CHAPTER TWO: WHY RUN FOR CONGRESS?
Like most people my age (I’m 46 at the time of this writing), work and family consume most of my time and attention. But I ran for local public office because I wanted a future for my family and my community. I’ve done my best while in office to improve the fortunes of my county but a larger issue overshadows everything we do locally. Our national debt imperils the future here and everywhere else. It is the ultimate symptom of the drift of our country and it is positioned to destroy us.
The debate in Washington on this looming disaster goes back and forth about how to fix this or that in our tax system and our social welfare programs, but it is really no debate at all. Occasionally a republican will stand up and say we need to do something about the debt and everyone will nod their heads in agreement. What happens next has become predictable – nothing. It’s a jingo anymore, a campaign trumpet. Nothing happens year after year except the quiet march toward the oblivion which awaits a people who drastically overspends its own and its next generations’ ability to pay.
We are the ultimate too-big-to-fail conglomerate, which is the only reason the collapse has not yet occurred. Who would lend money to a company that is projected to lose close to a half trillion dollars in every year for the foreseeable future? Yet, there are still people and countries that do because, as the world knows, if America goes down, so does everybody else anyway. The ultimate collapse may not come for another decade or two, so money lent now is still a good bet for repayment, even though every dollar currently borrowed helps ensure the eventual disaster.
The worst part of this debt is that over half of it is owed to ourselves, to our entitlement and government retirement programs. We cannot default our way out of this. Printing or creating new money on a massive scale to pay these obligations will only cause hyper-inflation and make the dollar worthless. When this happens, something that used to cost ten dollars will suddenly cost fifty overnight and you will only have the same ten dollars to spend on it that you had the day before. The economy will collapse. When I retire, it’s a fifty-fifty bet that Social Security will still be solvent. If it is, the money will be worth a fraction of the dollars that I paid into the system.
We built this nation on a premise: That the goal of every generation is to provide the next one a better world. That began to end when liberal judges started working on the Constitution in the 1960s. When the Constitution changed, so did the concept of who we are as a people. Ever since, liberals have just been liberals, doing what they can to redistribute wealth and undermine most of what is traditional in our country. But hey, they throw great parties. The true villains in the story of the demise of American financial solvency are the Establishment republicans – they are the ones that always told us that they knew better than to do this. They are the ones that Conservatives sent to guard against this. They are the ones that have collaborated with the Progressives to explode this mess over the last dozen years or so.
Since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, republicans have not fought against the rise of the federal government. Most republicans get elected echoing the normal talking points and then hide behind the machinations of the elite in Washington. Republicans these days are led by the Paul Ryans and the John McCains, men who are always striving to find the middle, not concerned that every concession is a loss – every move to the middle is a gain for Progressives and a loss to traditional America. After decades of sliding to the middle of every debate, resetting, and sliding to the middle again, mainstream America is now identified by the national press as something democrats fifty years ago would have described as extreme and undesirable. Yet, we are still told by the Establishment republicans that we need to find compromise.
It is getting later in this game than anyone wants to admit and there is a point of no return.
Those of us who still believe in traditional America, the one envisioned in the Constitution, act instinctively to provide a better future for our country. We don’t live in the now, demanding more government intervention and handouts. No one needs to tell us this is right or wrong. It is ingrained in how we were raised and in the fabric of our communities. Nowhere is there a better example of the belief in this traditional America than in Northwest Ohio, the state’s Fifth Congressional District, a large swath of territory composed of 14 rural counties.
Yet, for a decade, we have sent one of the best examples of Establishment republicanism to Washington to hide behind the Ryans and McCains. Since being elected to fill a seat vacated by death a decade ago, it is difficult to find a stance that Bob Latta has taken that would further any Conservative cause or curtail the federal government in any way. He is always there with those worn out talking points, ready to go when a fight is not required. But in our heavily Conservative district, where his success in a general election is guaranteed, he is nowhere to be found when there is conflict.
This all gets a pass, year after year after year. It’s easy to show up for the obvious votes. It’s easy to vote for the flat-out repeal of Obamacare when there is a president who will veto it anyway. It’s easy to vote against an expansive federal budget when you know your vote is not decisive. It’s easy to rail against the excesses of Planned Parenthood and EPA regulations when your audience already agrees with you. What is hard is pursuing legislation to do anything about it or actually fighting – presenting arguments in the press and debating the people on the other side, then having that argument again the next day and the day after. What’s hard is standing alone for something.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh about Congressman Latta’s propensity to hide from a fight. There is one time in his decade tenure where he took a stance, and it was at one of the nation’s most critical times. In October 2016, the nation was hanging in the balance. Were Hillary Clinton to win the presidential election, there would be no Neil Gorsuch and the Supreme Court would tilt to extreme liberalism beyond any foreseeable future. The generation that had grown knowing only Barrack Obama’s leadership would continue into its child-raising years aware of nothing else, thinking Progressivism was simply mainstream thought. The media would solidify its power and dominate every issue.
In that October, an old audio tape surfaced and republican candidate Donald Trump was heard spouting some locker room banter. In the context of a news report and not a locker room, it was a pretty easy thing to amplify and rally against. Republican leaders were immediately put on the spot and asked to denounce their nominee. Establishment Bob Latta and many others promptly gave them what they wanted, denouncing Trump and therein implicitly endorsing his opponent. This is the column I wrote at that time.
BETRAYED (October 14, 2016)
“Of course I do not condone Mr. Trump’s comments from eleven years ago. I know that this is what the media will choose to focus on instead of the issues or the avalanche of discrediting information about Hillary Clinton’s corruption, or her negligence while in office that cost the lives of Americans in Libya and allowed confidential emails to be hacked. Foremost, I am a Conservative and was elected by Conservatives. Because this is so, I believe that fiscal responsibility, secured borders, and Supreme Court Justices who support the Constitution are infinitely more important than whatever salacious topic the media wishes to emphasize this week. Therefore I fully support the republican candidate for President and will do everything in my power to secure his election.”
It took me three minutes to write that paragraph – it wasn’t hard. But these are the obvious words that several Establishment republicans couldn’t come up with last week. Republicans such as Paul Ryan and John McCain jumped on the chance to dump the party’s nominee. Conservatives haven’t expected much out of those two for some time. But included in the list of Washington republicans kicking Trump in the shins at this critical moment were my representatives, Rob Portman and Bob Latta.
Both Portman and Latta have disparaged Clinton in the past, sure. Just talk. When it came time to fight, both fled the scene in the face of the media onslaught. (By the way, Jim Jordan didn’t.) This shouldn’t be surprising, I guess. For the last two years, republicans have had control of both houses of Congress and what Conservative objectives have either Portman or Latta achieved? What objective has either legitimately pursued?
Oh, but Trump’s comments were so disgusting, one might say. Yes, they were. In an election where the democrats were running a centrist, uncorrupt candidate, a dump of Trump based on these comments could be pardonable. But we’re not talking about electing a pope and this election has consequences of which a Conservative should be well aware. Portman and Latta and the others are willing to give up the Supreme Court for a generation and allow the globalist agenda of the left to retain office over this?
Oh, but women are coming forth to back the comments, one might say. And you don’t find it odd that they are coming forward in unison just a few weeks before the election. Trump has been running the harshest campaign since the dawn of television for the last sixteen months and they didn’t think to come forward before now? The reason they come forward all together now is that there is no time to check the factual basis of their collective allegations. If these were verifiable claims, they could have been presented months ago with better effect. Only if they are unverifiable do you present them now. I don’t know if the allegations are true or false, but I know for certain they are politically motivated. [These all seemed to magically disappear once the election was over.]
As Wikileaks continues its flood of democratic emails uncovering the corruption behind the media and the Clinton political machine, there is no claim that any of what is being released is false. Yet, all the democrats have to do is ignore them because the mainstream media will not report on it – they are part of it – and undecided voters do not watch Fox News.
There is a scene in the movie Braveheart. Mel Gibson is leading an attack and in the middle of it, the nobles who are supposed to lead the cavalry charge in support turn their backs and leave the field. A wounded Gibson continues to battle until he finds himself in direct combat with a masked horseman fighting for England. He manages to get the horseman on the ground and in a position for the kill only to pull off the mask and find the man he had wanted to put on the Scottish throne to unite that kingdom. The look on Gibson’s face at that moment is the look of Conservatives at its republican leadership right now.
Perhaps Trump is the last thing Portman and Latta and the others want in Washington anyway. While republicans have controlled the purse strings for the last two years, they have passed a budget with so many giveaways it surprised the minority democrats and have done nothing in the form of defunding legislation to fight President Obama’s executive orders. If Clinton is president, they can keep preaching the traditional Conservative sermon to us idiots who vote for them while falsely telling everyone that their hands are tied.
Democrats win because they don’t break ranks. Through all of Clinton’s scandals, try to find a national democrat denouncing her. Even Bernie Sanders, victim of all victims, fell in line. Trump’s misdoing is a drop in the bucket and doesn’t even match Clinton’s actions on the same topic where she attacked the women who claimed they were sexually assaulted by her husband – that was more than words, it undoubtedly happened. It isn’t like there is an alternative. The president will either be Trump or Clinton. By denouncing the republican nominee, Ryan, McCain, Portman and Latta are effectively endorsing Clinton and the Progressive agenda for president.
Stand-up comedian Ron White once joked that his grandfather had said about him, “That boy’s got a lot of quit in him.” How does this not describe the republicans who Northwest Ohio has sent to Washington? There is a great calamity on the country’s horizon in unsustainable debt and a student loan financial crisis – both the result of Progressive policies. Until this week, I thought republicans were the best people to send to Washington to deal with this. Now, I suspect they’ll only inject enough Conservativism to get republicans blamed for causing it to begin with, much like the financial collapse of 2007-08. I’m one Conservative rethinking my vote, but not for the top of the ticket.
A few weeks after that column, I sat in a local sports bar watching the election results come in, having a beer with a few of my Conservative friends. It was the opposite of four years before when news trickled in about Mitt Romney losing one state and then another state and then another. Donald Trump’s victory was unexpected. The world, not just the country, seemed to turn course in one night.
A few days later, when the dust had settled, I started to think of the things that were now possible. An absolute outsider had been elected. If the new president could begin a government roll back, which he was sure to attempt (and has), the country could be saved from the certain calamity of unsustainable debt and the concurrent agenda of globalism. Common sense policy could be, at last, attainable. With the blow that the election dealt to political correctness, real arguments might be possible again.
Trump started talking about “draining the swamp” in Washington as an order of business instead of a campaign slogan. Immediately protests started. Progressives, who apparently don’t have the same kind of family or work responsibilities that I do to consume their time and efforts, promptly appeared on the street and stayed for days, screaming just to scream, protesting nothing in particular except the results of an election. The media joined them. It was (and still is) surreal.
It occurred to me that everything that had happened during his campaign would continue to happen. Despite President Trump’s own version of media on Twitter, the mainstream press would dominate the narrative by making continual, almost daily, outrageous claims based on unverified sources. Establishment republicans would have endless opportunity to jump ship. A microphone would be repeatedly placed in front of them demanding that they refute Conservatism in the interests of “fairness”, whatever that meant, and they most certainly would comply. This was the first time I thought of running for Congress in the 2018 republican primary against Establishment Bob Latta.
THINKING ON A RUN (November 25, 2016)
“Too much regulation, especially too much outdated regulation, means higher prices, lower wages, and fewer jobs for hardworking Americans.” – Bob Latta, republican Congressman representing Ohio’s Fifth District, speaking to the Van Wert republicans in the summer of 2016.
This has been Congressman Latta’s unfailing talking point over the last eight years. When I’ve heard him speak, he further explains how his hands are tied to change any of it. Initially it was because republicans didn’t control Congress. Then, over the last two years, it was because there was nothing a republican-controlled Congress could do when a democratic president holds veto power.
When Latta spoke to the Van Wert republicans this summer, I bit my lip when he got to this part of his speech and most of the others in the audience did as well so as not to be rude to our guest. Some of us were thinking: Of course there is something that you can do. Congress can defund any regulatory agency. Where is the proposed legislation for that? Why isn’t our representative leading that charge, or at least involved in it?
Sure, after the media hysteria that surrounded the Ted Cruz-led government shutdown of 2013, it would have taken some political fortitude. What our risk-adverse republicans in Congress didn’t notice was that, although the media tried to crucify Cruz and the others involved, there was no political fallout from the 2013 shutdown. In fact, it was after this that republicans gained control of the Senate and, if not for the unique candidacy of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz would have been the 2016 nominee for president. Conservatives wanted a fighter – they had been searching for one ever since Reagan.
Trump is not an ideologue like Cruz, but he is certainly willing to fight. His candidacy stood in stark contrast to Hillary Clinton’s proposed continuation of President Obama’s policies. If elected, Clinton would have become the same roadblock that Latta and his cohorts had been complaining about for the last two years. Trump promised to be their enabler.
Which is why we were all shocked when Congressman Latta did not support the republican nominee for president. Safe in his own reelection bid in a district that is two-thirds republican, he gave only a vague statement last spring that he would support the republican candidate before Trump officially gained the nomination. After that, the only Latta statement to be found concerning the most consequential presidential race in our time was his obligatory condemnation of Trump’s unfortunate hot microphone comments. When the media demanded a denunciation, Latta unequivocally acquiesced.
No comments on Clinton’s email scandal or her Foundation’s dark activities. Benghazi and Wikileaks never happened. No comment on what the election of another democratic president meant – the continuation of Progressive policies and the loss of the Supreme Court for a generation. In fact, if you follow his Facebook page, Latta’s only post in the week before the election celebrated his attendance at a pancake breakfast. The country literally hung in the balance and his message to his republican constituents: Great pancakes here in Bowling Green!
It occurred to me that Mr. Latta could eat pancakes without being our representative. He will be entering his tenth year in office, but for all of his lamentations about big government and the regulatory state, I could not find a bill he has authored that would do anything to curb any of it. When it mattered most, he hid.
Latta’s job would not have been affected had Hillary Clinton won anyway. In fact, he wouldn’t even have needed to write a new speech – he could give the same one for the next four to eight years and his republican seat would remain safe against any democratic challenger. In fact, if Clinton were elected and all those failed policies continued, his type of representation would be even more secure – there would always be something to complain about and no accountability for lack of action.
Unless someone challenges him in the republican primary in 2018.
I am considering such a challenge. I understand the difficulties of running against an incumbent in a primary, both in name recognition and in financing. Running for Congress was the furthest thing from my mind a few months ago. But the election of Trump seems to have rolled back the mindless march of political correctness and has made common sense debate relevant again. It seems to have changed what is possible, especially in Congress.
That Bob Latta would have tacitly allowed Hillary Clinton into the White House and prevented this change shows a lack of vision at best and a duplicity at worst. I have trouble letting all of that just pass. I’ve made no definite commitments at this point and have only discussed it with a handful of people. I am disclosing it to people who read this column because over the next several weeks, I’ll be delving into policy and what I think is actually possible now. Stay tuned. I promise it’s going to be interesting.
What I am proposing and what I believe is possible is in the next few chapters. Notably, President Trump eventually would nominate Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, the government regulatory agency Latta has been railing about to us locally for all of these years. The nomination of Pruitt, a known opponent of the EPA, made certain the coming of regulatory cuts. If Establishment Bob were to be believed, his prayers had been answered. Trump then imposed a policy that for every new government regulation, two had to be cut. In response to all of this, Latta, a frequent Tweeter and Facebooker, said nothing. It was as if someone had cured him of leprosy and took away his ability to beg to earn a living. (See “Alms for an Ex Leper” near the end of this book.)