Barking Dogs

Cross-posted from AmericanMajority.org

As one of my mentors, Dr. Larry Arnn, is fond of saying, “A thing is good when it performs the purpose for which it was made.” A chair you can’t sit in or a gun that won’t shoot straight fail that test. So does a guard dog that won’t bark at bad guys.

Being a guard dog is an interesting job. He stands apart from the world around him in a John Wayne-esqe manner. His demeanor is informed by a constant awareness of his primary purpose: alarm and defense. Any other role he may fill is secondary to that of guardianship. Failing to raise the alarm or defend his charge are not forgivable offenses.

Here’s the thing about being a being a guard dog: your decision to bark or defend isn’t based on pragmatism or the number of attackers; it is solely based on the presence of danger. I borrowed this metaphor from David Smith who went on to say that, “A K9 watchdog is never expected to be able to beat every enemy that comes to the house. If the robber has a gun the watchdog will lose — and become a family legend.”

As conservative activists we are political guard dogs. This means that we hold people accountable. Like canine guardians, we watch for danger and upon discovery we move to the offense, barking like hell is upon us. We won’t always win but the idea of remaining silent should revolt us.

In Texas we just finished the race for Speaker of the House of Representatives. It was one of those times when the barking dogs took a bullet. Not unlike the Democrats during the HCR debates, liberal Republicans thumbed their noses at their constituents’ clear demands. Whether a similar electoral judgment day is on the horizon stands as an open question.

While there was a decent degree of grassroots unity in calling for a more conservative Speaker, I have been sorely disappointed in the reaction from many individuals and groups since the vote was taken. It’s a chronic problem among conservatives when dealing with political leadership elections. We win elections then exert little weight in leadership fights and quickly forget about the outcome, when we bother to involve ourselves at all.

In the end, leadership elections are treated as inconsequential when in reality they stand among the most important votes cast during a legislative session.

So what do you do if the good guys lose a leadership fight? The answer has two words: Primary Elections. Am I saying that candidates should be running against the incumbents based on this one vote? Possibly. We sure thought one vote was enough to identify the bad guys when it came to TARP or HCR. One vote may be enough. We can say with certainty that it is a vote with enough import that recovery from it could be difficult.

The reaction that we should be seeing among conservatives is a redoubled dedication to hold their legislators accountable, letting them know they are on a short leash and an active search for primary election opponents. This should be a pretty standard response to any legislative setback we face.

A number of people have taken a much different path. Instead of enforcing accountability they are easily swallowing the milk toast excuses they are fed by their legislators. Excuses of, “but the Speaker won’t like me,” and, “my vote wouldn’t have made a difference,” are being accepted without question.

Too many Texans, even conservatives, have quickly announced that they are willing to accept this temporary defeat as permanent and fall into line behind the same legislators who have so recently voted against their interest. The about face is stunning. Instead of holding their elected officials accountable, they are in essence saying, “We were just kidding. We’re not THAT serious about holding you accountable.”

Does this mean that I won’t consider future votes in my appraisal of which Representatives should face primary opposition? No. This egregious violation of trust does, however, indicate that we can probably do better than many of our current Representatives have to offer. I’m confident that many good things will come out of this legislative session but my doubts remain high that conservative gains will be as significant as they could have been under the leadership of a solid conservative. If this is the case then accountability must be enforced against those who insisted on upholding the status quo.