I recently ran across a bit of information that at first confused me; then frustrated me; then made me question; then it made a light come on; then it brought my view of our so called ‘conservative’ Republican leaders in Congress to a new low.
Some years back, I ran across the Freedom Index published by the John Birch Society. The index is published once every 6 months and tracks key bills in Congress and the votes of each member of Congress on those bills. Votes are scrutinized for adherence to the U.S. Constitution, sound fiscal policy and a traditional foreign policy of avoiding ‘entangling alliances.’ Members of Congress are then rated from 0% to 100% for adherence to this standard.
I put the information from the Freedom Index into a spreadsheet and generated an average score of ‘Constitutionality’ by party. To my surprise, despite the major wars fought between the two parties and the beliefs of Democrat and Republican voters that the other party’s candidates are the antithesis of their own, I found that in 2003 Democrats in Congress voted Constitutionally 32% of the time while Republicans voted Constitutionally a whopping 43% of the time. I checked again in 2006 and found the two parties still competing to see who could be the most un-Constitutional with the scores then at Democrats 31%, Republicans 42%. At that point, I was pretty well cured of any lingering delusion that there was any real difference between the two parties.
Now here’s where the story gets downright strange. Thinking that I had the two parties pegged, last week I checked the July 2010 Freedom Index and was dealt a serious surprise. The Democrats in Congress are now at 10% Constitutionality and the Republicans at 77%. Wow, have the Republicans rediscovered the Constitution? Maybe they actually read it and are trying to follow it? Yet most of these are the same people who were in Congress in 2006 and had the 42% Constitutional rating. Elements of their own Pledge to America, and various other things that Republicans have recently said and done, prove to me that they still don’t understand the Constitution that they’ve sworn an oath to uphold. So how could their score have gone through the roof?
Then the light came on. They’re not voting for the Constitution, they’re voting against the Democrats. You see, whoever has the majority in Congress pretty much determines what bills will get a hearing and will subsequently come to the floor for a vote. When the Republicans had control, their party bosses, from the President on down, mostly brought forward un-Constitutional legislation (58% of the time according to the score card). Their obedient party members in both houses, mostly toed the line and voted for their party’s un-Constitutional legislation. Now that the Democrats are in power, the tables are turned and the Democrat leadership is bringing forward legislation that is even more un-Constitutional than that of the Republicans. Democrat members of Congress are now toeing their party’s line and voting for that legislation while Republicans are towing their party’s line of voting against whatever the Democrats are for. This has inadvertently given the Republicans a fairly conservative voting record.
When the Republicans were in power, they seemed to like un-Constitutional legislation, so why not keep voting that way now that the Democrats are giving them even more un-Constitutional stuff to vote for? There’s only one reason, the un-Constitutional legislation being offered now is being offered by Democrats and ‘politics as usual’ dictates that the Republicans are required to do ‘the partisan thing’ and vote against it, even though their past voting record reveals that they really like un-Constitutional legislation.
Contrary to what might be supposed, the recent scorecard does not reveal that Republicans have returned to conservative values, rather, it reveals that they had no values to begin with – conservative or otherwise. Their voting record can swing from 42% Constitutional to 77% and back again without ever changing their values because they are not basing their vote on values, but on the political game of two parties opposing each other in order to justify their existence and secure their share of the vote.
That’s right, the Republicans that conservatives are looking to as the leaders of their cause are leading without a compass. They have demonstrated that their vote is not the product of a fixed set of principles, but of political posturing. Sorry, but I just have a real hard time picturing George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin or any of the other Founding Father types conducting themselves this way.
Bottom line – if you want Republicans to vote like conservatives, elect a Democrat majority.
By the way, lest you think the game is rigged or that the Freedom Index is not a true and objective standard, Representative Ron Paul of Texas received a score of 100% in all three of the report cards referenced in this article. It can be done, but it will require more from us than blindly voting a party line.