Remember the Oklahoma congressman who told a group of constituents it’s “bullcrap” to suggest that taxpayers pay his salary? Well, he is evidently so addicted to power that he is now entertaining the idea of breaking his pledge to serve only three terms.
In 2012, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) ran as the ultimate outsider, a hometown boy who would stick it to the elites. He also pledged to serve no more than six years. However, like most Republican politicians who lack a core conservative foundation, Mullin quickly became addicted to the leadership table and the establishment elites. Instead of fighting the liberal leaders in both parties, Mullin became a conduit for leadership, offering excuses back home in his district for every betrayal on the major legislative and budget battles. He is very proud of being a member of the Ryan/McCarthy/Scalise whip team.
Now, after reportedly breaking his pledge and filing to run for a fourth term, Mullin has put out a statement saying he has not made a final decision and is still “praying” about it. But if he really intended to keep his pledge, why would he file paperwork with the FEC? Another Oklahoman, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, was also elected in 2012 on a pledge to serve no more than six years, and he has not filed to run for re-election.
Why the equivocation?
In 2012, Mullin was unambiguous about his term-limit pledge: “‘I don’t want to be up there (in Washington) and become part of the problem,’ said Mullin, 34, owner and CEO of Mullin plumbing. ‘If we can’t accomplish anything in six years, it’s a waste of time anyway.’”
In 2011, Mullin rhetorically asked a radio show host, “How many times do we send politicians up there that sound great on the radio, they sound great when they are talking, but when they get there their actions don’t match it? They get lost in their fight, we will not get lost.… We’re going up there for six years…. During that six years we’re going to give it everything we got.”
Indeed, Mullin has accomplished a lot in six years. He has sided with the swamp leaders on every major issue, including backing a bill to permanently enshrine Obamacare, violating his most basic campaign promise in 2012.
To anyone who knew Mullin from day one, this is no surprise. This is a man who was caught during the 2012 campaign telling voters that single-payer was the solution to our health care crisis. It is this basic lack of foundational principles that plagues so many members; it’s just that Mullin has a double dose of the GOP duplicity disease.
Amidst a devastatingly disappointing primary season last year, one bright spot was when Jarrin Jackson, a young veteran who is deeply grounded in conservative principles, challenged Mullin and received 37 percent of the vote despite lacking funds and media attention. Jackson told me over the phone that he’s exploring another run at Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District, especially if Mullin decides to break his term-limit pledge. “America needs leaders with courage and integrity. If we fail in character, we fail in leadership. Rep. Mullin’s decision to break his word is more than dishonorable, it’s a disservice to the American people and an obstacle to making America great again,” said Jackson.
Unfortunately, Tom Coburn was the only major state Republican who had the courage to support Jackson during the 2016 primary. As always, money and name ID win the day, which is why Republicans like Mullin feel invincible enough to break a term-limit pledge. This will continue to happen until conservatives push for primary reform and restore candidate selection to the convention process that existed before the progressive era.
It’s time for conservatives to focus on primaries
Conservatives are facing a nightmare scenario. As evidenced by last night’s special congressional election in suburban Atlanta, the Democrat base is energized, Independents are trending Democrat, and Republicans are caught in the most awkward position of having all the power but accomplishing nothing. In fact, we now have the continuation of Obama’s amnesty, the continuation of the Iran deal, and the continuation of Obamacare (including the illegal subsidies), yet Democrat voters are in full rage mode, as if we are accomplishing right-wing agenda items. Hence, we are left with all the political vices of controlling government but none of the policy benefits.
While Trump and congressional Republicans are moving further left, we continue to nominate new Republicans in special elections who stand for nothing and will not align with the Freedom Caucus. We have Republicans who downright love Obamacare but still run (deceitfully) against Obamacare. At the same time, nobody has bothered to sort out this party divide during the candidate selection process of these special elections. Conservatives need to re-energize the base and recapture independent voters with a meaningful message that actually speaks to the issues of our time. While Democrats are looking toward GA-6 to recapture their momentum, conservatives should watch OK-2 carefully for game-changing momentum. We badly need an interception.
Editor’s note: This article has been altered to note the correct congressional district. Conservative Review apologizes for the error.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.