Maybe Ann Wagner’s the problem.
Rep. Ann Wagner (HA-64) is the House Majority Whip. Her job is to know how every GOP member will vote on bills and to cut deals until House leadership gets the numbers it wants.
It’s unfathomable that a majority whip would not have seen the Kevin McCarthy meltdown coming long before the House Republican caucus met to nominate a candidate for speaker. But many accounts suggest that the Republican House leadership thought McCarthy had the votes up to the moment he withdrew.
Wagner vs. The Buchanan Brigades of 1996
In Missouri, Ann built her machine by obeying big donors and bullying conservatives. (I’ve heard great stories about Ann’s brutal attacks on Republicans who supported Pat Buchanan in 1996, defying her dictates to support Bob Dole–the only man in America incapable of defeating Bill Clinton.)
I’m reminded of those “Ann Wagner screamed at me” stories when I read about events leading up to Kevin McCarthy’s decision to withdraw from the race for Speaker because the two events–Missouri’s 1996 presidential caucuses and the Kevin McCarthy nomination–bear remarkable similarities.
In both races, Ann Wagner’s job was to know where key constituents stood and to make sure the establishment had enough votes to win. In both cases, Ann was confident of victory up to the last minute. And in both cases, Ann’s whip count was wrong.
A New Majoritarian Leadership Team
Perhaps the GOP caucus should consider a whip with a better track record of getting the numbers right. More importantly, though, the next House Majority leadership team–from Speaker down–should be a majoritarian leadership team.
As Arthur C. Brooks explains in his awesome book The Conservative Heart:
A key element of majoritarian status is fighting in broad terms for people instead of fighting narrowly against particular evils.
And by “people,” we’re talking all people, not just those who can afford K Street lobbyists and those like Boeing who threaten to move operations to China unless the taxpayers subsidize their business.
The next House leadership won’t completely satisfy Tea Party Congressmen all the time, but by articulating how conservative policy benefits all Americans, especially those who’ve been beaten down by the welfare state, the next Speaker can form a majoritarian coalition that passes important legislation that Obama is likely to sign.
A new House Majoritarian leadership team would preface every bill and policy statement by affirming the most fundamental belief of our philosophy: that every person deserves the dignity of meaningful work and the freedom to pursue happiness; that happiness is not giggling like an idiot at a cotton candy booth, but virtuous excellence of a life well lived; that the $22 trillion welfare denies dignity to the poor by treating poor people as burdens to be efficiently managed rather than as untapped human lives who deserve the richness our society can offer everyone; that to secure these goals, we are willing to deny our rich and powerful friends their immediate demands in order to build a stronger, healthier society where the American Dream lies with reach of all.
That’s the vision of America Ronald Reagan helped us all see in the 1980s. And that’s the only vision of America where conservative principles will achieve majoritarian status.
Let the next Speaker begin that majoritarian conversation, and let the next majority whip whip up good for all, not just her friends in high places.