Over on Slog, The Stranger’s Eli Sanders addresses the question of whether Rep. Dave Reichert truly is, or is not a moderate… and he allows Reichert to provide the answer in his own vague, rambling words.
Sanders links to video on TVW of Reichert addressing the Mainstream Republicans of Washington at their annual Cascade Conference last week in Sea-Tac. Speaking before a gathering of self-proclaimed moderate Republicans, Reichert curiously attempts to explain away his own voting record, by recounting a rambling anecdote about a conservative voter who complained about his alleged moderation:
Now, I said, “You know what sir, that would be a huge mistake, and here’s why.’ (I wanted to explain to this person how things work back in Washington, D.C., and why certain votes have to be taken.)
Sometimes the leadership comes to me and says, “Dave, we want you to vote a certain way.’ Now, they know I can do that over here, that I have to do that over here. In other districts, that’s not a problem, but here I have to be able to be very flexible in where I place my votes. Because the big picture here is, keep this seat, keep the majority, keep the country moving forward with Republican ideals, especially on the budget, on protecting our troops, on protecting this country. Right? Being responsible with taxpayer dollars. All of those things. That’s the big picture. Not the vote I place on ANWAR that you may not agree with, or the vote that I place on protecting salmon.”
“Back in Washington, there are lots of games played…” Reichert informed his audience. As for the carefully crafted perception that he is moderate and independent? “That’s where I need to be in a 50-50 district.”
As one Republican elected official who was in the audience that day incredulously told me:
“Of course we understand that strategy… but you don’t come right out and say it in public!”
And on camera, no less. See what I mean when I say that even Reichert’s fellow Republicans think he’s an idiot?
My question then is, who is the bigger idiot? Reichert, who stupidly admits to the TV cameras that in an effort to help him look more independent, House leaders are telling him when he should or should not vote against them? Or our local editorialists who have been so reliably eager to congratulate Reichert every time he makes a show of breaking with the party line?
Reichert knows that his alleged “independent streak” is a stinking load of bullshit. His fellow Republicans know that this is a stinking load of bullshit. Only our local media seem to be oblivious to the stench of politics as usual.
Much of the myth of Reichert’s moderation and independence stems from a handful of strategic votes against his party’s leadership on bills whose passage or failure was pre-ordained. Indeed as Daniel Kirkdorffer studiously explains in his thorough analysis of Reichert’s voting record (an absolute must read for all serious journalists,) the overwhelming majority of Reichert’s allegedly moderate votes were entirely meaningless:
[Supporters] argue that Reichert has voted 55% of the time on the same side as the majority Democratic position. Problem is that almost half of those votes (206) were undisputed procedural votes, and hence meaningless when determining voting tendencies. Furthermore, his overall voting record has him voting 94% of the time with the majority Republican position.
So how do we really gauge a legislator’s voting record then? Well we do so by looking at the 389 votes where the parties took opposite positions, and we see where legislators stood on those votes.
As soon as we do that the first observation is that Reichert only voted 11.7% of the time on the same side as Democrats, but 88.3% of the time with his Republican colleagues.
However, the most important votes of all were generally the key votes on the passage of bills. 35 times since January 2005 the House has been at odds on these most important votes, and Reichert has only voted with the Democrats on two such occasions, which is just under 6% of the time.
Even in his stand against the despicable Terri Schiavo bill — for which he was loudly lauded by the local press — Reichert had little impact on the final 203-58 vote. Indeed, when the shit hits the fan as it did with ANWR, when he voted for drilling after voting against it, Reichert has always been a reliable vote when called upon by his party leaders. And he always will be.
That is what Reichert was laboriously trying to explain to his fellow Republicans last week. That is what his colleagues in the audience understood. And that is what our local media has an obligation to explain to voters.