Today in the mail, I received a letter from the office of my member of the House of Representatives, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6). At first, I must confess that I was a bit puzzled by it. After all, I hadn’t contacted Representative Goodlatte in many months and thus wasn’t expecting any sort of correspondence.
Once opening it, I discovered the letter was in response to a query I sent him back in the first week of January, some two and a half months earlier. It is a bit disappointing to see the response time of his office hasn’t really improved much. Nevertheless, I appreciate the fact that his office does answer, sooner or later, unlike Senator Mark Warner’s who has never replied to any inquiries.
Anyway, today’s message was in reference to the vote for the Speaker of the House of Representatives. If you may recall, I, like my 6th district Republican committee, had urged Representative Goodlatte to vote against re-electing John Boehner for that position. However, much to the disappointment of my conservative friends and associates in and around the Shenandoah Valley, Mr. Goodlatte cast his vote for Boehner anyway.
In his letter, Goodlatte writes “…I voted for Speaker Boehner and not Nancy Pelosi. Those were the two choices.” Was the election for speaker a choice of damnations? Can we all agree that Boehner may be bad, but if we didn’t support him, we would have gotten Pelosi and that outcome would have been even worse? To further bolster his position, Representative Goodlatte goes on to list several conservative members of the house who also voted to re-elect Boehner.
However, as I wrote in January, this line of reasoning presents a false dichotomy; a few members of the House of Representatives cast their votes for individuals other than either Boehner or Pelosi. Now, this kind of move was not without risk. Voting against the person who would become speaker, especially when he is a member of your own political party, can bring all sorts of trouble, such as the loss of a prized chairmanship or a position on a key committee. It was a tough spot, no doubt. Unfortunately, when presented with the choice of damnations of upsetting the leadership in Washington versus upsetting the entire 6th district Republican committee and scores of grassroots activists back home, Representative Goodlatte preferred the second option.
Given the vast multitude of political opinions, it is not realistic for an activist to agree with his or her elected officials all of the time. On occasion, we must expect our leaders to stand their ground, even when it runs counter to our own principles. However, even if it ends up making you pariah in either Washington D.C. or Richmond, I prefer it when legislators are more worried about the concerns of their constituents than pleasing the lobbyists or the politically powerful. Maybe that idea is an old fashioned relic from earlier days in our republic.