did vote against the Speaker: all he has is some vague idea that "a new Speaker of the House would send the signal to the American people that we’re hearing their concerns while also letting the president know that Congress is committed to upholding the rule of law" without any apparent realization that any such message would be totally lost in the turmoil of choosing that Speaker and dwarfed by the fact that the new Speaker would in no way be one that furthered his agenda.

One of the things that amazed me the most about the callers' comments on Wednesday was the similarity of their attitudes to the love-hate mindset of a jilted lover. Some couldn't believe that things wouldn't have turned out vastly different had Gowdy only run for Speaker himself. Basically a good percentage of those who called in to berate him did so because he didn't act out their unrealistic fantasies.

The reality is that Trey Gowdy is very popular among a segment of the population. This same segment tends to self-select their friends and their news sources such that perhaps their perception of that popularity is inflated due to being the only thing they allow themselves to see. In the process, what they don't notice is that the at-home C-SPAN kibbitzers are not the ones voting for Speaker. And most of those who are voting for Speaker would not vote for Trey Gowdy.

Gowdy, bulldoggin'
They also fail to notice that Gowdy doesn't want the job, and for several good reasons. One that he mentions often is 40+ days on a fund-raising trail in summer, raising money across the country for Congressmen who are not in his district. Gowdy's skillset doesn't recommend him for the party cheerleading and fundraising that form an important part of the Speaker's job. Another reason is that Gowdy isn't ready to let Benghazi go, and he is the best resource Americans have in that position. He has a well-earned reputation as a conservative bulldog. As you can see yourself on television, he cuts straight to the heart of whatever matter he addresses, making the absolute most of his limited time in Congressional hearings. Gowdy gets the conservatives' message in front of the American people far more effectively by example in hearings than he ever would as Speaker, and receives far more television airtime to do so. His trial lawyer skills are his #1 asset, and it's completely wasted in the position of Speaker. The Speaker is a fundraiser, an administrator, and a conciliator. That's not Trey.

Ultra-Right Wing Hypocrisy

Nancy Pelosi's failure to be a conciliator is in large part what lost Pelosi's party the majority and Pelosi the Speakership. I think America has had quite enough of tactics that are alternately underhanded and strongarm. "You have to pass it to see what's in it," anyone? Nobody with any sense wants more of that.

Nevertheless, a sizeable number of ultra-conservatives do. You can hear them calling in on talk radio daily. What they want is an Anti-Pelosi... another "my way or the highway" dictator, only with an 'R' instead of a 'D' after the name. It's completely lost on them how hypocritical it is to demand for themselves the same thing they screamed about at their opposition. Frankly, single-minded totalitarianism isn't welcome from the Right any more than it is from the Left.

Know this: what you call "an eye for an eye" is exactly the same thing you label as "moral equivalency" when done by the other side. It's the juvenile excuse that you can do something wrong because "they did it too!" Hogwash. It's still wrong.

Libertarians know a thing or two about working with others. As I mentioned before, Libertarians are consistently pro-Freedom on issues. Most of the time, that is or should be the conservative agenda as our Founding Fathers were champions of Liberty who lived according to their morals out of free will. As my state has no Libertarians in Congress, we are left to support those are most likely to fight for Liberty on most issues; and more importantly, those who are likely to actually effect change in favor of Liberty over those who would make themselves irrelevant.

So you don't think Trey Gowdy is a conservative leader?
Then as we say in my neck of the woods, "Bless your heart!"

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