House Republican freshmen and candidates for 2012 need to consider — changing leadership elections from seniority based to accomplishment based – as a part of their re-election platform.
For too long the House and Senate have been led by leadership that doesn’t reflect the grassroots or the heart of the party. Instead, leadership reflects seniority or the candidates who have been able to get re-elected the most times, rather than who has been most true to their principles for the longest time. The problem with this is obviously, that the lifelong members do not always tend to be the most conservative. Instead they tend to be politically calculated to always vote the way the wind is blowing. That leaves us with moderates and dealmakers as our leaders.
And we shouldn’t stand for it anymore.
As Newt Gingrich famously said, regular Americans one day woke up after Obama’s election and realized, “there are more of us, than there are of them.”
That principle couldn’t be more true with respect to our party. Moderate, right-of-center pols like Boehner and McConnell call the shots. But it is the true Jim DeMint conservatives on the ground doing the work. And we are the ones that have to live with the deals Boehner cuts. I am not happy with current leadership and I think we need to put ourselves on the path to getting better leadership rather than having absolutely no say in it.
The tea party revolution of 2010 wasn’t about putting moderates back in charge that wanted to compromise more than take back the country, it was about sending back-up to conservatives.
From now on, we need a new way to elect leadership. Currently, candidates for leadership, rather than being judged by conservative accomplishments, must merely withstand election after election to rise into leadership. This practice in the Senate and the problems it has caused is well documented in Jim DeMint’s newest book about his mission to get tea-party-back-up in the Senate.
But the problem is equally as bad in the House. Worse, the House is supposed to belong to the people while the Senate belongs to the states. By the House’s nature it is has a more populous feel and mission.
Last Thursday, the battle between life-long republican House Leadership types came to a head when tea-party aligned freshmen refused to vote for a short term CR bill to fund the government. The measure failed without democrat support or the support of 87 House Republicans. Reports were rampant that the pressure was on the House freshmen to vote for the spending bill but they held strong. The same thing happened in the debt debate where leadership threatened freshmen like Rep. Allen West (R-FL) until they caved.
As it stands now, one’s entire leadership allegiance is determined behind closed before the vote actually takes place following a November election. Then, when everyone has already committed to supporting the guy with the highest seniority on leadership, they must vote openly for that candidate. It should be reversed — open elections, closed votes. That would change things significantly.
The results of the current system has been that the most ambitious and patient people in Congress have been elected to lead, with little regard to their voting record or stand on conservative principles. This leaves the people out their fighting for us without the time, resources, or support to be elected to a leadership post.
Therefore, in November 2012, after House republicans pick up a few more seats and have elections they need to begin restructuring the way leadership is elected. Speaker Boehner already began doing this by giving more committee assignments to freshmen than ever before in 2010 and I applaud him for that. But we must go farther. Republican candidates must begin to promise as part of their platform to support someone based off of their conservatism and accomplishments rather than how long they have stuck it out. We should be seeking fresh blood rather than stale career politicians. Freshmen and new candidates should demand 1) open elections where it is culturally accepted to run against incumbents without a backlash in the form of being stripped of committee assignments; 2) secret ballots when voting for leadership; 3) As Jim DeMint did in his battle with the Senate, make the Speaker position off limits this time around so that Mr. Boehner is not seen as being ganged up on by the media; and 4) encourage true conservatives that have been in Congress for awhile (like Mike Pence) to run against leadership even if the establishment tells them to “wait their turn.”
We have changed the face of the republican party already. But we still aren’t there yet. Why stop now?