Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Michigan Conservatism?

July 27, 2010

Primary Target

"In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress."
 - John Adams

In pundit parlance, Michigan's 6th Congressional District is most assuredly "safe Republican." Republican Fred Upton has represented that district since 1987. Yet for quite some time, the seat has not been "safe conservative."
Michigan's 6th district is a microcosm of the general arrogance and complacency of the Republican establishment against the constitutional conservatism of the Tea Party movement. If Republicans and conservatives lazily continue to return so-called moderates like Upton to Washington, the slide toward European socialism is perhaps slowed but never halted.

Long ago, Mr. Upton was himself a primary challenger. In 1986, he ran against incumbent Rep. Mark Siljander, who refused to meet Upton in debate before the primary. At the time, Upton remarked that should he one day be in Siljander's position, he would debate all comers, saying "Whoever my challenger is ... I'll debate him. I hope to be proud of my record."

Apparently, over twenty years in Congress exhausts the statute of limitations on such matters. While participating in a solitary debate recorded for later local radio broadcast, Upton has this year dodged several challenges to live debates with his primary challenger, former state representative Jack Hoogendyk. His refusal of a real-time public debate brings to mind the haughty reaction from not a few members of Congress last August when confronted by the great unwashed. Upton knows that even a cursory examination of his record will reveal that he is the sort of Republican only a Democrat could love, the sort of Republican causing almost as much damage as avowed leftists.

The Club for Growth annually ranks voting records of the various state congressional delegations, assigning weighted value to votes on taxes, budgets, earmarks, etc., to judge support for economic freedom, 100 percent being the highest score. In 2009, the average score for Republicans in Congress was nearly 83 percent; Upton's score was a dismal 64 percent, and in 2008 a horrible 39 percent.

Upton is obviously not a dyed-in-the-wool leftist; he pledged to vote against cap-and-trade, as well as to repeal national health care. But he voted for TARP and Cash for Clunkers. The guy is all over the map. When he surmises easy reelection efforts, he slides toward the left, passing out earmarks like candy. When challenged, he is suddenly conservative.

By contrast, Hoogendyk is always conservative, as evidenced by his voting record as a three-term member of the Michigan House of Representatives. In 2007, the legislature as a whole approved $1.4 billion in state tax increases and budgets configured to spend the extra revenue. All told, 155 members of the Michigan legislature voted for at least $1 billion more that the previous year's expenditures. Hoogendyk voted for only $7.5 million more. In 2003, Hoogendyk voted against a "bad driver fee" that eventually passed. He knew right away it was a government scheme to create a windfall, not a public safety initiative. He knew this because he appreciates the limitations our founders placed on government and voted accordingly.

Hoogendyk is a first-generation American -- born in the United States by the grace of God and the wisdom of his parents, who fled postwar Holland in the wake of the undeniable creep toward a socialism that saps individual initiative and the spirit of human freedom. They had a place to which to escape. But there is nowhere else to go -- this is, as Ronald Reagan said, the last stand on Earth. Hoogendyk and many other Republican primary challengers not only realize that, but they have demonstrated their commitment to first principles in state legislatures, city councils, and private enterprise. So must voters.

Conservatives fed up with squeamish Republicans in Congress have this year several opportunities to back true conservatives who understand that we live in a democratic republic, not a direct democracy wherein every single need of the people must be promptly addressed by the federal government, where "earmark" is another word for "bribe." The race in the Republican primary in Michigan's 6th district is, in stark relief, the difference between members of Congress voting as if all blessings flow from Capitol Hill and conservatives who know this madness must cease if we are to keep our republic.

Jack Hoogendyk has an established record of standing on conservative legislating and should be supported in his bid to unseat Fred Upton, a symbol of comfortably entrenched power. Hoogendyk's guiding principle may seen quaint, but he believes that no matter the issue, the primary question each member of Congress must ask himself during any debate in committee or on the floor is "What is the proper role of the federal government as outlined in the Constitution of the United States?"

Incumbents too long in their seats -- salivating over earmarks, voting based on potential challengers they can crush -- hold most of the cards when facing a primary challenge. But if real change is to come to Congress, conservatives must and can prevail at the ballot box. As it is in Michigan's 6th district, so it is around the country: "Safe Republican" is meaningless when the Republican is nothing more than a diluted Democrat.

Matthew May welcomes comments at

Page Printed from: