NPR has a nice report on a Republican primary heating up in Idaho—a good representative sample of the establishment-vs-tea party divide among Republicans. The story does a good job of highlighting the fiscal tension lying at the heart of the divide: many conservative voters find themselves employed by the very government spending they say needs to be cut.
Folks: here is the heart of the matter. Whither shall we go?
The report features the Idaho National Lab (INL)—one of the federal government’s largest nuclear research facilities. And when they say large, they mean it: it is spread over 900 square miles. The report spells out the conundrum:
Many people in this deeply red state have been drawn to the message of the Tea party: that federal spending should be reined in at all costs even if it means never compromising.
Then again, the federal government plays a huge role in so many people’s lives here.
By “huge role” he means it’s their livelihood. The massive INL as well as the Federal Bureau of Land Management in Idaho employ thousands of people, and have for decades.
The current Representative is Mike Simpson—an eight-term Congressional veteran of the Republican establishment who sits on the House Appropriations (“distribution of money”) Committee, and is known for keeping the flow of money coming to that big facility. He voted for the bailout in 2008, and most recently voted in favor of the $1.1 Trillion “In your face, Tea party!” Omnibus spending (deficit) bill. GovTrack ranks him low on transparency and high on bipartisanship. You get the picture.
Due to his slushy voting record, Simpson faces a real challenge from a tea party contender, Bryan Smith. Smith takes a hard line on taxes, spending, and debt. No more, no compromise, seems to be his message. I listened to his limited comments in the piece. He doesn’t sound like much of a straight-talker, but his hard line on fiscal issues is certainly a contrast with the incumbent.
Simpson represents the establishment well. He is open and proud about compromising. It’s the only way to get things done, he says. He told NPR, “You know, compromise has been a part of politics since the beginning of time. It’s become a bad word now. But it’s an essential part of governing.”
By “governing” I can only suppose he means “getting money for my district by agreeing to give a bunch for other guys, too, including all the liberals.”
The alternative he calls “ideologically pure” and says with a group like that “you can never get anything done” except “stand there and yell at the moon.”
When I hear that, I think “hooray!” I would love a Congress so gridlocked in ideological purity they could do nothing but yell at each other’s moons. Think of how little spending would get passed. Think how little debt would be racked up. Think how few freedoms would be sold off as if at market. Think how few wars would be approved and financed. Think how little privacy would be invaded. Instead, just yelling. It really is an inspiring thought. I might even watch that for a few minutes on CSPAN.
Simpson admits that the INL has lost over half its 10,000 jobs during his tenure as a Congressman. Tea party Smith seems to blame him for this. (That’s ironic, actually. Considering the tea party stance, this should be a point of praise.) Simpson knows whom to blame, too: the Tea party. See how that works? Since the Tea party wants to cut spending, local jobs get axed. Bad tea party.
Backed in a corner, therefore, establishment Republicans make the exact same political arguments as Democrats. We need government money to create jobs. We need compromise to get government money. It’s no surprise to find out that liberal labor unions are heavily supporting the PAC that is funding select establishment campaigns—like Mr. Simpson’s—that fear tea party challengers.
The problem is, the tea party guys know they can’t completely take the axe to the root without alienating that base of conflicted voters.
This is ground zero for the future of conservatism: it lies with the conflicted voters. Voters in red states like Idaho want conservative candidates and tout conservative values, but many of them are also dependent upon government for their basic livelihoods.
As I explain in Restoring America, a change in such voting patterns will require self-sacrifice on the part of voters. It will also require that they find new sources of income not dependent upon taxation and deficit spending by the government. Before this happens, not much change can come from Washington. Purity is an inescapable necessity.
Of course, another alternative might exist if those government-dependent voters are actually a minority among the conservative voters. Then it’s time simply to ignore them, and to realize consequently that the pork-bearing Congressman was never the district’s true representative anyway. Once such a realization sets in among the district, he will be tossed at the first chance.
Either way, the cleanup must begin with us. If conservative voters are on the government payroll, and keep voting to uphold “my socialism,” they will never have a truly conservative government. Never. They instead will keep aiding the liberals little-by-little. Step-by-step, little-by-little, election-by-election, the country will sink deeper into debt and progress further into the grip of liberals.
If we’re going to be at all serious about stopping that trend, the spending absolutely has to be cut off at some point. It’s that simple. This pertains to every department of government, every government program across the board. There are certainly priorities here, but in the long run, it all needs to be cut down. Start with waste and frivolous, ridiculous programs such as government-funded arts and entertainment, exorbitant public pensions, unnecessary research grants—there are a million examples. Cut it, Cut it, Cut it. And for conservative voters, Don’t take it, Don’t take it, Don’t take it.
Then, create a plan to privatize as many so-called vital programs as possible. Phase out social security, Medicare, Medicaid, entitlement programs galore—all over time so as to minimize the effect on the truly helpless. And keep in mind, these programs in many cases serve real needs. So, to phase them out requires you have to have private alternatives in place. This is as great a need—in fact greater, because it’s needed before we cut the government strings—as electing principled Congressmen.
We are simply faced with a choice of whether or not we are going to be serious about the values we claim to espouse. If we are, then we need to talk serious sacrifice and replacement of government things with private things, government money with private money. If we can’t make that choice, then conservative hooey—the liberals will win.