Former Sen. Jim DeMint used to say he’d rather have 30 principled conservative Republicans in the Senate than 60 liberal Republicans like Arlen Specter. Even many conservatives were skeptical of his strategy at the time. To this very day, many conservatives are convinced that you must always support the GOP nominee for Congress in a general election, even if he wasn’t the conservative you wanted in the primary. After all, it’s always better to have some Republican in office than a Democrat, right?
Wrong! And it’s about time we learn that lesson.
Today’s votes on Obama’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) “war on the suburbs” program demonstrates, once again, that having a GOP conference full of liberals is actually worse than having a smaller conference full of conservatives. Much like an interception is worse than an incomplete pass in football or a ground out into a double play is worse than a strike out in baseball, electing liberal Republicans helps Democrats more in the long run than working with a minority of conservatives to combat the Left and strive to win future elections with an unvarnished message to voters.
As we observed earlier this week, Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) amendment to abolish the war on the suburbs would have drawn a sharp line between the parties and empowered Republicans to run against Democrats who allow the federal government to extort local communities into accepting their social engineering. Specifically, the Lee amendment would have defunded the entire AFFH tool which allows HUD to extort localities that don’t have enough low income housing in their jurisdictions to meet the illegal HUD regulation.
Instead of allowing that amendment to go unchallenged, leadership let liberal Republican Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who had never previously engaged on this issue, to work with Democrats on a bipartisan amendment “solving” the problem. Except it didn’t solve the problem; it merely prohibited an activity that doesn’t occur. It was crafted carefully to only prohibit HUD from actually redrawing zoning maps, something they have never done. They never tell county government exactly where they must redraw their maps, just that if they fail to comply with the data from the AFFH tool, they will lose their funding and be subject to anti-discrimination lawsuits. However, on paper, the Collins amendment sounds like it is blocking this unpopular regulation – exactly the cover Democrats needed!
All but 9 Democrats proceeded to vote for the Collins amendment today, giving them bipartisan cover in their states to claim they stopped HUD’s intrusion into local zoning laws. The 9 no votes came from Democrats in very liberal states or those not up for reelection this cycle. Clearly, most Democrats are feeling the heat on this issue.
Then, knowing that all Democrats would vote down the Lee amendment, most Republicans, including members of leadership, were free to vote the right way on the Lee amendment with the full confidence that it would be defeated anyway. The Senate voted 60-38 to table (kill) the Lee Amendment, with 16 Republicans falling on their swords, so many more can get a hall pass. Needless to say, all but a few Republicans will not utter a word about this issue to the media in their home states and make this an election issue. This is the muddled mess we have with a bipartisan oligarchy.
What transpired today is reminiscent of the Corker-Cardin Iran bill, which gave Democrats cover because it was sold to the public as a means of giving Congress input into the Iran deal, when in fact, the bill ensured that Obama would unilaterally ratify the treaty unless an insurmountable super-majority actively opposed it. It was worse than passing nothing because it gave Democrats a much-needed loin cloth from the political fallout without actually making the deal better in any way.
This has been the hallmark of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) Senate over the past two years. Whereas a majority party in the Senate is supposed to embarrass their opponents with tough amendments in order to win back the White House and a 60-seat majority in the chamber, McConnell’s Republicans have been blocking conservative amendments. They even shield Democrats from any exposure to tough votes. Today, Susan Collins went a step further and handed the Democrats their own phony bill, perfectly crafted to give off the veneer of defending local government.
This is an example of subtraction by addition in political math. Had we just had 30 solid conservatives we would have ended up with a similar result, but at least the battle lines could have been drawn in a clear fashion for all Americans to see the differences between the parties. With Susan Collins and the loin cloth Republicans, Democrats can now have their cake (block conservative policy) and eat it to (avoid the political fallout).
At some point, conservatives need to look beyond the next election and understand that if they fail to build an apparatus for electing conservatives and creating a conservative party, not only will Democrats keep winning policy and culture battles, Republicans will obfuscate any difference thereby shielding the Left from electoral reprisal. It’s better to start with a small army that is committed to battling the enemy than with a large army full of those who turn their guns on their own soldiers and protect the enemy forces. Under the current failed system, we can’t even strive for a better result and hope for a better day.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.