Note to Tea Parties: Being a Citizen-Legislator Isn’t Easy

This is Part II in what will be a series in how citizens, tea party citizens especially, need to view the job of their newly elected congressmen.

I think of the new freshman in Congress differently than incumbents, and although they will run in 2012 as incumbents, I will continue to think of them as “newbies.” This is because, for the most part, they come to Congress under a new understanding, with a new Compact (a Covenant?) with the people who elected them. If they do well, the next class, and the next, will come to Congress under this same new Compact, and thus will a new Congress (and nation) be built.

That, and not beating back Obamacare, is The Plan, at least how I see it.

These newbies come as citizen-legislators, not professional politicians, and one of their biggest jobs while in office will be to stay that way; as hard as rocks, unbending as oaks, as mean as snakes, and as innocent as new driven snow. (Yeah, I know, why not throw in chaste, non-smoking and teetotalling too.)

My point in writing this is, after 2, 4, 6 years – will you, the citizen-voter, the tea party citizen, be able to tell the difference? Or will you just automatically write them off as inside-the Beltway crooks as you have the last several batches? I say this because sixty days in, quite frankly, a whole lot of you are beginning to sound like what you really want in Washington are whipping boys, and not citizen-legislators.

So, do you know how to take the true measure of these men and women? You too, are being tested.

Recently this new Compact was explained to me as “We the people sent them there with our Plan to repeal Obamacare.” I don’t entirely buy that, for quite frankly the country can survive Obamacare, but it cannot survive the underlying financial mess that Obamacare will help push over the cliff.  Philosophically and constitutionally, Obamacare is the greatest assault on individual freedom in American history, but if it went away tomorrow, we would still be twenty or so months away from total economic collapse.

So, this ‘Compact with the People’ has to be far more extensive than Obamacare. Our congressmen must be expected to both walk and chew bubble gum at the same time.

Newbie Congressional Baggage

In order to work, this new ‘Compact with the People’ must be defined by the newer kinds of “baggage” those new Congressmen bring to Washington.

I use this term because this is how all those Washington insiders (the old incumbents, and long-time staffers), see the newbies; insiders, who over the years have become a bit jaded about all this rah, rah, love of country stuff. To them it’s just a job…about which they long ago lost any sense of its real purpose.

So, let’s look at the “baggage” a newly elected citizen-congressman comes to Washington with. Our freshman might have run a successful business for years, had hundreds on his payroll, been secure in his financial affairs, balanced budgets, hired, fired, and been loved by his employees. Or he could have saved lives (a doctor, a retired cop). Still, on his first day in Congress, he doesn’t know anything of importance in their political world. All that stuff he does know, and no one in Washington doesn’t know, or doesn’t care about, is “baggage.”

Still this baggage is what it is all about. Newbie baggage consists of many elements having nothing to do with policy issues such as lower taxes, budget restraints, spending cuts, or repeal, repeal, repeal. Underlying all of these issues are standards of character; integrity, honor, fealty, strength, backbone, and yes, common sense…things long since departed from Washington and the halls of government, and things that will forever and a day separate these newbies from a goodly number of their own party, and the vast majority of the opposing party. (Note I did not include “loyalty” as there is nothing more loyal than a Democrat to his vices.) They must wear this around as a badge, like a beanie.

In the end, it is the presence of these bedrock traits, not the end of high taxes or Obamacare, that will save us as a people…while their continued absence will condemn us. Just know this.

So, this is a commentary on the “baggage” new congressmen must carry to Washington…and a reminder to Tea Parties, it is baggage you/we all wanted them to carry. You/we wanted them to be a tabula rosa, a blank slate. You/we wanted honesty and integrity more than knowing the ins and outs of Capitol Hill, or the “ways of politicians” as old-timey preachers used to  say. You/we wanted an ability to lead and to know when to follow. You/we also wanted a greater understanding of the private sector economy, of meeting payrolls and balancing books, instead of the funny-money accounting they do in government where the books never have to balance.

So cut them some slack as they they go about using this “baggage” in a commonsensical manner in order to right this ship of state listing heavily to port. For we certainly don’t want them to throw this baggage away. Instead you need to get a sense of the strong forces in Washington to strip them of it. As Moses Sands once said, it would be like me in room filled with a bevy of lovely ladies, all unclothed, and a bottle of Bushmills at the other end of the room. What to do? What to do? (He exaggerated, of course, still, that’s how I got my name.)

But first, they must all take each others’ measure. Common sense dictates this… and it doesn’t happen overnight.

So use some common sense about the very criteria you/we, the Tea Parties, established about the kind of people you/we wanted to send to Washington in order to fix this mess.

For what this baggage is also comprised of (we hope) is a new way of communicating with his constituents; no more of the lofty language of the Beltway, designed to obfuscate more then edify. No more of the secret code language of the club.

What this baggage also includes is a core set of principles…yes, lower taxes, smaller government. But above even those are the defining standards established by the Founders; a reverence for the Constitution and its design, an integrity and honesty of purpose about his mission, and his responsibilities to his constituents.

Which means you didn’t elect your congress-critter to simply call back and get your collective advice on every little vote of procedure or substance, especially since, only sixty days in, they already know that “we the people” are many voices, not one, and often discordant voices, some saying “gee” while others are saying “haw”.

The federal government is no different than a board of directors who have watched their company go from the greatest company in the world to one on the verge of bankruptcy and total collapse. Your congressman is but one of 435 members of the board. Brand new. Ask Ross Perot how easy it was to fix General Motors….especially since he didn’t play well with others either. He came, stayed and departed – an army of one. GM went on to further decline and eventual collapse.

One of the things that distinguishes the House from the Senate is the simple fact, in the House, you cannot be an army of one.

An army of one can neither lead, nor follow. Look at Ron Paul. It drove him mad….sort of.

Common sense tells me the first thing a “newbie” congressman does, with all that baggage, is to take the measure of the other 434 members, many of whom have been there for decades. Ours have only been in 60 days. But yes, votes do take place, even before they can do this. As a rule they will be partial to the R and biased against the D. I would. And what they will learn first is how strong they are, who they can rely on, and who they cannot. On this, they cannot rely on any instruction from you/we. This is all eyeball-to-eyeball stuff, trust me.

This is the part where you/we throw them into the pool and simply tell them to swim to the other side.  Sink or swim. So, again, cut them some slack, they’re still dog-paddling.

What we cannot afford to do, Tea Parties, is brow beat these men because they have not violated their own personal codes of good sense by listening to you-of-so-many-tongues (what’s the Shoshone name for this?)  instead of their own notions of good common sense.

Remember, these newbies are but the first of many. So, don’t screw the pooch. Make them afraid, but don’t make them hate you like a scolding fishmonger’s wife.

I can find no profit for our cause to go around damning men before they’ve actually earned it.


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