DeWine Still Doesn’t Get It

Republican Senator Mike DeWine’s numbers can be explained quite easily by this Washington Times article.  DeWine is actively seeking the support of influential conservative Grover Norquist and his organization Americans for Tax Reform (full disclosure: I worked as an associate at ATR for a semester).  Norquist is one of the most powerful conservatives in Washington for a very good reason.  He demands high standards of the politicians he supports and can deliver the necessary support to those who meet those standards.  In particular, Norquist demands that candidates sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which states that the signatories will never vote to raise taxes.

Last week, DeWine called Norquist to request his support against uber-liberal Rep. Sherrod Brown.  Norquist explained that DeWine was one of nine Senate Republicans not to have signed the pledge, and that signing it would make it much easier for the Organization to lend its support.  Said DeWine, “We’re looking at it. I haven’t looked at the language yet.”  The pledge is much shorter than any piece of pork you’ll ever vote for, Senator.  Sign it or don’t.

In the same article, DeWine is quoted as insulting the intelligence of the countless conservatives who criticized him for his participation in the Gang of 14 agreement.  “We did take some hits from people who didn’t understand fully what the deal was.”  No, Senator, we understood the deal.  We also understand that the Democrats will be able to revive the filibuster in the next Congress if they pick up enough seats.

The mistake that DeWine and, to be fair, several other Republicans make is that they think activists are concerned with their reelection and who controls Congress.  To the contrary, activists are activists because we have an agenda and want that agenda enacted.  Whether Mike DeWine is in the Senate, indeed whether Republicans control the Senate, is only an issue insofar as it impacts the agenda of the particular group of activists, be they tax cutters, war supporters, pro-lifers, gun owners or any other group (and there is plenty of overlap among them).  Norquist is influential because he understands this.  He delivers for those who will work to enact his agenda and leaves those who will not to their own devices.  It is an effective strategy that other interest groups would do well to adopt.

Here’s hoping that Senator DeWine signs the pledge and that he begins to understand that his conservative support is entirely contingent upon his conservative action.  It would also be nice if he stopped criticizing and started listening to those upon whom his reelection hinges.

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