We also cited Rep. John Boehner, another fire-breather. Elected in 1990, Boehner (a former Ohio state legislator) was part of the “Gang of Seven,” a group of conservatives who publicized the House banking and post office scandals.
Boehner played key roles in exposing corruption — as speaker Nancy Pelosi says, “draining the swamp.”
But he's now indistinguishable from the kind of politician he was elected to replace — he once passed out checks from tobacco lobbyists on the House floor.
Does Mr. Smith always turn into a Washington man-about-town? Of course not. There are many examples of members serving honorably.
So I contacted three members of Congress I personally respect, and who I feel have avoided Washington's taint. I asked them for a little advice for the many new members who will be enter the halls of Congress in January.
(A note to my Democratic friends: I only asked Republicans, not because there are no honorable Democrats, but because the examples used in the editorial were both Republicans. And when I get to Heaven, I shall personally look up Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and buy him a beer — a Guinness, if memory serves.)
Rep. Joe Barton of Arlington went into Congress at the same time as DeLay — he's the last man standing of the “Texas Six-Pack,” elected in the Republican landslide of 1984.
Here are his words of advice:
There are some simple rules I have tried to follow since I was elected to Congress back in 1984. They have served me well over the years and I hope the coming wave of conservatives will take them to heart:
Live in your district and go back to the district as often as possible.
Never forget who sent you to Washington and listen to them
Every time you vote, remember why you ran and why people elected you
Every day you are in Washington, work toward the goals you set, i.e., balancing the budget, reducing taxes, whatever you promised you would do.
Speak the truth, be who you said you are, do what you said you would do, and don't worry about what people in Washington say.
Since the people of this country gave us the honor of returning to the majority on Tuesday by sending you to Washington to join me, we can't let them down.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling is a newer member of Congress, having served since 2003. He lives in Stephenville but covers large portions of East Texas.
Here's his advice:
As a Member of Congress, I serve in a body where it is often easier to know the right thing than to do the right thing.
When I am faced with one of those tough choices the first thing I ask is, “how much government is enough?” “Can we ever have enough?”
It seems many in Congress would say no. But if one looks to the Founding Fathers one discovers that they knew that as government grows, liberty yields. So when the choice is between more freedom or less freedom for individual Americans, I choose more freedom.
There are some problems that don't obviously admit themselves to seeking the wisdom of the Founders; however, I have an approach which guides me through those difficult decisions as well.
Whenever I am faced with the challenge of doing the easy thing, instead of the right or courageous thing, I take out a picture of my children and place it on my desk and I ask myself, “if we continue on this path will our children live in smaller homes, drive older cars, find fewer jobs, cash shrinking paychecks and find themselves confined to small, timid dreams?”
That's not the America I want to pass on to my children. I look at that picture of Claire and Travis and think about how painful will be the moment of having to say “no” to their dreams in the years to come. Right then is when I find the courage to do the right thing.
Our own Rep. Louie Gohmert (elected in 2005) also has some advice for newcomers.
Here's what he has to say:
Washington, D.C. seems to change many people who come with good intentions. Many new members of Congress come for all the right reasons, but sometimes lose sight of those reasons over time.
Here are a few suggestions that may help make a difference in staying true to the principles and morals that got them elected:
You will be told repeatedly by leaders of your party, in essence: “The best thing that you can do for your country is get re-elected.”
That is simply not true.
If getting re-elected becomes what motivates you more than anything else, you become a person without principle. Some of your party leaders may tell you that voting a certain way on a particular bill will cost you votes. You'll be told to do the politically smart thing. Just remember: doing the right thing, in the end, is always the best thing. Vote the right way, take the right stand, and make sure your constituents understand why you did. Don't forget that helping educate your constituents on what you have learned about certain laws or bills is part of your job. You truly are their “representative” as their servant.
Also, spend as much time within your own district as you can. Your constituents who elected you will be invaluable in keeping your head out of the clouds and in the midst of their concerns.
Also, you will be bombarded with requests for endorsement for certain leadership elections in Congress. Be slow to endorse, despite the pressures, until you know everyone who is seeking the position and what it involves. Who we put in leadership has a powerful impact on what gets done.
Being able to serve in the U.S. Congress is a humbling honor, but the founders intended “we the people” to be the government and the elected help to be their servants. It is so important that all new member-elects remember what they ran for and what the voters of their district sent them to do in Washington.
All good advice. But perhaps the best parting words of wisdom for the new members of Congress will come from the citizens: “We'll be watching.”
Early Returns is Editorial Page Editor Roy Maynard's political observation column.
Here's yet another view of Tuesday's elections.
Election Night Illuminating For Editorial Writer's Son
It says a lot about this season's elections that they invade even the life of a 14-year-old kid. It says a lot about the sheer multitude of yard signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, and television commercials that even I have a basic grasp of current events.
So I thought it would be interesting to write a junior high student's perspective on modern politics.
Now for the real meat and potatoes. This year's senatorial and congressional elections will be a big hit for the Tea Party and their endorsed candidates. We know that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is out, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in. Without his ally in the House, how will Reid do?
Being a long way from legal drinking age, I pay little attention to the wet/dry debates raging across East Texas. It will, of course, have a major effect on the region, regardless of the outcome. That will come in sales tax revenues, and in how liquor sales affect a community.
It also will be interesting to see how the bad weather affected the outcome. The cold and rain will likely be sufficient to ward off the less serious voters, boiling the debate down to the hardcore activists. With such slim margins of victory, what would have happened if the weather had been nice?
However, my straight-forward prediction was that I believed the devoted Tea Party members would defeat the “wet” supporters. I was about half-right.
In closing, I want to pray (no matter how many people grill me for this) that God's will be done. And, of course, it will.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Calvin, son of Editorial Page Editor Roy Maynard, served as a “runner” at the Tyler Paper on Election Night. These are his observations.