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Partisan Politics: Chemotherapy or Just Plain Poison?
I have ranted before about political parties and how they are just instrumentalities devoid of an ideology rather than ideologies using an instrument. And yet, it seems that they arise organically in democratic societies where decisions are made through voting — for representatives and amongst representatives.
I am inspired to post based on a report that GOP Representative Tony Gonzales is being censured by the Texas state GOP for acting…
“in violation of the Principles of the Republican Party of Texas” by joining all Democrats in supporting the “Respect for Marriage” Act to protect gay marriage. The resolution also said the congressman “has failed to support” the Border Safety and Security Act of 2023 and he voted in favor of the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act,” which imposes additional firearms restrictions.
He did a bad thing for a GOP politician and was “punished.” So why did this story catch my attention? Because nowhere in the resolution does it address what Rep. Gonzales’ constituents wanted him to do. In fact, according to Gonzales:
“He talked to veterans, visited with Border Patrol agents and met constituents in a county he flipped from blue to red. The Republican Party of Texas would be wise to follow his lead and do some actual work.”
In other words, the people that Gonzales represents in Congress might slightly favor the Republican policies for the moment, or more correctly are unhappy with the current Democrat policies, but are not solidly behind the Republican agenda. Gonzales, according to him, represented his constituents in voting as he did.
Should any political party be in the business of censuring politicians for doing what their voters want them to do? Of course they should, and are. Because they are political parties. A political party exists to aggregate power to itself. The party members persuade themselves that they are doing so in service to their constituents; that they can’t do good things for their constituents without power–thus doing that which aggregates power is necessary and essential.
Stated another way: from the perspective of one ideology, all other ideologies are a cancer on the body politic. Partisan power is chemotherapy to shrink other ideologies and to enable the preferred ideology to flourish. Within this construct, imposing party discipline on a representative for doing what their voters want him/her to do makes entirely good sense.
Party discipline in such a public form is rarely dished out when representatives reflect constituent preferences at odds with the party’s agenda. In fact, it is often the fact that when enough votes exist for a particular measure, some “defectors” are permitted to “vote their conscience” as a means of maintaining voter support in their district for the next election. Representatives from “safe” districts hold the line on party preferences, representatives in “contested” districts are allowed to vote in the manner calculated to represent the majority of likely voters in their district.
Many of us on Ricochet decry Republicans “In Name Only” (RINOs). We do so reflexively because they take positions that, at least in our mind, are inconsistent with those Republican policies that we support. But do the constituents of those RINOs want the politicians to take the positions they do? If so, the RINOs are representative. And while we may be choosing, democratically, to do bad things it is the democratic process. And as Winston Churchill said:
Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…
This dynamic tension between what the Party wants and what the voters in any given district want, is why election integrity is so important. Here are some other words of Winston Churchill:
How is that word “democracy” to be interpreted? My idea of it is that the plain, humble, common man, just the ordinary man who keeps a wife and family, who goes off to fight for his country when it is in trouble, goes to the poll at the appropriate time, and puts his cross on the ballot paper showing the candidate he wishes to be elected to Parliament—that he is the foundation of democracy.
And it is also essential to this foundation that this man or woman should do this without fear, and without any form of intimidation or victimization. He marks his ballot paper in strict secrecy, and then elected representatives and together decide what government, or even in times of stress, what form of government they wish to have in their country. If that is democracy, I salute it. I espouse it. I would work for it.” —House of Commons, 8 December 1944
The Party wants power. Election integrity does not in and of itself assure that the Party will have power, therefore, the Party only wants election integrity if doing so robs its competitors of power. But without election integrity, democracy does not truly exist. If the system is doing what you want, you may not care. But you will be made to care when the system no longer does what you want.
If election integrity is assured, then I think partisan politics is chemotherapy –unpleasant, effective, and still keeping democracy alive. If it isn’t, then partisan politics is the poison that will kill democracy.Published in General
I was on a high level committee for an institution that will remain nameless. An issue came up that involved working with state representatives. One person actually said something to the effect “…the problem is that these representatives talk to their constituents.” I could not believe my ears.
The question, then, is if Rep Gonzales does not believe in Republican positions like protecting the 2nd amendment, a secure border and the fact that marriage is between a man and a woman ( one of each only and each a biological member of that sex) why did he run as a Republican? Just to win an election? That is, for personal aggrandizement? Parties are supposed to stand for particular policies which reflect an overall philosophy. If they don’t then they are useless.
Be open to the possibility that one may believe one way and still feel an obligation to act in accord with the preferences of your constituents transactionally. One, or even a few, data point(s) do not represent a trend. If a representative is consistently and philosophically at odds with the Party then they should not be in that Party. If their beliefs are at odd with their constituents and not able to persuade them to their point of view, they should resign. If there is transient tension between the representatives personal belief and their action in response to constituent demands, then having the representative continue to caucus with you confer benefits to the Party that it will not, and should not, forego.
I’m not open to that transaction. If you don’t believe in core Republican positions, you aren’t a Republican and neither are your constituents. Fine. Run on your positions. But don’t pretend to be a Republican while you do it.
You assume a level of organization within state party committees that I do not think exists.
I am a huge fan of management by objectives (MBO) leadership and its companion, the executive scorecard. In my experience (which is admittedly of the past because I have not been involved for over a decade, so there’s that . . . ), I have not seen any kind of executive work that would create an organization that could say, “We think this. You think that. We don’t want you to run under our brand.” Or, more importantly, “Candidate J, you are amazing. These are the ten positions we expected our candidates to advocate for, and you did it very well. Here’s a reward in your campaign coffers. Thank you for your hard work on our behalf.”
Change will happen only when people get to work locally. The local committees steer the state and national committees. It’s the last vestige of America’s small-town heritage, and it’s kinda nice. But it requires civic engagement.
It’s all One Big Money Party, man.
So c’mon – get with the Thing.
The Thing includes the fact that energy development is now Federal monies’ funded.
So if you own an oil company or sit on the board of directors of one, why would you stick with fossil fuels? (Even when some, like natural gas, are plentiful and clean burning.) Why not flip on your principles? (And ho many people who sit on boards of directors have principles these days?)
After all, it is far more lucrative to and go for the solar and wind “energy farms” that will offer up lucrative subsidies from the government. (Plus utility companies routinely bill the customers for any large scale investments for new projects that “are needed.”)
It’s all good.
Gov Newsom’s wife got all aboard the equity, diversity and inclusionary train recently and made the sacrifice of having one of her staff write up some video and book material touching on the themes of CRT and tolerance for the trans community. Rumor has it that after the staff member wrote up the material and after Jennifer Siebel Newsom put her name on that, the state’s First Lady received some 1.2 million bucks from our school systems.
Dave Rubin weighs in on the state of The Golden State and how impoverished the state is, while Florida is flourishing.
The idea that a Texas Congressman would be subject to scathing rebukes from the supposed opposition party only proves how it is all One Big Money Party. Until Gonzalez gives up on his economic and moral principles, he can expect a lot more of the same. (Plus should anyone in his immediate family produce films or books relating to “liberal” principles, those materials will not be chosen for the TX public school system.)
I would submit that censure, that political non-event, is the perfect way for the party to react in this instance.
We, the undersigned are taking time out of our schedule to sniffily disapprove of your votes.
The U.S. is a big country and the position favored by Republicans in Utah may not be what most Republicans want in Pennsylvania or Alaska. On the issue of same sex marriage, there is a gulf between what Republicans under age 35 believe and what Republicans over 65 believe. If the party says you have to be with the national consensus on ten out of ten of the major party planks or you can’t run under our banner, there are going to be a lot of districts that you are just surrendering to the Democrats.
And if a district can only be won by a Republican who thinks, acts, and votes like a Democrat, there’s little point in electing such a so-called Republican.
It’s a balancing issue. Having a majority in the House and Senate can be helpful, even if some Representatives or Senators are wishy-washy. On the other hand, with such people in Congress, even a majority will be unable to advance the overall Republican agenda. This contributes to frustration that can lead to losses in stronger Republican areas.
I think that there’s no easy answer.
It is a shame that the young have been indoctrinated to accept the sanctification of perversion. I am inclined to think that if we keep them in the party, there will be little point in having a party.
Do you ever watch the videos where they ask questions of the “man (or woman) on the street”? Especially if they’re young?
So many people are so shockingly ignorant that it does seem a waste of time to talk to them. Of course, a politician not only has to do so, but has to stroke their egos and tell them how wise they are.
This is an inherent drawback in representative government, I think, at least if there’s a near-universal franchise.
I don’t have time to look this up now, but from time to time I hear about senators and representatives being ranked by how often they vote with the Democratic and the Republican majority. If Tony Gonzalez vote like a Democrat, fine, let’s denounce him. But all we know from the information above is that he voted with the Democrats this particular time. Maybe someone can find out where such lists are kept and see how Tony Gonzalez votes overall.
Randy, this is a good question. There are a couple such services. I looked at the American Conservative Union (ACU). Tony Gonzales took office in 2021, and the ACU doesn’t yet have 2022 ratings available, so these figures are for 2021. ACU uses a 100 point scale, in which a more conservative voting record gives a representative a higher score.
Gonzales had a rating of 64. The average House Republican had a rating of 81.61.
Of the 214 Republican Congressmen, of whom 209 were rated, Gonzales was tied for 186 in the comparison chart. So he’s pretty bad, for a Republican.
Note: Edited to correct the spelling of Gonzales’s name. It ends with an s, not a z, as shown in the OP.
Thanks for looking it up, Jerry.