Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Tea Party Isn't Always Right

This is fairly old news by now, but significant nonetheless. The Tea Party Express has officially endorsed a single Democrat, Walt Minnick of Idaho's First Congressional District. As the only Democrat to receive the endorsement of the national Tea Party organization, Minnick is perhaps the Loneliest Democrat. And in electing to endorse Mr. Minnick, the Tea Party Express is gravely mistaken.

You see, Tea Party Express is a national organization. But, how is Mr. Minnick perceived at the local level? I dare not try to speak for all Idahoans, but I am an Idahoan, and a resident of the First Congressional District, at that. And I think the Tea Party Express is mistaken in their endorsement of Minnick. To a point, I can agree with the logic expressed by Sal Russo of the Tea Party Express, quoted in the Idaho Statesman's coverage of the endorsement: "We have to reward some Democrats that have been willing to stand with us on the tough issues." And Russo has a point: Minnick has opposed Cap and Trade, Obamacare, and the stimulus bill. However, neither Mr. Minnick, nor any other Congressional candidate, has received the endorsement of the local Tea Party organization, Tea Party Boise.

I think it's important to look at Minnick's whole voting record, not just whether he stood on the right side of a few issues. Minnick is certainly not stupid: He knows that this Congressional district is among the most right-leaning districts in a state where the GOP enjoys a super-majority in the state legislature. He knows that he owes his election largely to the fact that his opponent, Rep. Bill Sali, was very unpopular within the state Republican party. (Prior to Sali receiving the GOP nomination for the seat, the Speaker of the Idaho House publicly proclaimed that he thought that Sali was "an absolute idiot...".) Minnick also knows that he can't show his true colors and vote with the party-line when his constituents are likely to be paying attention (on the "big" votes").

So, how does Minnick vote when he doesn't think we're paying attention (or care)? Here's a smattering:
  • He voted with the Democrats to nationalize our student loan industry (a vote which was proclaimed by Nanci Pelosi to be one of Obama's three pillars in his Blueprint for American Prosperity.)
  • He voted for Stimulus #2 (aka the "Jobs Bill of 2010).
  • He supported Cash for Clunkers (at least enough to vote to authorize the extension of the bill), and we all know what a success that was.
While Minnick has had the guts to stand up to his party on some issues of great importance, it's clear to me that his voting record (and not just the highlights I list here) is not in-line with the ideals of the Tea Party movement. Moreover, the Tea Party Express has undermined the ability of the local Tea Party to express an opinion on Minnick's performance. Should Tea Party Boise decide to endorse his opponent, the two opinions would largely cancel one another out. Both candidates would be able to claim to have been endorsed by the Tea Party. This is precisely why any endorsements from the Tea Party movement need to come from the local level. If "all politics is local politics", then national organizations need to stay out of the business of endorsing local candidates: Let the local organizations do the endorsing, and offer them funding as needed.

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