Why Bill Sali Is #423
My congressman, Bill Sali, was recently ranked as the 423rd "most" effective Congressman (of 435) in a survey of Congressional influence. This brings up the question -- why would Idahoans want to return someone so obviously ineffective to Congress in November? This analysis has one possible explanation:
Jasper LiCalzi, a professor of political economy at the College of Idaho in Caldwell, deep in Sali's district, said one reason for the winners' success is, Idaho voters love a "standing at the breach" attitude. Chenoweth, for instance, once accused federal agents of using black helicopter gunships to harass ranchers.I'm going to go on record as saying that I don't think this viewpoint really represents the Idaho of the 21st century. Sure, there are quite a few fairly loud people who espouse the "we'd rather be right than be in power" attitude, but I think there we're seeing fewer and fewer of them as the world becomes more connected. My evidence? Consider that Bill Sali won the Republican primary in 2006 with only 26% of the vote, and couldn't even pull in 50% of the vote in the general election in a year where Republicans won all the statewide offices and he enjoyed a significant campaign fundraising advantage over his opponent. While he claims to represent the wishes of the voters of the district, there's a lot of evidence that his reflexive Club For Growth-inspired dictums are out of touch with the majority of the voters; for example, while he says he's never voted for a tax increase, the voters in the 1st District routinely pass school bonds (which increase their property taxes) with substantial supermajorities.
"They said, 'She's a wacko. She's out of the mainstream. She's extremist,' " LiCalzi recalled. "But Idahoans love that kind of individualistic mentality. With Sali, he may be trying to be like Davy Crockett at the Alamo: He gets killed, but he stands for what he believes in."
This year, where Mr. Sali's fundraising is running well behind his moderate opponent, Walt Minnick, voters will be able to look back on Sali's record in Congress. While Sali's team hopes they'll perceive a man who's valiantly standing up for principles, I think they'll see a man who's so utterly ineffective that it's almost laughable, backed by an organization and staff who's well-publicized incompetence reflects fully on the decision-making capabilities of their boss.
Here are some examples of Mr. Sali's ineffectiveness, incompetence, and general unseriousness:
1) Announced that he was submitting a bill to repeal the Law of Gravity (complete with an amusing mis-spelling) to protest what he was as Congress' unconstitutional attempt to raise the minimum wage.(Even more amusing, he ended up voting for the minimum wage increase as part of a combined bill.)
2) Failure to properly submit required Campaign Finance Reports in a timely manner. For the most recent quarter, he was one of only 2 Congressmen who were late in filing -- and when he finally turned it in, it was still wrong.
3) Being forced to apologize for comments widely considered to be insensitive to religious minorities.
4) Making a big deal out of opposing the approval of a Mexican consulate in Boise -- only to have the Administration (of his own party) shoot him down in record time.
5) Claiming to have stopped the ATF from using a slogan they'd actually stopped using 2 months earlier -- and then further subjecting his staff to embarrassment by demanding an apology from the ATF for his staff's inability to use Google.
6) Suggesting that we can get more money than exists in the world by leasing government land for oil and mineral exploitation, and seeming to think that we can get crude oil from trees. (Congressman Sali seems like one of those Representatives you hear about sometimes who try to make the Patent Office issue a patent to someone with a perpetual motion machine.)
7) Being on the losing end of so many lopsided votes, including many that go against the district's best interests, that it's almost comical.
The list goes on and on. Feel free to add more in the comments, or on your own blogs.
I can usually admire a man who stands on principle, even when I don't agree with his principles. When it reaches the point where an entire congressional district is left without effective, competent representation, however, I have to draw the line. I think most people in this district probably don't support many (or most) of the more extreme proposals put forth by the Democratic leadership in Congress -- I'm one of those people. Here's the thing: when Speaker Pelosi is putting together her legislative strategy, she doesn't spend a second thinking about Bill Sali -- she's not going to get his vote no matter what she does on anything controversial. You know who she does worry about? It's the conservative and moderate Democrats who she needs to maintain her majority -- especially those in traditionally Republican districts. If she tries to go too far, these men and women will let her know, in no uncertain terms, that they can't support her proposals; if they did, they'd probably find themselves out on the street at the next election. This small group of about 45-50 Democrats (including the "Blue Dog Coalition") are the people who really control what's going to pass in the House. Bill Sali can never hope to have this kind of influence that Walt Minnick will have. And since Walt's moderate values and policy proposals align quite well with all but the most extreme voters in the district, it'll be an easy choice for 1st District residents to make in November.
Update 0707 08 Aug: Adam responds to my post here. Also, I edited one really ungrammatical sentence above.
Labels: Bill Sali