Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Difference Between a Politician and a Legislator

By Baynard Woods

As Republicans attempt to figure out the future of their party, they ought to look closely at South Carolina’s senators.

DeMint and Graham are a perfect study in the stark contrast between a politician and a legislator.

In the epic battle for the soul of conservatism, it long looked like Graham would face defeat at the hands of the meaner DeMint. But as surely as the giant mounds of snow here in Washington have morphed into the blobs of pasty tourist flesh, DeMint’s stranglehold on his party seems to be loosening.
Everybody knows he said that healthcare would be Obama’s “Waterloo.” When Scott Brown won, DeMint took credit for the victory, reprising his Waterloo remarks like a one-hit wonder at the county fair.
He grew bolder with every minute he was on cable news. He fell in love with the way the make-up made his face look. He loved his own voice. He loved his power.
Now, it is fading.
First, healthcare passed. DeMint was left looking like the boy who talks a lot of smack but ends up getting his ass kicked. But that was ok. It only proved his point about the evils of socialism. Reload and repeal.
But then, two things happened. People started liking healthcare. And, as more right wing radicals threatened and cursed Democratic lawmakers, the Hutaree Christian Militia got busted planning to shoot a cop and then attack the funeral with improvised explosive devices and missiles.
Bad press for the Right Wing Revolution.  It is a lot harder to preach “revolution” when nuts like Hutaree are actually trying to make it happen.
DeMint dared go on “Face the Nation” last week—but we have heard less from him since the passage of healthcare than we have at any time since the last election. That’s because his strategy is bankrupt and he has come home from the fight with nothing but his teabag in his hand. He got stomped.
Not so, Graham. Graham’s willingness to work with John Kerry on “cap and trade” climate legislation may be singly responsible for Obama’s otherwise inexplicable announcement that he would now allow offshore drilling and exploration of the East Coast. Lindsey was quietly working the whole time Jim was promoting the DeMint “brand” on Twitter. DeMint’s “repeal the bill” is already passé; Graham brought to fruition the Republican dream of “drill baby drill.”

I think that Graham and Obama are dead wrong on this. We’ve got to take dramatic and long-reaching action and a bit of off-shore drilling is not going to cut it. This is a chance for the country to revitalize our economy and our leadership status in the world. And we are drilling for more oil?
Graham himself complained that the president didn’t go far enough, but so far, Graham has gotten something for nothing. Nothing has happened yet with “cap and trade” and it is an entirely business-based policy that would put a “cap” on the amount of carbon a business is allowed emit, while allowing low-emitters to sell their credits to other companies that pollute more.
That is his concession: he’s for businesses trading carbon emissions. I don’t understand what other Republicans don’t like about this. It is the most Republican response to climate change: profit.
Graham should be able to take some credit for this. But he does not taut himself as the leader of a movement. He does not liken himself to the “Founding Fathers.” He’s not seduced by the revolutionary chic and radical posturing that are so popular. But he gets things done. He does not need to represent a national movement in order to represent his state.
Remember when the Republicans compared Obama with Paris Hilton? Now, it seems, Republican Senators and staffers are starting to say the same thing about DeMint. He is on the news a lot for being on the news a lot. He makes a lot of noise—but he doesn’t do anything. Sadly, his stand will get votes. But it will ultimately accomplish nothing—because he doesn’t really want revolution anymore than Grad school Marxists do.
Graham has helped secure a legislative victory for his side, but if he were up for reelection this year, he would be challenged in the primary by a tea party candidate.
If I knew nothing about history, I might be tempted to think people would be acting more rationally by 2014.

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