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April 13, 2005

DeLayism

Drop the Hammer, one of the premier anti-DeLay sites, gets mail. Oh boy do they get mail. And some of it even comes from elected officials, like this one from Councilman Kevin Cole of Texas:

Hey ass hole [sic]. Tom Delay happens to be my congresman [sic] and I am happy with the job he does for me and my district. Why don’t you get the F@&* out of our district and leave us alone. Better yet, come speak to me personally and I will show you what I think of you.

Kevin Cole
Pealrand [sic], TX
[Cell Phone # Redacted]

Mr. Cole, in addition to being a councilman and all-around nice guy, is also a Baptist deacon, which explains where he get the idea for this letter:

And Jesus said unto the Pharisees, "Fuck thee, and all that thee stand for. Thou art hypocrites whose presence at my door would merit a divine ass-whipping. Get thyselves away from Nazareth, lest the Son of Man leave you his bitch." (Matthew: 37:12)

But biblically based or not, this is Tom DeLay distilled. Our Majority Leader, unfortunately, is little more than a bully, who ascended up the ladder by doling out cash, stepping on throats, and being infinitely more ruthless and unconcerned with ethics than the next guy. So is it any wonder that those he's inspired show themselves to be little more than thugs? And doesn't it make you wonder what sort of men -- and they've almost all been men -- Tom DeLay's cash has elected?

That's why this isn't about DeLay so much as DeLayism. In all this talk of Abramoff and Reed and junkets and casinos, I don't think enough attention has been given to the spread and reach of the illness itself. So let's talk about that for a second:

DeLay's central innovation was incorporating industry lobbyists into the power structure, realizing that they could act as footsoldiers in his personal revolution. How he did it was, frankly, brilliant. Each lobbyist represents an industry or interest group of varying importance to each congresscritter. So tobacco lobbyists are crucial to congressmen from North Carolina, but less so to those from New Jersey. A textile lobbyist can hold a lot of power over a congressman who's got a textile plant in his district, but less over an urban representative whose constituents don't look to the textile industry for jobs. And so forth.

Now, lobbyists generally leap into action only when the bill or amendment at hand directly affects their industry. That may mean an effort to get a tax break, a subsidy, looser regulations, a commemorative day, whatever. But crucially, they'd relax when the legislation didn't affect them. DeLay ended that. In exchange for full and total support for industry demands, DeLay demanded that the lobbyists twist the arms of the congressmen dependent on their industries on bills wholly unrelated to their industry. So a coal lobbyist would go after a Pennsylvanian congresswomen on Medicare Reform, not because the lobbyist cared about Medicare but because winning the Congresswomen over would assure the coal industry the legislation it wanted later on.

That was the central mechanism of DeLay's takeover of K Street. From there, it got substantially more sophisticated. Lobbyists were only allowed to write their legislation if they were effective and helpful on unrelated issues, which meant they were now lobbying on behalf of the Republican agenda at all times. Soon, lobbyists weren't allowed to lobby the leadership at all if they were Democrats, or if their organization donated substantial sums to Democrats. So industries simply stopped hiring former Democrats and contributing to current ones. The whole thing was a giant trade -- the industries got all influence and power they wanted in exchange for putting their lobbying and political operations at the beck and call of Tom DeLay. To restate, the industries achieved their legislative goals if they helped the Republicans achieve their legislative goals. DeLay, then, had a veritable army on mini-whips he could control, not to mention unending amounts of industry cash that could be funneled to Republicans, both new and old, who Tom wanted to elect and put in his debt.

That right there is DeLayism, a whole new way of structuring and running the Congress. But it's no longer limited to DeLay. Now it's practiced by the leadership he brought into power, by the vast number of fellow Republicans he got elected, and by scores of powerful lobbyists conditioned to serve Republican interests in order to further their industry's interests. It's made Congress into an institution wholly ignorant of the public good, where dissension is no longer tolerated and deliberation is no longer allowed. Why, after all, should they allow it? DeLayism has made the House of Representatives into a well-oiled machine. When votes matter, Tom's got them. When elections come, Republicans are funded. When arm-twisting is needed, Republicans have industry-trained twisters targeted to the needs of each congressmen's district. Why should they waste time on debate and minority amendments?

Congress is broken and Tom DeLay broke it. But simply removing him won't cure the cancer. So far as I can see, nothing short of a Republican purge or a return to Democratic dominance can clean the place. The former might bring in more ethical Republicans who want to restore the traditionally deliberative nature of Congress and the latter would make it impossible for industries to get what they wanted simply by batting for the right. Otherwise, the DeLay machine will continue apace, and Congress will continue to deteriorate. For that reason, we can't limit this to Delay nor laud the Republicans who abandon him -- this is about the entire structure they've put in place and nothing but its wholesale destruction will restore the institution's dignity.

April 13, 2005 in Republicans | Permalink

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