Yes, I said it: the Missouri Republican legislature is about as conservative and principled as Susan Rice on a Sunday talk show.
By going on a votes-for-cash spending spree on the last day of the General Assembly, the House and Senate handed Jay “Idiot” Nixon a PR prize worth its weight in pork.
I’d itemize the garbage that our Republican legislators crammed into the budget, but Jay Nixon already did it for me, as quoted in The Missouri Times:
“While this Friday free-for-all will benefit a select few special interests, its far-reaching fiscal impact has thrown the budget dangerously out of balance,” Nixon said. “From special breaks for fast food restaurants to power companies, the only thing these giveaways have in common is that they were not accounted for in either the state budget or in the budgets of the cities, counties, and fire districts they would affect. By going on a $776 million special interest spending spree, members of the legislature have broken their own budget, and I’m prepared to fix it.”
Jay Nixon will veto those outrageous giveaways, and I support that veto.
This Is How Majorities Are Lost
Think no one cares about the Missouri budget? Think again.
I was talking to a relative last week. “What’s going on with the Tea Party?” he asked. So the conversation shifted to politics. As I was telling him about our Tea Party/Heritage Action Social coming up on June 19, he interrupted.
“What the hell are those guys doing in Jefferson City?” he said. “It’s like a bunch of Tom Delays.”
BOOM! The idiotic spending and special favors that helped bring down the GOP majority in Congress in 2006 has infected Missouri Republicans now. And people know it.
Corruption Knows No Party
Missouri has about three fiscal conservatives in the Senate. Maybe a handful in the House. The free market folks in the Senate have some power to enforce principled fiscal responsibility. They’re outgunned and under-appreciated, but they do what they can. They’re likely to block a veto override on their own party’s folly.
The House is a different story. Because of House rules, members can either sell their votes to the highest bidders, as House leaders often demand, or they can sit out their sentences in feeble obscurity. In the Republican House, money talks and principle walks.
A friend of mine told me a story about his conversation with a former Republican State Representative. The Rep listed all the great pork projects and special tax breaks he’d managed to shove through for friends and donors. My friend was appalled.
“How is that different,” my friend asked, “than the Democrats doling out welfare for votes? How is what you’ve done not transferring wealth from one citizen to another?”
The Rep looked perplexed, as if my friend had asked, “since when is two plus two four?”
The Rep took a breath and said, “The difference is, we spread the money around to the right people.”
That’s the arrogance of power among Jefferson City Republican “leaders.”
They’re In It For The Wrong Reasons
Last year at a lobbyists’ reception for the Missouri House GOP contingent, a former Republican staffer (turned lobbyist) told a story.
He referred back to a time a decade or more earlier, when the GOP was struggling to take and hold the Legislature. A new class of Republican freshmen gathered in Jefferson City for orientation. Someone asked the group what their goals were in politics.
“One said he hopes to be Speaker,” the lobbyist said. “Another said Governor.” Some laughs. “One even said ‘President.'”
The speaker paused for effect. “Then someone said, ‘a hundred and nine elephants.'”
Pop the champagne! The crowd goes wild! The Republicans assembled went ridin’ into the bar, a-whoopin’ and a-stompin’. “A hundred and nine elephants! That’s a good one.”
Does it bother you that not a single member of that freshmen class of Republicans in the Missouri House expressed an ambition or vision that bigger than himself?
Wouldn’t you expect at least one member of every Republican class would say “make Missouri great?” Or “freedom?” Or “fairest tax state in the country?” Or “help my district?” Or “keep Washington off our backs?”
Nope. Not a one. Apparently, the Missouri Republican House members have no room for duty, responsibility, or altruism. Only for cynical self-interest. Their motto should be, “What’s in it for me?”
Reagan Never Left the Democrat Party
Before you bring up the 11th Commandment, consider this:
When Ronald Reagan made his famous speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater in 1964, the Gipper was still a Democrat. Endorsing the conservative Republican Goldwater over his own party’s sitting President was the ultimate act of betrayal.
But Reagan never saw it that way. “I didn’t leave that other party,” Reagan would say. “They left me.”
As a Republican, Reagan was just as willing to call out and undermine errant members of his own party. The 11th Commandment Brigades conveniently forget that Reagan ran against fellow Republican President Gerald Ford in 1976. Reagan’s remarkable challenge nearly toppled the sitting President at the convention in Kansas City. Reagan’s challenge further damaged Ford’s grip on the White House and undoubtedly contributed to Ford’s loss to Jimmy Carter in November. (Here’s a link to CSPAN’s great retrospective on the 1976 GOP Convention, beginning with Senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada naming California, Texas, Georgia, and MISSOURI as the four states supporting Nevada’s nomination of Reagan in compliance with convention rules.)
For Reagan, principle came before party. While I don’t know this for a fact, I have a strong suspicion that, were Reagan a member of that Missouri House freshmen class, his answer to the question “what do you hope to accomplish” would have been more visionary than “self-aggrandizement.”
Where Do Principled Conservatives Go Now?
Now that our nearly veto-proof Republican majority in Jefferson City has made Jay Nixon look like a statesman by comparison, where do principled conservatives go? Where do libertarians (with a lower-case “L”) go?
Every time Republicans in JC sell out to Prostitutes in Business Suits, free market conservatives rip another GOP bumper sticker off their cars. Every time a Republican Senator schemes into law a benefit for his own family, another libertarian-ish Millennial turns away. Every time the GOP tells us what a great thing China Hub (under whatever name) will be for Missouri, a small business owner loses faith in the American Dream.
Here it is 2014, an election year. Normally, I’d be gearing up to Beat. The. Democrats. But my heart’s not in it this year, if you want to know the truth. Why beat Democrats if Republicans will only borrow and tax to help their donors? Why knock doors and design Twitter GOTV campaigns if Missouri’s Republicans renew the Export-Import Bank of Boeing? Why work for a party that doesn’t even want our help? Or a party that takes us for granted the way the Democrats do African-Americans? Why support cronyism?
Look, I’m not ready to launch a new political party in Missouri. But I’m reading about the process. I didn’t jump back into the political game 2009 to re-instate the failed establishment practices of the 109th Congress–the one that kicked off a Democrat wave in 2006.
After the rush of that first Tea Party, I thought we were building a coalition to focus on the proper role of government–free markets, fiscal responsibility, constitutional limits, rule of law. Instead, the Republicans we’ve elected to represent us in Jefferson City and Washington have, by and large, reverted to big government establishment practices that reward their friends at the expense of the people.
America needs an Anti-Establishment Party. The Republican Party moved in that direction from Goldwater through Reagan. But, as Jack Kemp warned, with George H. W. Bush’s election, the Reagan Revolution ended.
The Republican Establishment Rejected the Tea Party
When the GOP lay on its deathbed after the 2006 and 2008 elections, the Tea Party gave the Republican Party a heart transplant. The beast roared back to life, sweeping the 2010 election. Then, as is so common with transplants, the host rejected the new organ.
I am still on a mission to build and support an anti-establishment party. It could still be the GOP, but it’s no longer my job to reform the Republicans. They’re old enough and rich enough to reform themselves.
My job is, as a cell in this viable heart, to find a qualified recipient–a party that will accept the principles on which our republic was founded.
If you’d like to share in that mission, please come to Scarecrow on June 19 at 6:30 p.m.