Paul Broun as the “Accidental Congressman”
Some Musings on the GA-10 Primary
I don’t often write blogs, or at least not as often as I probably should, but some things compel me to write down my thoughts. The primary in Georgia’s 10th congressional district is one such thing.
First of all, let me start off by saying that I do not live in the 10th district. I am a soon-to-be college sophomore whose home is in Douglasville (a western suburb of Atlanta) and goes to school at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. I also have the misfortune of being represented by Democrats in both places–David Scott and John Barrow, respectively.
Still, my interest in conservatism has led me to follow the primary race in the 10th district because it pitted a conservative who has so far stayed true to his principles against a “business-as-usual, big government” type of Republican (as Jeff Emanuel put it).
So what follows in this blog are just a few musings I would like to make on this primary and its results (I just hope I get this new system you guys have got in place right).
Much of the setting in this primary was not a new one to Republicans and conservatives. In it, we had a conservative, Paul Broun, running against an, as said before, “business-as-usual, big government” type of Republican in Barry Fleming. In essence, an outsider versus the establishment choice, respectively.
What was unique about this race was the placement of these two candidates. In this case, the outsider was the incumbent while the establishment choice was the challenger, when it is almost always the opposite.
In fact, in most situations, Paul Broun never really would have been elected at all. Reason Magazine has called him, quite accurately, I think, the “accidental congressman“:
Pundits, academics, and Republican activists in Georgia want to make this perfectly clear: Paul Broun is an accidental congressman.
“All the long-term historical indicators,” says Merle Black, “indicate that Broun should have lost.” Black, an Emory University political scientist with a peerless knowledge of Southern politics, bets that Broun will serve one term and lose the next Republican primary. Box agrees.
So how did Broun get to Congress? After Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) died of cancer last February, 10 candidates—six Republicans, three Democrats, and one Libertarian—fought for his seat. The entire Republican establishment, from Norwood’s widow to local party leaders, endorsed a venerable state senator named Jim Whitehead. To them, Broun was a meandering fringe candidate who had squandered his good name (his father was a state senator from Athens) in three previous defeats: a 1990 House race, a 1992 House primary, and a 1996 Senate primary. In the last contest, he finished fourth, with only 3 percent of the vote.
Whitehead ran a front-runner’s campaign, skipping debates and promising to continue Norwood’s moderate conservative legacy. Broun ran the same campaign he always has, pledging to support bills only if they fit a quirky four-part test: They have to be moral (according to the Bible), constitutional (according to the version he keeps in his suit pocket), necessary (according to logic), and affordable (according to a balanced federal budget). Even after tapping into $200,000 of his own cash, Broun raised just half as much money as Whitehead did and finished a distant second in the first round of voting, 43.5 percent to 20.7 percent. Since no one received a majority, there was a runoff, but nearly everyone expected Whitehead’s win.
So, how exactly did this “meandering fringe candidate” get elected to Congress when all the odds seemed set against him? Well, as Reason continues, what followed is a classic example of the school of self-destruction:
But then Whitehead got smug. As the runoff approached, he didn’t run any TV ads or do any polling. He joked about bombing everything at the University of Georgia except for the football team. He accused Democrats of registering “known Al Qaeda terrorists” to vote. It was a slow-motion collapse. Broun ended up muscling past Whitehead by less than 400 votes out of about 47,000 cast.
So, the voters of GA-10 decided to elect Dr. Paul Broun as Charlie Norwood’s successor. They stuck themselves with a man who thus far has stuck to his principles and one who applies a special “Four Way Test” to legislation before he decides how he will vote on the issue. Reason already gave you the four points of this test in their article, but I think it deserves repeating. Displayed prominently on his congressional website, you can find the four parts of this test:
1) Is it Moral / Right?
2) Is it Constitutional?
3) Is it Necessary?
4) Is it affordable?
Imagine that, a congressman using the Constitutionality of a piece of legislation as one of the points to help determine how he will vote on it! What a novel approach. Perhaps some of his fellow Congressmen and women should try it some time.
But it was precisely because he stuck to these principles and the four prongs of his test that he has come under fire from the Left for being too conservative.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not unusual for a conservative congressman to be attacked by the left for being too conservative, in their point of view, but one would think that these attacks would be the province of the Democratic Party. Apparently not if you are the Georgia GOP. Yes, enter Barry Fleming, the choice of the GOP Establishment in their attempt to dethrone him by whatever means possible–even if it meant running to the left.
Maybe I’m a little old-fashioned, but I always thought that the job of bodies like the Georgia GOP and the NRCC was to protect their elected members, especially in cases like this. Furthermore, I thought the Republican Party was the one that was supposed to be the party of conservatism. Maybe I’m wrong.
In any case, in marches Barry Fleming with the allegation that Paul Broun’s small government philosophy is “strange and outlandish“.
I don’t know, I guess it seems a little hypocritical to me for someone who wants us to believe he is a traditional, small government conservative to ridicule another small government conservative’s philosophy because it advocates actually attempting to limit and reduce the size of government. One wonders what it says about Mr. Fleming’s philosophy.
I don’t have time to point out the litany of other attacks Barry Fleming made from the Left, each one seemingly more negative than the last, but for those of you out there who possess a substantial amount of gastrointestinal fortitude, you can view some of Fleming’s negativity at a website he sponsored called The Real Paul Broun. Believe me, it’s a great vault of the puerile tripe spouted by his campaign.
So, just who is the real Paul Broun? Let me give you my take:
A while back, I decided to pay a visit to Broun’s website just out of curiosity. The first thing that really stood out to me was the Four Way test I have mentioned above. I was very impressed. Few members of congress would have the guts to place such a thing on their front page for all to see, and even fewer would have the fortitude to stick to their principles and their pledges. Paul Broun, of course, is a proud member of those few.
Indeed, as I have followed Dr. Broun’s votes and actions over the past few months, I have come to believe that he embodies that pladge offered by Barry Goldwater in his seminal work The Conscience of a Conservative all those years ago:
“I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is ‘needed’ before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests,’ I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”
And his responses to the repeated attacks from Fleming have been consistent with Goldwater’s pledge as well. At every turn, Dr. Broun has affirmed that he is trying to limit and reduce the size of government and defend the people’s liberty from encroahment by the government. A fine example of this is the official press release from his campaign refuting Fleming’s attacks on Broun for voting against the SAFE Act and other similar bills that had the purpose of protecting our children. Fleming charged, essentially, that Broun didn’t care about children, but, as Broun’s campaign points out:
Fleming’s criticism of Broun for voting against the SAFE Act (a better name would have been the SAFE Vote Act) actually shows that Fleming does not understand the oft-used tactic of labeling legislation as “for the children” when that is actually just a cover.
After passing the House months ago, this bill has not even received a committee hearing in the Senate.
The SAFE Act would require internet service providers (ISP) to monitor the email, the websites visited online, and downloads and uploads of every customer. * How could an ISP report a problem without being aware of it? How could they know about it without checking email and tracking website visits? They couldn’t.*
This is like asking the United States Postal Service to read the mail before delivering it. It would have constituted the most massive invasion of privacy in the history of the United States, requiring the ISP to act as spies for the federal government.
Also, the SAFE Act would impose enormous fines ($150,000 for the first incident and $300,000 for each subsequent incident) on local businesses that provide wireless internet access, if the business failed to report a customer accessing pornographic material of minors. Again, the expectation is that the business would monitor its customers.
Clearly, the SAFE Act has the potential to shut down every WiFi hot spot because business owners will be unwilling to accept the financial liability of running afoul of the law.
We already have laws against child pornography. We have laws against using the internet for child porn. We have laws against child molesting. We need to enforce those laws!
With respect to the other bills mentioned in the Fleming attack ad (PROTECT Our Children Act and Protecting Our Children Comes First Act), those bills — considered without the possibility of amendment, duplicate current programs under the Department of Justice, and would authorize over $1.2 billion in new spending over the next five years.
One of the key issues in this election is: Do Republican voters want a Congressman who will vote according to constitutional principles, regardless of personal consequences, or do they prefer one who will always dive for the cover of political expediency?
That final paragraph speaks volumes as to the difference between Dr. Broun and so many other elected Republicans, including Mr. Fleming, when it comes to their basic approach to government.
But if Paul Broun’s voting record and actions over the past few months say anything about him, they testify that he has no illusions about his office. He does not confuse the prestige and power of his job with the duties that come with it. Furthermore, he understands that there is a substantial difference between doing what the people want at any given time and doing the people’s work. He is one of the few members of Congress that actually does his job, which is to represent the people and their interests, chiefly, their liberty, and he does it well.
If we may learn anything from his recent victories, it is not only that conservatism works, but it wins elections, too. Furthermore, it affirms the words of Britain’s Benjamin Disraeli when he said, “The secret of success is constancy to purpose.” The Republican Party would do well to learn from Broun’s example.
Residents of Georgia’s 10th district ought to be thankful they have a man like Dr. Broun representing them in Congress, and they should hang on to him for as long as they can.
I thank you for your time.