Congressman Jeff Flake, representing Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, is notorious for his anti-pork crusading. How appropriate then that he should take a sear on the House Appropriations Committee to take his war on Earmarks to a whole new level in the belly of the beast itself?
If there is a such thing as a useful member of the loyal opposition, Flake is it. Jeff Flake is one of the most consistently conservative members to ever sit in the House. Have no illusions that I support Jeff Flake – I don’t. But he provides a vital public service with his principled stand against earmarking for which no one else seems to share the same passion. Please take a look at what he has to say on the subject (.WMV).
But when given the chance to nominate this notorious budgetary gadfly to a position at the heart of the budget process where he could have an enormous impact on the practice of earmarking, the GOP backed down. Flake had vowed to kill all earmarks that came within reach, including GOP earmarks, if placed on the Appropriations committee. Jo Bonner of Alabama, his chief rival for the post, did not make such a promise.
Jo Bonner got the seat.
You see, the Republicans love to talk a good game against those dirty, dirty earmarks (and make no mistake, I’m dead against them and I say "Go Flake!" when Jeff gets on his soapbox on the subject), but they couldn’t be arsed to curb them when in the majority, and they feel dependent upon them for re-election now that they are in the minority.
The GOP didn’t want Flake throttling the goose that laid the golden ballots.
Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune had this to say about the missed opportunity of a Flake on Appropriations:
"Flake’s appointment was widely
supported by taxpayer watchdog groups. Yet, the talk around the Capitol
was that Flake would put the Republicans at a competitive disadvantage
in reforming the earmark process, because he would have gutted GOP
That’s right, Republican leaders were afraid of spending less first. That kind of thinking only makes sense in Washington, D.C."
This is the Flake Effect: a political party undermining it’s own most effective members and messages in the service of short-term political expedience.
The Flake Effect isn’t solely a GOP phenomenon – far from it, unfortunately.
Democrats, too, are suffering from an entire complex of Flake Effects: on the Iraq war, as they continue to fund it while pretending to oppose it and muzzling or marginalizing those who are really willing to go to the mat on the issue; on impeachment, as the leadership continues to deny the growing movement to enforce our Constitution rather than allow this administration to continue to shit on it; and on populist policies in every sector of the economy, from health care and taxes to financial services and trade, as Blue Dog Democrats and triangular DLCers continue to knuckle under to powerful economic special interests at the expense of the the long-term interests of the nation, and their party, as whole.
Those who initiate the compromises that cause the Flake Effect in both parties bruit their pragmatism and realism. They claim politics to be the art of the possible. They have forgotten the quality of leadership that separates the uninspired, and uninspiring, hacks from the statesmen and visionary leaders that a democratic nation needs to continue to progress and triumph, not just muddle through.
When our leadership consists of nothing more than lowered expectations, it is any wonder so many Americans are alienated from the political process? The true danger of the Flake Effect is the opportunity costs that style of ‘leadership’ imposes on society. Whenever we fail to achieve our promise as one of the most free and dynamic societies on earth, it is due only to our own short-sightedness and our leaders being caught in the trap of the Flake Effect.