The Hard Right

Something I heard at a candidate forum tonight has been drilling through my brain, and won’t quit.  It concerns Texas politics, but it’s applicable in any legislative venue, especially in Washington D.C.

“We passed a lot of good conservative legislation out of the House this past session.”

And in Texas, it’s somewhat true; lawmakers did line up to sponsor and vote for some reasonably conservative legislation in the House.  Those bills never became law, though, because they never made it through the Senate.

It’s kind of a neat trick: legislators in one body can pass the most conservative-sounding legislation, and get themselves on record supporting gun rights, border security, life issues, Tenth Amendment issues.  Yet they know the other body will not pass any of the bills, and none of their conservative legislation will go into effect.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m much happier when legislative bodies are too tied up in gridlock to accomplish much in the way of messing in my business.  But when there are places I WANT them to act – places where they can increase my freedom, cut the government burden on me, and let me manage my own life – I actually do want legislatures to be successful at passing good laws.  Or overturning bad ones.

Sadly, in a divided nation where conservatives haven’t elected enough representatives to pass laws without cooperation from the other side, we seem to be at a standstill.  Well, at least until we win many more elections.

And so, here we sit, whether at the state level or the national level, watching scores of legislators champion all the good, solid, conservative, red-meat legislation you could ever want, knowing full well that none of it made me more free or more in control of my own life.  The more I think about it, the more disgusted I get.  It’s as if the entire aim of the exercise is to provide political cover for candidates who campaign endlessly on issues that rile up the conservative base, not actually to govern conservatively.

And as angry as I am at the cynical way these elected officials act, I’m just as angry at the electorate that lets them get away with it, time after time.  These guys do it because IT WORKS.  Instead of talking about real problems that need solving, instead of explaining how they will advance free market principles and shrink the size of government; they put up a picture of a flag or a gun, and they’re done.

Or, and this one is my favorite, they create a petition around a hot-button issue, the sole purpose of which is to swell their e-mail list.  “Keep Texas Red!”  “War on Christmas!”  Is this really how we choose candidates?  Is this really all that voters care about?  That their representative knows how to serve up red meat, while we slide deeper and deeper into debt, not only at the federal level but in state and local governments as well, and nothing is ever done to turn us off the path of self-destruction?

Again, I can’t lay all the blame at the feet of the elected officials and candidates.  What incentive do they have to campaign on issues when voters only seem to respond to the hot-button issues?  And once in office, what incentive do they have to craft legislation that will actually pass?  None, because those same red-meat voters will scream bloody murder if they get even a whiff of dirty, dirty compromise.  As soon as passable legislation – defined as legislation that is actually capable of making it through a divided legislature – is offered, the Great RINO Hunters are out in force, blasting all who are attached to it as sellouts, RINOs, or worse.

So here’s what I want to know:  Is it better to have elected officials who look and sound really conservative but can’t pass any legislation, so nothing ever improves?  Or is it better to have legislators who appear to be sellouts, but who can pass things that aren’t as conservative as the base would like, but are at least marginally better than the way things are now?

I really want to know what conservatives think about this.  The answers to these questions will probably determine how the next several elections play out, and so we’d better figure these issues out pretty quickly.

I, for one, am sick of losing, sick of being pandered to, and sick of seeing things get worse as our conservative ‘heroes’ insulate themselves from the consequences of their inability to act.