Many of our elected officials originally come to Washington with the intention of not losing their soul to the system. Unfortunately, few succeed.
Rod Blum is bound and determined to be one of those few.
The freshman congressman from Iowa’s first district has only been in office since January, but it didn’t take him long to make his mark. Although six of his fellow freshmen broke their campaign pledges not to vote for the embattled John Boehner as Speaker of the House, Mr. Blum cast his first official vote as a U.S. congressman in opposition to the GOP establishment. And he did so despite the fact he’s not in a safe seat, but a district where he replaced Democrat Bruce Braley. Thus, Mr. Blum is going to need some help from the party to win re-election in 2016.
“I report to the voters of my district and not to Washington,” Mr. Blum said. “I simply followed through on my campaign promise to vote for new leadership, and there’s no reason why keeping my word should disqualify me from having my party’s backing for re-election. If they do try and punish me I think that is a very dangerous mindset. GOP leadership should be embracing those like me who won a Democrat district.”
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By the way, that’s not “Iowa nice” naiveté from Mr. Blum. That’s simply Mr. Blum being matter of fact in how he communicates. It’s the sort of Midwestern sensibility that is sorely needed inside the beltway, and what you’d expect from a former “Iowa Entrepreneur of the Year.” On his campaign website, Mr. Blum listed “I’ve met a payroll each week for 24 years” as his first qualification to run for Congress.
“My parents both had 10th grade educations, the house I lived in my first six years had dirt floors, and we raised chickens in the attic,” Mr. Blum said. “I went on to earn my MBA and then set out to live the American Dream. I was part-owner of a software company that went public on the NASDAQ, and grew from five to over 300 employees in just five years.”
Mr. Blum’s life experience formed the worldview he’s taking with him to Washington.
“These experiences have shown me firsthand that one really is in charge of their own destiny in America,” Mr. Blum said. “America always was a meritocracy, where a citizen could go far if they were willing to work and take personal responsibility for themselves and their families. The American Dream is not about money or fame. It’s about every citizen defining what their version of ‘happiness’ is and then having the freedom to pursue it.”
Mr. Blum never wavered from his conservative principles during the campaign. For example, he took a “100 percent pro-life” with no exceptions stance, and a no-amnesty position on immigration. And he still upset a former Democrat leader in the Iowa legislature back in November.
“I happen to believe that ‘conservative values’ are really common sense values,” Mr. Blum said. “I try to copy what Reagan did: making conservative common sense ideas relevant to the everyday hopes and dreams of citizens.”
This is where Mr. Blum’s entrepreneurial side helped him. Instead of watering down or changing his beliefs because of polls or the demographic realities of his district, Mr. Blum took it upon himself to sell his beliefs to the voters.
You know, like a real campaign and stuff.
“I spoke incessantly about working families and how their incomes and net worths have stagnated or even decreased over the last six years,” Mr. Blum said. “I spoke about how out of control government is hurting the economy and hence their job opportunities. I spoke about how illegal immigration is driving down their wages. The good folks in my district want good paying jobs, not another handout from government. I talked about how our government should be celebrating citizens who are making good decisions and are playing by the rules, instead of incentivizing poor decision-making.”
Wait, you mean we can actually sell our principles to voters and vie for their hearts and minds? Because Karl Rove and the surrender caucus know-it-alls tell us we can’t actually believe that crazy stuff about morality and liberty in our party platform, since it will allegedly cost us elections. Yet that didn’t stop Mr. Blum from winning the second-most urban district in Iowa, which the Cook Political Report rated as plus-5 in favor of Democrat voter registration.
Maybe the problem really is voters prefer sincere candidates they can relate to, and not corporatists hand-picked by unpopular party elites?
“I believe I won in a Democrat district because voters know me to be an honest, genuine and authentic person who really does care about them,” Blum said. “They also like the fact that I’ll stand up to my own party when I don’t agree with it.”
I asked Mr. Blum if those of us in so-called “flyover country” are being too hard on our politicians in Washington, and saddling them with unrealistic expectations. He wasn’t buying it.
“Things are worse in Washington than I imagined,” Mr. Blum said. “I’ve seen already that far too many politicians from both sides of the aisle are here only to further their own careers instead of helping the country. And perhaps the most reprehensible thing is how Washington thinks they know better than the average American.”
So how does Mr. Blum avoid not becoming part of the very behemoth he came to Washington to slay?
“I’m not tempted by the trappings of Washington at all, because I’ve had a successful career in the private sector and I have a wonderful family,” Mr. Blum said. “I don’t need nor want anything that Washington has to offer in the way of power, perks, etc. That’s not going to change.”
Let’s hope that doesn’t change, because Mr. Blum is the archetype of the very citizen legislator we need to change the culture of corruption and cronyism in Washington. If the system assimilates the likes of Mr. Blum, then the system is beyond reforming.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.