Conservative Suicide/Stupidity?

As many of you know, I live in Utah, and as most of you may not, I was the Legislative Director for William Armstrong, one of the most conservative congressmen and senators of his time, as well as the staff director for Ken Kramer, his successor in the House – also one of the most conservative congressmen, not to mention being Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. EPA during the first Reagan administration.  These days, however, even as a registered Republican, I seldom vote for Republicans, and what follows may explain one of the reasons why.

Utah’s two U.S. senators are Bob Bennett and Orin Hatch, both conservative Republicans, and according to the various political ratings, they’re among the most conservative in the Senate.  BUT… they’re not “perfect,” with Bennett receiving “only” an 84% rating and Hatch only an 88% rating from the ultra-conservative American Conservative Union. According to recent polls, over 70% of the GOP delegates to the Utah state Republican convention believe that both Hatch and Bennett should be replaced because they’re not conservative enough.  Bennett is up for re-election and probably will not even win his party’s nomination.  He might not even survive this week’s coming party convention.

Now… although I certainly don’t believe in or support many of their policies and votes, I can see where others might… and might wish for all their votes to follow “conservative” principles – but to throw out a three-term conservative incumbent over such ratings?  Does it really make any sense?

No… it doesn’t, and that’s not because I’m a great fan of either senator.  I’m not.  But here’s why replacing Bennett – or Hatch – is totally against the so-called conservatives’ own best interests.

First, the ratings are based on “political litmus test” votes, often on issues that indicate ideology and don’t represent votes on bills that actually might make a difference.  Second, the “difference” between Bob Bennett’s 84% rating and a perfect 100% rating represents all of four votes taken over the entire year of 2009.  Second, seniority in the Senate represents power.  It determines who chairs or who is the ranking minority member on every committee and subcommittee, and that helps determine not only what legislation is considered, but when it’s considered, and what’s actually included in it.  The Senate is an extremely complex body, and it takes years even to truly understand its workings.  To toss out an incumbent who is predominantly conservative, but not “perfectly” conservative, in favor of a challenger who may not even win an election, but who, if he does, has little knowledge of the Senate, and less power, is not an act of conscience, but one of stupidity.  Third, no matter how conservative [or how liberal] a senator is, each senator is restricted by the rules of the body to voting on what is presented. In the vast, vast, majority of cases, that means that the vote of an “imperfect” conservative can be no different from that of a “perfect” conservative.

I can certainly see, and have no problem, with conservatives targeting a senator who seldom or never votes in what they perceive as their interest, but to remove a sitting senator with power and influence who votes “your way” 80-90% of the time in favor of someone who may not win the election, and who will have little understanding or power if he does… that, I have to say, is less than rational.

In the interests of fairness, I will point out that the left wing of the Democratic Party is also guilty of the same sort of insane quest for ideological purity, and that the majority of Americans are fed up with these sorts of extremist shenanigans.  But in the current political climate, where most Americans are fed up with Congress, they may well vote to throw whoever’s in office right out of office… along with Bob Bennett.  And then, next year, when legislative matters are even worse from their point of view… they’ll be even angrier… even though almost none of the voters will admit that everyone wants more from government, in one way or another, than anyone wants to pay for – except for those on the extreme, extreme right, and they want no government at all… and that’s a recipe for anarchy in a world as technologically and politically complex as ours.

14 thoughts on “Conservative Suicide/Stupidity?”

  1. we be stead says:

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  2. Robert The Addled says:

    I wish more of both ends of the spectrum shared your views. I’ve always enjoyed your works for their subtle socio-economic-political nuances. I’ve always viewed you as a moderate – because of the great balances (any puns intended) that you have brought to your sagas. Tech vs Nontech, Ecology vs conspicious consumption. I’ve even used The Forever Hero as an argument at work when the conversations have drifted into Climate change vs Weather. Please keep writing these wonderful novels with their beautifully subtle commentary.

  3. infant baby says:

    Good,I like it!

  4. christoph says:

    The whole idea of “ideological purity” is an absurd oxymoron.

  5. hockey fan says:

    Thanks for the info into some of the workings of Congress. I’ve just registered to vote so knowing about this type of thing will be very helpful. It seems to me that the media is pushing people to one or another extreme, and I am doubtful that will be ending anytime soon. Maybe the two parties will start to realize that using the media in such a way is a two edged sword.

  6. Bob Lann says:

    I have a problem. I am a Fiscal Conservative and a Social Moderate/Liberal. No, that is not the Problem LOL….

    Here is the Problem: We really do NEED TO FIRE the incumbents to a large degree. NOT 100% since there really are a few great ones out there.

    NOW, why am I standing on that position? I will give some background. I lived in Israel before and during the October war on the Lebanese border. I came home and saw gas lines and said to myself that this is really quite silly. We had a crisis then and the 537 people tasked with running our country have failed to rise to the challenge since then. We are NOT yet energy independent.
    They have failed to rise to the challenge on a number of fronts….. We KNEW of an immigration problem back in the days of the strikes of Ceaser Chavez in California.
    Our borders still leak and now we have a multi-generational illegal immigrant problem to solve. IT will not be solved until we secure the borders and make some changes to laws including the one about being born in the U.S. by an illegal makes you a citizen automatically….

    To get even more to the point, The 537 people in the House, Senate, and White House have FAILED to protect and defend our countries from all enemies Foreign and Domestic….. (in my View, since 1973 +/-) There is something in the Constitution about that. Hmmm

    My local Congressman, Jeff Miller has done a great job and I will give weight to his performance before I decide if I will “Vote Him OUT.”

    Let me put it this way…. King Tut had only one Grandmother. His Mother and Father were brother and sister…. The House and Senate are sort of like that. Inbred and Dysfunctional. Both Parties are guilty.

    I understand your comment on the House and Senate being extremely complex bodies taking years to learn to navigate and function. Try reading the health care bill cover to cover and UNDERSTAND it… Perhaps we should rethink such complexity….

    The Legislatures generally need summations of legislation to understand the tone and tenor of a bill. I am certain few if any ever actually read the complex bills being brought the the floors for votes.

    When Leadership can bully our representatives into voting against their conscience, we have a problem.

    I have tried to read some of the bills. They are giant puzzles referring you around in circles constantly never quite getting to the point.

    About me:
    I served honorably for 26 years 7 months and 10 days in the Navy and am now retired. I love this country with all my heart.

    I invite your thoughts.

    1. Bob Lann says:

      I Mispoke. The Oath to Protect and Defend against all enemies foreign and domestic is NOT in the Constitution. It is just something that they all say as they are sworn in to office, the military, or as they become US Citizens… a LAW….

      an OATH……

  7. Bob says:

    I am much in agreement with Bob Lann. Re-electing incumbents because they understand the “system” and rules of our corrupt governmental institutions is not the solution. These rules have been engineered by generations of prior incumbents who have rigged the system for incumbents. The concept of citizen-representative has been besmirched and destroyed to the point that we now have hereditary representation in many local/county/state/congressional districts and for senate seats.

  8. I didn’t recommend re-electing an incumbent merely because he was an incumbent. My point was that it makes little sense to replace an incumbent with a non-incumbent of the same political persuasion and near-identical views and voting records. Trading off power and a greater ability to follow an agenda which differs marginally between the incumbent and the challenger over the difference of one or two votes a year isn’t exactly either useful or practical.

  9. Bob says:

    For those truths not self-evident we are apparently stuck with the “art of compromise”, which routinely delivers incomplete and/or unjust solutions, and all too often, no resolution but more legislation.


  10. Kata says:

    Fantastic site! I really like your writing on this topic. Very enjoy to read. On a lot of blogs, people just keep on saying un neccessary things, but not you – very nice. Keep it up!

  11. In my opinion, we need term limits for both Representatives and Congresspeople. There are bodies in Washington D.C. right now — the President is one of them — who can claim to have never worked a job that was not directly political. Never. They are lifetime politicians.

    To my mind, no person should ever be allowed to be a lifetime politician. Politician should not be a profession. That we’ve created a ruling elite of more or less lifetime politicians — Ted Kennedy was one — is part of the reason why D.C. has become so sclerotic or dysfunctional.

    Having said that, I agree with L.E. in that arbitrarily throwing someone out due to an extreme litmus test is not the best answer, either. I myself sort of identify as small-c conservative, based on leanings, but I can’t call myself conservtive down the line on every single issue. I am quite sure I’d “fail” the conservative litmus the same way I’d “fail” the liberal litmus.

    I spent 14 years living and working in the Seattle-Tacoma area: one the nation’s “bluest” places. Now I am back in very “red” Utah. Politically, I am at home in neither place, as I found that I chaffed in the Puget Sound and I chaffe in the Wasatch. Yet both places were/are loaded with people convinced that “their” ideology was/is THE ONLY IDEOLOGY and anyone who thinks otherwise is nuts, dangerous, stupid, or all of the above.

  12. Jay Jardon says:

    Fantastic article !

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