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Foxhole Conversions vs. Real Commitments

Politicians are no different than any other salesman trying to market a product or service.  When they are challenged by competition and when voters are presented with choices, they begin to improve their representation.

The latest example of election-year foxhole conversions took place today during the votes on competing budget proposals for FY 2015.

As we noted last week, the problem with the Ryan budget isn’t so much the details of the proposal, although there are some problems on the tax side and some of the reforms are too slow.  It’s more that GOP leadership has no intention of standing behind that budget.  As such, a handful of members felt that it’s not worth voting for a budget that is less than ideal, in political terms, given that leadership will throw it in the garbage anyway.

Either way, the decision of whether to vote for something that is half-glass empty/half glass-full is one of personal choice.  Nonetheless, members who are trying to impress primary voters wanted to make sure nobody could outflank them.  Astoundingly, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), a long-standing establishment member and the Dean of the House, voted against the Ryan budget!  You can thank his tough primary challenger, John Ratcliffe.  He is so scared of losing that he voted against the Ryan budget from the right.

And once again, Rep. Paul Broun delivered three votes into the no column, as Reps. Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston worked to keep up with the competition.

Before passing the Ryan budget, the House voted on the annual conservative budget from the Republican Study Committee.  This proposal balanced in just four years while cutting taxes across the board.  The budget received 133 GOP votes.  To my knowledge, that is the most an RSC budget has received while Republicans were in the majority (when in the minority, it often gets more support because it won’t pass anyway).  Last year, the RSC budget only had 104 supporters.   Even Renee Ellmers and Tom Petri voted for it!  In other news, they both have primary challengers.

Hence, members are clearly cognizant of what primary voters expect of them and are incentivized to vote along those lines when they have a primary opponent or fear disquiet back home.

But there is a difference between a member who undergoes a foxhole conversion and one who is legitimately open to improving the Republican Party.  There is a clear consensus among the base of the party that the current leadership slate does not represent our values.  And as Erick noted yesterday, this goes beyond Speaker Boehner.  Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy are just as bad.  Just today, Breitbart is reporting that Cantor made a promise to bring up an amnesty bill later this year.  Kevin McCarthy isn’t any better..

When coupled with the clear indication that their puppet masters on K Street are only committed to repealing those aspects of Obamacare opposed by big business, no member who claims to be a conservative can support current members of leadership.

Now is the time to start documenting members to see where they stand on next year’s leadership elections.  There is no imperative to anoint a definitive alternative slate at this point.  As long as a critical mass of members are committed to change, a leader can emerge at a later date.  There are already a number of GOP candidates this year who have made it clear that they intend to vote for new leadership.  It’s time for all those who pander to the base during election years to make a solid commitment on the leadership slate.

Foxhole conversions are nice.  But it’s time for members to get off the fence and show their true colors.

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