The Day the Music Died
This is the worst column I’ve ever had to write, because it’s about Jody Hice.
A man I thought I knew. A man I had high hopes for. A man of God. An actual Southern Baptist pastor who graduated from the same seminary as my wife–Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia.
See, he’s only been a congressman for about 15 minutes, but it appears we’ve already lost him to the system. And on his first official vote, no less. That sure didn’t take long. Maybe that’s a record or something. Sadly, he’s going to share it with several others.
Hice was one of several freshmen Republicans who despite pledging not to do so, voted to re-elect John Boehner, perhaps the best Speaker of the House the Democrats have ever had. The same John Boehner who has gone out of his way to punish conservatives and push through the Obama agenda, even to the point of repeatedly passing legislation through his chamber a majority of the majority Republicans oppose. The same John Boehner a super majority of Republicans nationwide just said in a recent poll they opposed as Speaker.
Last summer, in a debate with his supposedly more moderate primary opponent, Hice had this to say.
Yet there was Hice, siding with the establishment over his own constituents despite pledging to “support new leadership with a backbone” over Boehner during his campaign victory, which was celebrated by conservatives nationwide. I even tried to reach out to Hice a few days ago, encouraging him to keep his word. He never responded to me, which should’ve been my first clue another one bites the dust.
All of this brings me back to the first time I ever met Hice.
A few years ago I was flown into Atlanta in the dead of winter by local pro-life activists who had given up on the Republican Party after its many betrayals, and were now organizing for the Constitution Party. Hice and I were two of the featured speakers, and struck up a quick rapport over the weekend as kindred spirits. Ironically, my talk to these conservative dissenters who had bolted the party was to encourage them to come back, take advantage of the GOP’s weak local and state infrastructure in most places, and claim it for their own. Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to?
Hice apparently took that advice when he ran for the GOP nomination in Georgia’s Republican-leaning 10th district. Once he won the primary, his general election in November was a mere formality. Which is why when I last saw Hice in September at a conservative dinner, I congratulated him on his looming victory. I also introduced him to the man sitting next to me, Ralph Hallow, the chief political writer for the Washington Times (where I’m also a columnist).
“Soon you’ll be writing those same stories about the GOP establishment whining about Ted Cruz and Mike Lee in the Senate about Jody Hice in the House,” I enthusiastically said to Hallow when I introduced him to Hice.
But I was wrong. It turns out I’ll be writing columns like this instead.
Hice is not alone.
After hearing me speak at a conference, Barry Loudermilk made a point of coming to my book signing afterwards to introduce himself, and to pick up a copy of “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again” for his staff. He also pledged not to vote for Boehner as Speaker, but went back on his word and voted for the Obama agenda by voting for Boehner as well.
Glenn Grothman, a freshman from Wisconsin, said “I would have no problem looking for an alternative to Speaker Boehner and standing up to Republican leadership” during his campaign. But he also voted for Boehner for Speaker, even though three alternatives were nominated on the floor, and had he and several others publicly followed through with their pledge ahead of time, Boehner would be history.
In fact, of the seven incoming freshmen who promised not to support Obama’s Man of Perpetual Orange for Speaker, only Alabama’s Gary Palmer kept his word. That’s right, six out of the seven betrayed their campaign promises on their first official votes as members of Congress, which kind of makes you wonder what they said during the campaign that actually is trustworthy? If all seven of these freshmen had kept their word, the votes were there to dethrone Boehner.
And there wasn’t just the betrayals. There was also the bizarre, which showcased just how dysfunctional Boehner’s Animal House truly is.
How about Mia Love, a Republican media darling, getting a Judas kiss on the House floor from Boehner himself after agreeing to vote for him? Then there was one of my favorite congressmen, Justin Amash, voting for Ohio’s Jim Jordan for Speaker. Except Jordan voted for Boehner, too. Trey Gowdy, who has earned conservative hosannas for his work on Benghazi, couldn’t make it to the vote due to weather. However, he said he would’ve voted for Boehner, despite the fact Sean Hannity helped spark a “draft Gowdy for Speaker” movement within the base.
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t hand Matt Salmon a profile in courage award for waiting until the second time through the roll call to finally vote for Boehner as Speaker, once it was clear he had the votes. The people of Arizona haven’t seen such bravery since Pat Tillman.
Yet my thoughts on this ordeal begin and end with Hice. It’s not losing the Speaker vote that bothers me. My worldview, a worldview I thought Hice shared, says you never lose when you do the right thing no matter the results. My worldview also compels me to keep fighting, no matter the odds. So we will.
But despite the fact this isn’t my first rodeo, Hice’s treachery still stings and it stings deeply. For if men of his caliber succumb to the corruption and cronyism within the Beltway the first time they are tempted with it, then I truly don’t know where we go from here as a movement.
And if I’m naive for believing in Hice and trusting him to keep his word, let that never change. For when the time comes a betrayal like this from a fellow believer no longer hurts me, that means I’ve become part of the problem, too.
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