Conservatives Who Disengage And Grandstand Hurt The Cause

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

I’ve had a couple of unrelated conversations this week that, when taken together, probably explain a lot about why we currently have gridlock in our political system, and why despite the efforts of those who prefer gridlock as a method to deter the government from continuing down a path they fear is reckless or unwise, things tend to be moving down that path at an even faster rate.

One was a Facebook debate over energy policy and cellulosic ethanol.  My work with the Bio Feedstock Industry Association has allowed me to learn quite a bit about the difference between what most of us know as ethanol – the stuff we grow from corn – and cellulosic, which is an entirely different chemical compound and has many viable uses that are economically competitive without the never ending subsidies that corn ethanol requires.

The discussion was going well with one participant, while another (who didn’t seem to get the difference between corn and cellulosic) finally ran out of objections and essentially said that if the government was involved at all then we didn’t need it as an alternative form of energy.  He prefers a pure market.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it defies the reality that we live in every day.  The gasoline that we buy is regulated by the EPA, Interior Department, Commerce, and much of the activities of the State Department and Department of Defense are geared to ensure that we have supplies of foreign oil on demand as needed.  I’m sure I’m missing the involvement of many other agencies that are also involved, and let’s not forget the tax policy that has significant tax credits for domestic oil drilling but also takes a huge share back from the consumers via motor fuel taxes when we pay at the pump.

It’s not exactly a “pure” market now.  Yet when policy alternatives are discussed, any movement toward an improved trade balance, bringing jobs back to domestic producers, and improving our economic and national security must somehow be judged as “pure” from government interference before some will consider the benefits and the costs.

It’s clear some don’t understand the free market.  Our status quo is far from free.  The reality is, in today’s regulatory environment, solutions that put us on the right path – paths with less government involvement – will still require some level of government activity and oversight.  To pretend otherwise is foolish, and is merely an excuse to withdraw from any debate that will offer actual policy solutions.

The other debate was about a Congressman running for Senator and whether or not he was a fiscal conservative.  To the surprise of my friend, I said that Congressman Paul Broun is not a fiscal conservative.  Now I’ve typed it here, in black and white.

Broun has adopted the Ron Paul strategy of just voting no on all bills that require spending he finds objectionable or unconstitutional.  The problem is, that someone that is a consistent “no” vote is never at the table when actual deals get cut.  Thus, by taking the most (and I hesitate to use this word in this context) extreme conservative position possible and making  it an absolute, there are less conservatives at the negotiating table when the other math that counts in taxing and spending bills – the math that gets to a majority vote to pass – comes into play.

Conservatives who have taken the absolute position of voting no on everything in hopes that the system will crash around them aren’t ultimately helping the conservative cause.  Instead, they are making sure that when the votes are taken to pass constitutionally required budgets, only more moderate and liberal voices are at the table doing the negotiating.

Conservatives who like to grandstand and play holier than thou on fiscal issues actually harm the issues they grandstand upon.  Conservatives who disengage from policy discussions as soon as they hear that Ayn Rand and invisible hands aren’t the only principles invoked for new policy initiatives likewise unilaterally disarm in the fight to be part of solutions.

Conservatives must keep pushing for and voting for our ideas.  This requires engaging at all stages of the process, not standing in the corner on a pedestal of idealism and criticizing those who decide there are better seats at the negotiating table.


  1. seenbetrdayz says:

    The problem, I think, is that we don’t have enough people saying “no” and too many people saying “yes” because they’re hoping to get something we don’t really need more of, but they just want to say they got something.

    In other words, Politicians sort of work like couponers.

    You know when you see tons of stuff you’d never use, but yet you’ve got a coupon for it, so you end up with weird buying habits like coming home with 5,000 cans of string-cheese? Or enough Tide detergent to clean the dirt off of dirt. So you end up wasting money.

    Those are typical politicians. They know we don’t need all this massive spending but yet they want to be able to stock up on goodies to bring back to the people of their district regardless of whether or not it’s even necessary. They just want to say they were doing something for the folks back home.

    Charlie’s right, in a way:

    You can’t say “no” because ‘you’ll lose your seat at the bargaining table.’

    . . . but anyone who is paying attention knows that the “bargaining table” is bankrupting this country. Far more often both sides meet to give everyone what they want, rather than face the music and realize that we need CUTS —not 5,000 cans of string cheese.

    But string-cheese is just the ‘reality’ of the world we live in.

    . . . with all due respect?

  2. jpmsouth says:

    Charlie I see your point, but I believe the republican ‘fiscal conservatives’ inhabiting the Gold Dome and Washington sure have been negotiating a lot away without getting tangibles in return. “Fiscal conservatives” is the term that the legislators use while in campaign mode. As if you need an example in simplified terms – raising the nations debt without a reasonable plan to address the root cause of why debt continues to outstrip income – yet our republican House members voted for just that. Seems to me you are saying we need someone between Dr. Gingrey and Dr. Broun multiplied by a majority in both the House & Senate to ‘fix stupid’. I can agree with that. I can’t agree that the current crop of majority republicans are getting ‘good deals’ for fiscal responsible outcomes even at our Gold Dome level.

    Personally, I’m ready to start receiving tangibles in return for trading away.

    • jamesdillard says:

      I’ve noticed this as well. At least on the national level, conservatives keep getting told “we’ll get cuts next time.”

  3. Bob Loblaw says:

    Most TEA Partiers wouldn’t recognize a negotiating table if it had a sign on it and their nameplate by their seat.

    Hence the massive exodus from identification with the TEA Party. It’s a movement. It’s coming to an end. All one has to do is watch how few people are accompanying their lobbyists, er, leaders to the Capitol this Session.

    I’m part of the Jindal crowd: we have to quit being the stupid party.

        • Harry says:

          Just look at yourself: You’re on here constantly pimping the status-quo, lobbyist-driven brand of whatever is of advantage to the Establishment. Meanwhile, if you haven’t noticed, everybody else is moving into anti-Establishment, anti-business as usual, anti-daddy’s Mercedes mode of thinking. That’s because your solution of keep going down the same road we’ve been going down simply isn’t working anymore in America. But please consider – even obsolete dinosaurs can reincarnate.

          • Bob Loblaw says:

            So “everybody else is moving into the anti-Establishment way of thinking”?

            No, Harry. That’s not the case.

            A lot of Republicans want to get back to just being about our core principles and quit dividing into factions at the outermost extremes. I don’t know what road you’re referring to, but the one I’m thinking is lowest taxes to fund a government with a strong national defense, a well-managed treasury, free trade, care for our elders, poor and veterans. An energy policy that reduces our dependence on foreign oil. Reasonable environmental policy that conserves nature and makes rational decisions where the environment is disrupted. We want tax breaks for companies that bring jobs to our areas until they’re up and running. We’d like to focus on things that make communities grow. Those in the Metro areas would probably like to get to work in less than an hour and a half so they can get to know their kids better.

            I could go into the ideas from the last campaign that folks are running scared from, but the great part, Harry is I know you follow this business enough to where I don’t have to.

            You didn’t have to call me a pimp, doe. But its all good. Peace in the Middle East.

            • Harry says:

              OK, I take back the pimp slur. But I think you need to be more reform-oriented. We’re in extremis. We need to cut the pigs off from the trough. Yes, they will squeal.

            • becauseisaidso says:

              You know Bob, I’ll bet more than half the people in America, if given your statement without attaching a party affiliation to it, would espouse that as their mantra. Actually, probably as high as 70%. Well said.

            • seenbetrdayz says:

              Does the GOP even know what its core principles are anymore?

              Don’t forget last year you folks ran a bail-out supporting, gun-banning, gov’t healthcare supporting Rockefeller republican from Massachusetts.

              Of course, some of us tried to point that out and well, you know how the election went.

  4. Dr. Monica Henson says:

    Charlie, this is one of the most astute commentaries I’ve seen on this issue. It’s equally applicable to extreme liberals as well. I wish that the Democratic Party at the national level in particular would stop paying attention and lip service to the extreme left wing. Moderate thinking and pragmatic compromise are the key to moving society forward, whether one reside to the left or the right of the political aisle.

    • John Vestal says:

      If you asked a some statistician, you’d be told outliers were irrelevant and to be ignored (‘black swan theory’ notwithstanding).

      In politics, however, outliers make for the best entertainment and, therefore, get lots of attention…..which leads to their ridiculousness affecting/infecting the image of the population found within the rest of the distribution. Those on either side of the bell curve have learned to use the opposing outlers to their advantage. Currently, the denizens on the left side are playing the game the best…..and the right-side outliers have been more than happy to oblige.

  5. mpierce says:

    “Broun has adopted the Ron Paul strategy of just voting no on all bills that require spending he finds objectionable or unconstitutional.”

    Boehner administers oath to House members

    “I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God” (5 U.S.C. §3331).

    Why wouldn’t we expect our legislators to vote no on spending bills they think are unconstitutional?

    To your argument of being at the table: there are plenty in Congress that are far too willing to deal for little to nothing in return.

  6. IndyInjun says:

    Broun really isn’t a fiscal conservative , that is agreed upon. He is sullied by his aversion to dealing with bank fraud and any defense cuts are off the table. At this juncture you have to be adamant about cutting EVERYTHING.

    My problem with the GOP is that my Bible says something about stealing being a sin, but they revel in it.

    I have an archconservative friend in another state who is seriously considering a run for Congress as a DEMOCRAT. Now the GOP has really done it.

  7. Three Jack says:

    The problem with negotiation at this stage of the game, Republicans have regrettably surrendered to the left by accepting the basic liberal ideal of government as provider to a large percentage of people both at home and abroad. Now we are left to argue over how much will be redistributed to fund this misguided and unsustainable pattern. Thus so many fiscal conservatives are disheartened but not necersarily disengaged.

    We actually need more voices of dissent if the GOP is to get back on track. Rove and his millions v. pragmatic conservatism will go along way toward resolving this issue.

  8. IndyInjun says:

    3J – We are too far gone. The parasites at the top are served by the GOP. The parasites at the bottom are served by the GOP. The middle and the producers have no party and no representation.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      ****Downer Alert! Downer Alert!****

      This post doesn’t meet the PP criteria of keeping an insanely optimistic outlook when discussing politics.

      • IndyInjun says:

        MATH ALERT!!! 315 million people cannot repay the $17 trillion in debt,let alone another $100 trillion or so unfunded liabilities for unfunded Medicare, SSDI, military retirement, federal retirement, FDIC, PGBC (pensions), credit union insurance and the obligations of the cities and states.

        On top of that we have ANOTHER $17 trillion that the Fed borrowed to prop up banks.

        We are supposed to repay all of this with ‘money’ is a liability?

        Downer? Hardly. If you don’t find this comical you aren’t paying attention.

        • IndyInjun says:

          We are supposed to repay all of this with ‘money’ AS a liability?

          If our financial system was an Excel spreadsheet, the CIRCULAR REFERENCE alert would warn you.

          • seenbetrdayz says:

            Yes I’m aware that the debt will never be repaid. However, according to this post:


            We aren’t allowed to speak of hopelessness here, regardless of the facts.

            Therefore, I would ask that in the future, when you speak of doomsday and ‘being too far gone’, you must insert obligatory smiley-face emoticons so that we know you aren’t trying to bring the rest of the PP community down. I mean, you wouldn’t want to live with the guilt of exposing that there is no such thing as Santa Claus*, would you?

            *Not that I’m saying he doesn’t exist, PeachPunditeers. I’m just speaking in hypotheticals.

            • seenbetrdayz says:

              You know what? Forget it indy.

              I have to try to salvage the mood here, so here’s some more rainbows and unicorns:

              • Will Durant says:

                If you were to count 1 billion unicorns at one per second it would take almost 32 years. A trillion would be 32,000 years and of course 17 trillion would take 544,000 years. But, what the hey, sunshine all day today and its Saturday.

                Rain is predicted all week next week though so we might see a rainbow when the President comes to town. At least a member of Jessie’s Rainbow Coalition (does that entity still exist?).

                • IndyInjun says:

                  Funny that.

                  I had typed a post referencing unicorns, but decided to go outside and feed the one in the corral. His shelter is made of 2010 Handel, 2008 Broun, 2008 Paul and 2010 McGinnite signs.

                  Who said I am not an optimist?

  9. IndyInjun says:

    We are too far gone. The parasites at the top are served by the GOP. The parasites at the bottom are served by the DEMS. The middle and the producers have no party and no representation.

    There, fixed it.

    Entitlements are much broader than reported and reality is that no one will allow them to be touched.

  10. novicegirl says:

    Of course the dogmatic approach to less government and no taxes goes out the window when you’re in tough reelection with a small warchest. The page in my Heritage Foundation’s Pocket Constitution, explaining how you get to spend your entire Congressional office’s budget on taxpayer funded advertising franking, seems to be missing.

  11. Trey A. says:

    Charlie is absolutely right. The race away from the negotiating table to “take a stand” is not going to result in changes we need. And it is hurting the Republicans more than the Democrats. Voters are getting tired of it. Tea Partiers did much poorer this time around. And people like Joe Manchin, Angus King, Heidi Heitkamp and Jon Tester won their Senate races this fall–all moderate fiscal conservatives who promised their constituents that they would get seats at the negotiating table.

    The three Democrats on that list come from states Romney carried. And the Independent took the seat of a retiring Republican who fought her entire senate career to make sure she had a seat at the table.

    • Harry says:

      Is this an example of “taking a stand”?

      “I will veto any effort to get rid of the automatic spending cuts” – Barack Obama, November 21, 2011

      “The President will urge Congress to come together and act to ensure these devastating cuts to defense and job-creating programs don’t take effect.” – White House statement, February 5, 2013

  12. Patrick T. Malone says:

    The real problem is the Republicans don’t know the meaning of “negotiation” or they are really unskilled at it. Perhaps an introduction to the Harvard Negotiation Project is in order.

      • Bob Loblaw says:

        Not that he’s not driving a hard bargain, but he did campaign on $250K+ for higher taxes for about 18 months and was at $400k+ by the end of the first day of fiscal cliff negotiations.

          • John Konop says:


            Agree or not with the policy, we are only talking about 2 percent of the population. I would debate that the current tax policy is more lobbyist driven than logical for a very long time……but that is a diferent debate than the size of the base…….

            • John Konop says:


              As you know, putting spin aside the tax code does favor the upper part of the 1 percent today. Politically the GOP has been boxed by arguing for an old system that protects a very few via special interest favors ie carried interest……..Neither side is really proposing a long term sustainable solution. Which is why we need a system in flat tiers with special write offs.

              Unless we change how we fund Medicare and the cost it is not sustainable. You cannot have less workers on a ratio to people getting the benefit and have cost rise way faster than GDP. That is why VAT to replace pay roll taxes and Medicare tax would make more sense on the revenue side. And we must focus on efficiency and cuts at the same time. If not this is a future train wreck……..

    • Daddy Got A Gun says:

      You are confusing compromise with negotiation. The Republicans have compromised for so long that when they start negotiating everyone gets confused.

  13. Dave Bearse says:

    I commented on the previous day’s Courier Tea Party vs the Estalbishment column that “[t]he GOP has a number of issues to deal with if it’s to pull itself together. One is unintended consequences of the paramount importance of small government for the sake of small government. One of those is perverse reward for the cause of small government when government fails.”

    Dems are contributing to gridlock too, but the GOP has been all gridlock all the time since 2009, and the average person knows it. Every major GOP Presidential candidate went on record that $10 in spending cuts wasn’t worth $1 in increased taxes.

    The TEA Party mistakenly thinks that fostering government failure bolsters their cause. News alert: Should gridlock drive government or the economy into total full failure mode, a majority of voters will hold the GOP responsible for that to.

    Campaigning on gridlock that delivers government failure may win the wingnut vote that controls gerrymandered House districts, but it’s not going to ever win the Presidency (barring the that becoming gerrymandered too), or a Senate majority.

    • Harry says:

      The House races are the closest thing to democracy we have in this country. The Senate is comprised of two votes from each state no matter how small or large, and the president is chosen by delegates and elected by electors who are only partially chosen by proportional democratic means.

      • Harry says:

        Edit: I meant to say the House is the closest thing to democracy in this country, not the House races per se.

  14. Charlie’s article above seems like a sort of thematical continuation of the Feb 4 article banning LDIG’s comments. “Disengagement” and “grandstanding” are like two sides of the same coin; both imply that one has given up in a basic belief that political conversation can help turn our ship in the right direction, and that person has gone on to seek other ends.

    I don’t read every single comment so I don’t know if LDIG deserved the commenting ban. Peach Pundit’s integrity and thoughtful writing, however, has raised a certain amount of trust and respect from me so I defer to their decision.

    I am also incredibly impressed by the general knowledge, vision and writing ability of Peach Pundit’s commenters. It’s nearly impossible to find this level of intelligent, relatively civil discourse anywhere. Most other blog comment scenes – and by extension most political conversation – are either like watching Jerry Springer or staring at a blank TV screen. That’s partially why so few people engage.

    I do think Peach Pundit tends to look at the political process through optimistic-colored glasses. I do myself, if only in the sense of believing that the more a growing audience is informed and engaged in conversations like the ones that take place here, and feel some ability and encouragement to engage in this conversation, that we have some possibility of working through our collective issues and moving our society forward.

    I mean, that’s our system, right?

    • IndyInjun says:

      Every family has squabbles.

      Also, once you analyze some of the premier players and commenter’s backgrounds, you gain understanding of why they post what they do and why there are conflicts. PP is pretty diverse on the Independent and GOP side of thought. I wish there were more black folks here.

      All together, there is a lot of in-depth analysis of what is going on under the blasted Gold Dome and I greatly appreciate it. I have taken a lot of PP issues and run with them….well, as well as a challenged white-haired man can from a chair in a pine woods.

      Excellent post, ATL!

  15. saltycracker says:

    Coming to the table has become determining the collection and distribution of tax dollars in lieu of simplification and real world fairness. Equal treatment for all might be a flat tax, no exceptions, no exemptions, no rebates. The spending side, limited to a percent of GDP, can include social safety nets.

    The table today and tomorrow will be a trough to divvy up the fruits of the producers until we begin to make the case for fundamental change.

    • Harry says:

      Right, but it won’t happen short of a new American revolution and replacement of the federalist system with a confederation consisting of free-governing and sovereign states. The present model has become unwieldy due to the large numbers and great diversity of our population.

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