If you know you are right then the ends justify the means. Every week it seems we get a more egregious example out of Washington, but this latest example I learned about takes the cake.
Last Friday another Texas Democrat went Republican. That in itself is not terribly unusual in a state that has been trending GOP for some time, but what makes this especially repugnant is that very conservative Democratic representative Ralph Hall was effectively told the only way he could bring any earmarked money back to his district would be to switch to the GOP. So Hall, who apparently his linguini for a spine, switched.
“I’ve always said that if being a Democrat hurt my district I would switch or I would resign,” Hall said in an interview with The Associated Press. He said GOP leaders had recently refused to place money for his district in a spending bill and “the only reason I was given was I was a Democrat.”
The sad truth is that in the U.S. House of Representatives most Democrats might as well stay in their offices and never even bother to vote. As far as the Republican majority is concerned, the Democrats do not exist. In some committees they aren’t even allowed time to offer an opinion or have a chance to read a proposed bill before a vote is taken. In conference committees they are routinely excluded from deliberation. The Democrats are under no illusions that they will win votes or influence minds. But thanks to the Dennis Hastert House, they often aren’t even given the opportunity to bring up their concerns where it really matters: in committee. The message is clear and unmistakable. You are in the wrong party. Shut up. Don’t even bother opening your mouth. And if you do we’ll throw you out. You may be grudgingly allowed to sit at the committee table, but you’re often not permitted the opportunity to say anything.
This is an amazing perversion of American democracy. In a democracy everyone has the right to free speech. In a legislature, you are elected to speak on behalf of your constituents. You are supposed to speak! You are supposed to press your cases and your causes! But more and more the Republicans in Congress, but particularly in the House, won’t even allow that from the minority. If you feel a need to speak, then complain to the press, or speak to an empty House chamber on C-SPAN, or write your constituents. Just don’t expect them to be heard if you are a Democrat. The new standard seems to be “We won’t cut you any slack and we sure as hell won’t allow you to earmark one dollar of federal funds to your district.”
These Republicans are not just partisan; they are shameless, vile and unspeakably nasty people for whom the end clearly justifies the means. See it happen in Texas and Colorado where the state legislatures decide to redistrict their congressional seats again, instead of on the results of the last census, just to add to their majority. Tom DeLay, the House Majority Leader, is the knight leading the charge on the Texas redistricting issue, which is now in the courts. Meanwhile, in California, if you don’t like the elected governor, find a rich Republican millionaire to hire enough flunkies to hang around shopping malls so you can get enough Republican signatures to initiate a recall of the governor.
I tend to focus my anger on President Bush but it is clear that he is typical of the modern day Republican. The end clearly justifies the means with these folks, and if they can affect their end with the equivalent of sticking a knife into someone and twisting while laughing cruelly, all the better.
I don’t know why anyone would choose someone like this as a friend and I can’t imagine why any thinking Republican would vote to put someone like this into office. Until recently this country has always respected the right of the minority to speak its mind and to be heard. It’s clear that if your opinion in not in the majority these folks will find every means available to not even allow it to be expressed. In that sense they model their new hero George W. Bush. Bush doesn’t want to hear criticism either. He goes out of his way to make sure he can’t hear it. He has John Ashcroft set up “free speech zones” far away from wherever he is speaking, so protestors cannot be heard and effectively ignored.
I wouldn’t blame a Democratic congressman or woman for spending most of their day in their offices answering constituent mail. It certainly would be a more effective use of their time than actually hanging around the House chambers and committee rooms.