Shortly after last month’s elections when Republicans recaptured Congress, I had planned a post, urging Republicans not to repeat the mistake they made just after the 1994 elections when, in the race for House Majority Whip, they rejected the principled Bob Walker for the opportunistic Tom DeLay. That one-time Republican leader was back in the news as I prepared to travel to San Francisco to celebrate Thanksgiving with the most important person in the state (my now 2-year-old nephew); the Texan “was convicted [last] Wednesday on charges he illegally funneled corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002“.
While I believe it’s likely the conviction will be overturned on appeal, I did not shed a tear for DeLay. More than any other Republican leader in the House, he was responsible for abandoning “The Spirit of ’94” and focusing on building a permanent Republican majority, not on conservative principles, but on lobbyist connections (and financing). Had he not led the Republicans away from the small-government principles which secured their election in 1994, they may well have had a more lasting majority.
For Tom Delay Republicans, politics was about power not principles. And in a republic, you can’t hold onto power very long unless you stand for something beyond its maintenance.
Fortunately, the incoming majority party’s slate lacked any Tom DeLays, with its leadership representing a diverse array of conservative opinion. While incoming Speaker John Boehner supported the TARP bailouts, incoming House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling, in the words of former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, having “the best voice in opposition” to TARP.
There will be no Tom DeLays in the Republican leadership of the 112th Congress. And that’s a good thing for the GOP.
FROM THE COMMENTS: DaveP reminds us, “The other thing to remember about Tom DeLay is what an abject failure his ‘K-Street’ program actually turned out to be in practice. Never forget that.” Good point.