When Your Congressman/Congresswoman Fails to Listen…

May 21, 2012

By Tom Stark 

Parkersburg – It was exciting to be involved in the 2010 Congressional campaign for the 1st District of West Virginia nomination.  Granted the field was packed (four first-time candidates and two veterans), but for me it was both an eye-opener about the place that money holds in the political process as well as how the “establishment” within the GOP controls the local district’s politics.  It also told me that I should have considered the money angle more closely before I entered the race. 

However, all those things being said, I am glad I did it…as a life experience…as an exercise in speaking out on the issues…as an effort to become fully engaged in the political process like I had never in my life done before.

Now, what else did I learn?  Lots.  I learned that it is hard to find more than about 100 people in any given community who will take the trouble to come to a meeting where their candidates for the nomination are invited to speak to the issues.  In a couple instances, notably Fairmont and Wheeling, the numbers were a good bit higher than that, but the average was still below 200 per county-level event that I attended.  Yes, for the more rural counties this was good, but it did not represent even the numbers that voted in the primary if you added them all up and multiplied it by five.

What I am saying is that there was still a lot of apathy in 2010, and/or a lot of people who voted without knowing more than what came from some television commercials.   There is probably not much less of either today.  If the voter participation rate comes close to half the registered voters come November, I would love to examine how many of them were dead before election day.  Probably several percent worth.

Seriously speaking, what that apathy or inattention breeds is the exact situation we have today.  Our allegedly conservative choice in that election gives more weight and consideration to those who actively and openly challenge conservative positions than those he tried to woo during the campaign…namely the Tea Party conservatives throughout the district.

But can we expect much different when we send a seventeen year veteran of the state legislature to Washington where the money flows more freely and the influences brought to bear are many time what they were in Charleston?  After all, he is and has been Mr. Establishment Republican for his entire career including a stint as state party chair.

What recently transpired demonstrates my point.  On at least two occasions this past year, our Congressman has cast his vote against freedom and in favor of forced unionism – which is, incidentally, against the national Republican platform position – rather than striking a blow for WV employers who would love to participate in federal defense contracts but who cannot without signing Private Labor Agreements with the union.  Twice he has voted to require the agreements that prevent contractors from competing unless they hire union labor.   His thought process?  It would cause too many outsider companies to take the business (outside the state contractors who have non-union workforces) fromWest Virginia workers.

That makes a good sound bite, but it fails to address the issue that the government is forcing employers into the pro-union mold instead of opening up the free market and letting it work by allowing more companies to compete for the work.  Has he ever considered that more companies would set up and bid on these contracts from within West Virginia if only they were not forces into being union shops without the protection of right-to-work.

These two votes speak volumes. The sad part it that he was not alone in voting down the amendment that would have done away with such agreements.  But his vote helped to defeat the measure resulting in an average increase in the cost of federal defense contracts of about 18% the last time I saw published data on the subject.   Is it any surprise that our Congressman was recently cited as being in the top ten of all Congressmen in the amount of union money flowing into his campaign fund for re-election?  I’d contribute, too, if he stood as strongly for what I believe in.

The third blow was his vote against preventing the NLRB from telling a company where it can locate its plant(s) or what products it can produce there.  His claim there was that it “pulled all the teeth” from the NLRB.  The NLRB has plenty of teeth and would hardly missed these two small molars.  This was clearly an excuse.  Do we notice a pattern developing – pro-labor all the way?

I have personally begged him to “vote your oath” – an admonition that simple means vote for nothing that does not support and defend our constitution – but to no avail.  When questioned directly in public, platitudes,  excuses and vaguely quizzical looks is what I received.   What is a committed conservative to do?

Well, Alan Mollohan was a whole lot worse.  The one thing that many praise his successor for is listening to his constituents through the use of town halls and “tele-town halls.”  Makes one feel pretty good and gets votes, but my question is simply this.  What good does it do to hold town halls for your constituents and then vote against constitutional principles and ignore your own party’s platform It simply doesn’t look good for unions to be supporting Republicans (unless they are useful to the unions).

We made our bed.  Now we have to sleep in it.  We (some of us anyway) trusted the promises that we had elected a conservative congressman.   I guess that is why the Club for Growth just gave him a 37% rating.  Who knew?  Now we must hold our nose and put him back there to do more damage or be faced with the worst of the evils by seeing someone who we know will support the Obama agenda elected.  Clothespins anyone?  Bitter pill to swallow.

But that can be changed.  It can be changed by sending repeated messages loud, clear and frequently that he needs to pay closer attention to what his base is telling him…that is, the ones who worked hard to get him there.  He owes us that much.   Tell him that principles DO matter and the voting constitutional principles will not get him as many headlines, but he will gain the respect of people who believe in our country and our Constitution.

Until someone with half a million bucks steps up and says enough of this – and means it – we will have to settle on someone that votes the way we want 37% of the time anyway.  Don’t look at me.  I learned my lesson and haven’t got the money to do it again, anyway.  For now, I will just do what I promised Mr. McKinley I would do…hold his feet to the fire.  I have plenty of matches, too!


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Tags: 1st Congressional Distric, Government, McKinley, power, Private Labor Agreements, Right-to-work, Unionism, Washington DC

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