Guest Commentary

Politics ain't beanbag; choose an effective representative, or live to whine about it

Democrats, squishy Republicans, editorial writers and miscellaneous goodie-two-shoes types are all annoyingly remonstrating because the GOP leadership in the Arizona House of Representatives bounced a couple of RINOS--Republicans In Name Only--from their posts as committee chairs for seriously violating party discipline.

According to the elite media and all the whining letters to the editor, democracy has been stifled in favor of boss rule; constituents of the two persecuted legislators are somehow being denied equal protection; and Attila the Hun inhabits the soul of House Speaker Jake Flake, who administered the partisan discipline.

Bull. The actions were warranted, and the whining is off base.

The issue that brought this action on--funding Child Protective Services--is irrelevant. The argument is over the process. The complaining friends of defrocked Representatives Pete Hershberger (Tucson) and Tom O'Halleran (Sedona) clearly have a limited grasp of how that process--or representative government--works.

There are 60 members of the Arizona House of Representatives who together represent 30 districts. They are chosen in partisan elections after nomination in partisan primaries. Last election, Arizona voters elected 39 Republicans, 20 Democrats and one independent. The voters clearly wanted Republicans in charge, or they wouldn't have elected so many of them.

Those elected then caucus by party, choose leadership and adopt rules. This process has gone on since before the dawn of the republic and, with variations, is used in almost all parliamentary governments.

One of the rules adopted in Arizona is and has been that the person elected as speaker names the committee chairs. This is called "representative government."

When the voters give the majority party a narrow margin, individual members become more important. When they do it by a wide margin, as they did in Arizona, then those chosen as leaders have considerably more power, and they have less of a need for individual members of their own caucus. This is called a "mandate."

A committee chair who bucks party leadership and the party agenda--particularly in public, as was the case here--is subject to discipline, up to removal from the post. Hershberger and O'Halleran were not disciplined, as was inaccurately reported, for "voting their conscience." They were disciplined for bad-mouthing their party leadership in public. Other members of the majority could have interceded on Hershberger's and O'Halleran's behalf by challenging that leadership or attempting to overturn the decision in caucus. They didn't.

Another misconception parroted by the ignorant is that depriving these two members of their committee chairs was somehow also depriving their constituents of some nebulous right. None exists. Voters have no right to have their representative chair a committee, or be on a committee, or even be issued a desk if the remaining majority or its duly elected leaders decide otherwise. If those voters pick an ineffective turkey, that's their problem.

Much has been said about the "far right" being in charge in this Legislature and the need for "moderate" Republicans to do something about it. Two problems exist with that theory, usually propounded by Democrats or "moderate" Republicans not holding office. First, there aren't enough of them to matter. While some other House Republicans may claim to be "moderates," you don't see any of them falling on their political swords for O'Halleran and Hershberger. Second, the only real way to "join with the Democrats" is to become one.

Hershberger and O'Halleran would the exhibit the integrity and courage that editorial writers have claimed for them by doing so. They won't, because their GOP districts would replace them next election. They may replace them anyway--Hershberger was barely renominated in 2002.

It's past time party leaders acted like leaders, and I applaud Flake's actions. While he and other current legislative leaders may have an agenda you dislike, at least they have one. "Moderates" don't. "Moderation" is an attitude, not a political philosophy. "Moderate" is also often a code word for "liberal" for those too craven to 'fess up to it. (There was once a large gaggle of self-proclaimed liberal Republicans. Sen. Eugene McCarthy said of them, "We use them to shoot the wounded.")

Politics ain't beanbag. The immature lamentations uttered by those who fail to grasp that simple fact may be ignored.

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