One Bad Vote?

I listened to an interesting conversation between some friends at dinner recently. The subject? Gresham Barrett’s one vote for the TARP bailout and his current run for Governor of SC.

Congressman Barrett has consistently voted conservatively during his tenure in office, with that one major exception. And as you can easily imagine, that one vote touched off a firestorm of opposition to his gubernatorial campaign. Should Barrett be thrown under the bus for one bad vote? Or has he irreparably thrown away his trustworthiness as a conservative elected official?

The answer is, it depends on the situation.

When you have a conservative politician who makes a decision that doesn’t match what he’s always acted on before, the question you should ask is not “What?” (as in, “What do we do about this???”) but rather “Why did he do this?” And based on the answer, you can then determine what your response as a constituent should be.

As I see it, there are three reasons Congressman Barrett could have voted this way.

  • Error in judgment – no one, including elected officials, is immune from making human  errors. All of life is a learning process, and doubtless every politician  can look back and point out numerous occasions where he would vote differently today. Can you excuse this in an elected official? Yes, if they learn from their mistakes, take responsibility, and don’t let it happen too often. Politicans who constantly make ill-advised votes, statements, etc. probably shouldn’t be representing anyone.
  • Bribery  – “What’s it going to take to get your support on this?” Many times this can take the more palatable form of getting favors for constituents. It’s still wrong.  Can this be excused? That’s an individual question, but an elected official who sells his principles is not someone I want representing me. Someone who will take any bribe in exchange  for his vote will ultimately sell his vote to the highest bidder. That is not a position of basing policy on principle.
  • Yielding to pressure – an unbelievable amount of pressure is exerted to get conservatives to compromise their principles. Additionally, in the case of the TARP bailouts, there was a lot of scare and chicken-little-type panic tactics being utilized. Is it understandable to buckle in the face of overwhelming pressure? Yes. Can this be excused? It depends on a lot of things – and this is where I see Congressman Barrett.

There are several factors you have to take into consideration here. I think the vote itself plays a role here. Was it a minor decision, or a major policy vote, and what impact did this issue have on the Country?

The TARP bailouts were actually started by President Bush, who by his own admission tossed aside his free-market principles on this issue. There was bi-partisan pressure to vote for this, but it opened the door to an influx of horrible legislation. This was about liberalism vs. conservatism, about the very ideologies and principles we stand for. Does this mean he should not be excused? I do believe that there are a few votes that are just so bad that they shouldn’t be excused under any circumstances, but you do have to consider the current state of affairs too.   Can the nation afford that bad vote?

This war of ideologies has turned into a fight for survival. Everything we hold dear, even our very existence is on the line now. This is no time to be going over to the enemy’s side. You make a mistake now, and you’re messing up on the big one. This is what we elected Congressman Barrett for. We sent him to Washington to protect our freedom from assault.

If a politician will buckle to pressure once, he can do it again. And, the pressure he buckled under is now the new norm. It’s not going away anytime soon. The Democrats are bent on hurling their legislation through regardless of the cost. Every politician involved in Federal government  is either going to openly support their agenda, cower down and stay out of the way, or get knocked down and bloody fighting to oppose it. And this is also true of the State officials.

I realize this is HARD. Very few of us have any idea how very difficult it is. I understand it if someone doesn’t have the guts/stomach to engage at this level, but I do ask that they stay out of government if they haven’t got what it takes!

One final thought: a vote against a politician should not be taken as a condemnation against him as a person. If I do not want a good friend representing me, that doesn’t mean that he’s not my friend anymore,  or I don’t have any respect for his character, or that I don’t think he has anything to offer society. If I’m not satisfied with the job my Representative has done, it’s not a punishment or penalty to vote him out.  It’s a simple question of qualification for a very specific job.

2 Responses to “One Bad Vote?”

  1. The answer to all political / policy questions is “it depends.” Excellent job of articulating your thoughts. One other thought. Who else is running in the race? One bad vote from an otherwise solid conservative is better than another candidate who is consistently out of line with your principles.

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