In the wake of the Election Day conservative tsunami, rather than expressing gratitude that limited government conservatives and the Tea Party movement restored the GOP to majority status in the House of Representatives, establishment Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus lashed out at the movement and at Gov. Sarah Palin.
He even went so far as to blame Palin and the Tea Party for the Republican Party not winning the Senate -- the same Senate that had all of forty Republicans back when the party ran on the big spending, me-too policies espoused by Spencer Bachus. Perhaps not surprisingly, the GOP establishment is preparing to reward Bachus with the chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee, this despite his well-known failings in performing as the Ranking Member of that very committee over the past four years.
Rep. Bachus lashed out against Palin and the Tea Party on November 4th while speaking to the South Shelby (Ala.) Chamber of Commerce. “The Senate would be Republican today except for states (in which Gov. Palin endorsed candidates) like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware,” Bachus said. “Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate.” He went on to say that Tea Party candidates did well in U.S. House races, but in the U.S. Senate races, “they didn’t do well at all.” Bachus is mistaken in his attempts to place blame. In fact, it is the very policies he champions that cost the GOP its chance to win control of the Senate.
Bachus is best known for his efforts to implement and enforce a ban on online poker. His support for efforts to use big government to address non-core social issues are obviously not in sync with the priorities of limited government conservatism, so his animus toward limited government conservatives is not surprising. However, his insistence on blaming them for the Senate outcome ought to be, given that the online poker issue proved to be the deciding factor in one Senate race and a huge influence in another.
Colorado GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck’s opposition to poker players as district attorney earned him the ire of the non-partisan, million-member Poker Players Alliance (PPA). As Sen. Michael Bennet is supportive of the rights of poker players, PPA’s PAC -- PokerPAC -- chose to endorse him. PokerPAC made use of robocalls and emails from famous poker professionals to alert poker players across Colorado of Buck’s support for statism over liberty in this matter. Needless to say, in a race as close as the Bennet-Buck race, every vote counts, and the votes of poker players provided the margin of victory for Bennet.
Similarly, PokerPAC backed Sen. Harry Reid against Sharron Angle. While Angle supported liberty in many other areas, it was unfortunate that she chose not to support the right of Nevadans to play poker in their own homes on their own computers.
Republican candidates endorsed by PokerPAC, including Reps. Joe Barton, Judy Biggert, John Campbell, Peter King, Ron Paul, and many others fared much better than did Republican candidates opposed by PokerPAC.
Conservative voters are sending a clear message to establishment politicians like Bachus. Most conservatives believe poker and issues like it should be matters of individual liberty. Even those who do not have strong feelings about the right to play do not wish to expend political capital on this, and they certainly did not wish to sacrifice any Senate seats over this issue. While it is sad that Bachus seeks to blame limited government conservatism for anything negative in this election, it is refreshing that other establishment Republicans are finally waking up to the new realities within the conservative movement. They now know that limited government conservatives will no longer accept lip service. They expect action, and they expect politicians to EARN their votes by walking the walk.
Bachus typifies the problems with having a big government mindset regarding non-core social issues. He has spent so much of his time as House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member focused on efforts to ban online poker that he left important issues before the committee with insufficient conservative input, including bank bailouts, banking regulation, mortgage reform, and credit card regulation. In late 2008 he was almost removed as Ranking Member. Rep. Roy Blunt, then minority whip, had to replace Bachus at the bank bailout negotiating table that same year. Bachus has not even been effective in his quest to ban online poker. Online poker remains freely available in all fifty states, and current federal laws serve only to provide reverse protectionism, where offshore sites offer services but U.S.-based companies cannot.
It is unfortunate that the House Republican leadership is signaling likelihood that Bachus will be given the chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee, especially given his record to date and his attacks on those who helped lift the GOP to victory. It is not fitting that he be rewarded for this, especially as Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) is vying for the post and would clearly be a big improvement.