Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Where Have All the Conservatives Gone?

As I prepare to do the show this week, I ask myself 'what has happened to conservatives in America?' Unfortunately, the days of smaller government are no more. The Republican party lost control of Congress in 2006 because it decided to trade principle for power. The Republican party that stood tall against Democrat excesses in 1994 acted out those excesses in 2004 and 2006 and the American people threw them out of office. Republican power brokers became addicted to the flow of pork - choosing to bring home the bacon rather than stick to principle.

During my eight years working on Capitol Hill, I found myself constantly trying to reground myself. When you talk about millions and billions every day and every hour it is easy to forget from whence you came. When someone would say, "it's only $1.3 million," I often reminded myself how many taxpayers - how many American families - it took to pay that $1.3 million in taxes. Too few people in Washington today ask that question.

When it comes to members of Congress extravagantly spending their office budget or seeking earmarks, too many "conservatives" simply play the game. They decide it is more important to stay in power and win re-election than to stand on the principle for which they were elected and stand for the people who elected them. As the old saying goes, "you gotta dance with who brung ya." Too often we see members of Congress reward campaign contributors with earmarks or special favors. All too often the transgressors are the "conservatives" that we look to for leadership. When I ran for Congress in 2008 I was the only candidate in the race who signed the No Earmarks Pledge (see my pledge here - vowing that I would not seek any earmarks. I signed that pledge not because it gave me political advantage. I signed it because I couldn't look into my children's eyes and do anything else. Too few candidates and members of Congress take that pledge today. Here in Colorado, Congressman Mike Coffman stands alone in signing that pledge.

We should demand that other members of the Colorado Congressional delegation sign the No Earmarks Pledge as well. We should demand that Senators Udall and Bennet sign. We should not stop writing, calling and e-mailing our members of Congress: Diana DeGette, Jared Polis, John Salazar, Betsy Markey, Ed Perlmutter and, yes, Doug Lamborn.

Of all the members of the Colorado delegation, Congressman Lamborn should sign the No Earmarks Pledge immediately. If we are going to say we are conservatives, we must act like conservatives. Lead by example. Show your colleagues that you didn't just go to Washington to bide your time - you went there, in the traditions of Ronald Reagan, to change the way they do business. Change Washington - don't let it change you. Washington must change its ways and so must Congressman Lamborn. While some of Congressman Lamborn's earmarks are well vetted and provide for the public good, at least five of his earmarks are to benefit companies - companies that provided campaign contributions to Mr. Lamborn.

We, as constituents of Congressman Lamborn, have a burden as well. We cannot simply forgive the earmarks that our Congressman supports while railing against the excesses of other members of Congress. See, isn't that the real problem? Americans detest earmarks and Congress yet love (and re-elect) their Congressman. It can't possibly be him, can it? Yes, it can and yes, it is. Our Congressman seeks earmarks. For the moment, he is the problem in Washington. It isn't just the Democrats fault. It's our guy. The guy we sent to Washington to mind the store. Hello. Is anybody there?

There will be some who may say that my raising this issue is "sour grapes." So be it. We have a country to save. If the price I pay is that some people think I raise this because of "sour grapes," that is a small price and one I am willing to pay. If I must stand alone, then stand alone I must. I worked in Washington and know all too well how easily some can get sucked in. I can't just stand by and watch. I will shout it from the rooftops - and from the KVOR microphone but I suspect I will not be the sole voice on this issue.

If you want to take the energy and power from the Tea Parties and take that next step, the time is now. For the sake of our children, we can't let up. Take a moment this week and call Congressman Lamborn at (202)225-4422 or (719)520-0055 and let him know that you are watching. Let him know that you expect him not just to talk like a conservative but to walk like one as well. Oh, and by the way, you might call Congressman Coffman at (202)225-7882 or (720) 283-9772 and tell him thank you for standing up for the taxpayer.

If the No Earmarks Pledge is good enough for Congressman Mike Coffman, a true fiscal conservative, it should be good enough for Congressman Lamborn as well. No more excuses. No more explanations. No more posturing. No more earmarks.

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