Sunday, December 13, 2009

When 95 Percent is a Failing Grade

With all the talk lately about "purity tests" in the GOP, here's a story about one conservative lawmaker in California who is paying the price for voting his conscience over party.

The Washington Post has an indepth story on California State Assemblyman Anthony Adams who is catching heat for one vote in the state legislature. Adams is not some "squishy moderate;" he is a pro-life, anti-gay marriage Republican. But when the state government had to deal with a massive deficit he faced a hard choice:
Throughout his legislative career, he has faithfully hewed to the precepts of social and fiscal conservatism: opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control and most new spending.

But, during budget deliberations early this year, the exigencies of governance collided with his pledge against more taxes. Suddenly Adams wondered whether he could keep his promise. The state's economy had cratered. The projected budget deficit without new taxes exceeded $42 billion, and that already included deep cuts to education and social programs.

With most Republican legislators preferring additional spending cuts to tax increases, the prospect of a deadlock loomed. It would mean severe pain for people doing business with the state, a tortured Adams told close aides, friends and family members. "State people were not getting paychecks," he remembers. "We faced the possibility of paying those people off in IOUs for quite some time. . . . I thought it was unconscionable not to pay people we owe."

Still, Adams realized the possibly dire cost of going back on his 2006 pledge: "I knew there was no easily defensible position for me."

He voted for the tax increases and then faced a conservative onslaught. A campaign was started to recall him from office. Never mind that he voted with his party about 95 percent of the time.

Some Republicans shed no tears for harrassing Adams. They seek to punish him for his errant vote.

A few points come to mind. First, it seems that there are some in the GOP that don't want people who govern more than they want mindless cheerleaders. Maybe that will appeal to some of the die hard folks, but most normal people don't find that helpful.

Second, I've heard some people shrug upon hearing about the "purity tests" and attempts to purge and purify the party. For some, these are only directed at those moderates who should have left the party long ago. But Adams is not a social moderate. And yet, he has been treated like a heretic for one vote. The message here is very clear: if anyone strays on one issue, they are deemed a "RINO." These extremists are no longer aiming at moderates, but anyone who does anything that goes against their definition of a Republican.

This story is a reminder that if a conservative Republican isn't safe because he strayed from ideology on one vote, then no one is safe.

Something has to be done to stop this political suicide.

1 comment:

Paul Wartenberg said...

The problem with the poor Californian Republican is that his one errant vote just happened to be on one of the two core beliefs of the Modern GOP: Thou Shalt NOT raise taxes; and Thou Shalt NOT abort fetuses. He voted for a tax hike and - in the eyes of the party led by the Club For Greed maniacs - for that he must die.

It'd be nice to think that the GOP will self-destruct themselves like this well into the 2010 midterms, but we are dealing with a national electorate that was just polled as 44 percent having fond memories of a Dubya administration (WTF?!) and more and more pollsters thinking the Democrats are going to lose control of the Senate by the 2010 mids (ARE YOU NUTS AMERICA?! Putting Republicans BACK IN CHARGE of things IS GONNA MAKE THINGS WORSE!).

I can only hope that a lot of people see the Slate article on an emerging (re-emerging, actually) third party alternative... I wonder if the modern Whigs party is viable?