Diving for Cover

Posted: August 10, 2011 in Capitalism, Communications, Constitution, Economy, Finance, Media, Oppression, Rants, Tyranny

There is a term that all career legislative politicians know and cherish. It is “voting from cover.” This is a device whereby your typical unprincipled politician can vote either way on a piece of legislation, but the leadership allows him or her to vote according to which way would most assist the politician’s re-election because the leaders had enough votes to pass the measure. In other words the politician was willing to vote for passage but voted against it because his vote was not needed. Given this frequent scenario, it is no wonder that citizens have become as cynical as their elected officials.


When one examines the voting record of a political professional, one often discovers some contradictory results. A politician may vote for a measure the first time around, but vote against a nearly identical version on the second pass. The suggestively schizophrenic behavior is generally an indicator that the so-called public servant was voting from cover. You may recall the legendary John Kerry statement from the 2004 campaign that he “voted for funding the Iraq war before he voted against it.” There were some commentators and of course, Republicans, who ridiculed Kerry’s apparent two-faced approach to such a vital issue. Many in the mass media, however, did not condemn Kerry because they understood that his votes reflected a total self-serving attempt to appear on both sides of the issue. They correctly understood that Kerry’s waffling…his unprincipled position…was not rare, but it was all too common among our United States’ political class.


At first blush an observer might seek to find some mechanism or penalty for those who choose to vote from cover to enhance their political fortunes. The problem with a remedy that directly addresses the issue is that there is no allowance for the politician who actually changes her or his position because of conscience, principle or payoff. We cannot fully trust the politician’s explanation for the position switch because so many of them are either slick liars or self-delusional. The observer can assume from the beginning that the leadership allowed the member to vote from cover if the vote was close, and the member voted against the majority. An overwhelming vote on either side of an issue is not a good barometer for testing the legislator’s principles because aside from the chicken or weasel, congress critters most often resemble lemmings. One of the first skills developed by a legislator is learning how to jump in front of a parade and pretending to lead it.


Unfortunately, it is difficult to detect which unprincipled politicians were voting from cover on any particular bill unless one is closely observing the roll call on C-SPAN. If the watcher knows who the Whips are for the party, they can see who they’re “babysitting” as the vote rolls in. As the numbers of “Ayes and Nays” approach finality, the Whips will release their wards to vote. If the Speaker “needs” their votes, they’ll vote for his position, but if there are a sufficient number supporting the Speaker’s stance, the captive Congresspersons will be allowed to vote consistent with their constituents’ preferences. So, what if the leaders are wrong (we have 100 years of recent history to suggest that our political leaders are often wrong)? Are our elected representatives so politically motivated that they would sacrifice principle in order to prevent embarrassing the leadership? Apparently so and historical evidence supports the premise. Certainly it is helpful if there is unity within the caucus when they are pursuing an ideal or policy that is based on principle and integrity. Unity for unity’s sake, however, when promoted and enforced to achieve damaging compromise merely reinforces the cynicism of the voters. Deal-making, deal-cutting and bet-hedging are reprehensible positions when the integrity of the nation is at stake. Yes, this type of legislating has been in place since the beginning of our Republic, but heightened scrutiny and moments of sustained crisis have illustrated the folly and damage that such an approach creates. “Business as usual” should become unusual and undesirable.


Our political system has become so corrupt and decayed that fixing it seems nearly impossible. I am convinced that most of those who are first elected to Congress or their respective legislatures enter with high hopes and sincere desires to make a difference. They become part of the system without realizing how compromised they are. Voting from cover is just another example of how unrepresentative our political system is. If you recall, 22 House members voted against Boehner’s sell-out deal on the debt ceiling, but the real number of steadfast fiscally-responsible patriots is 19. Three Members were being herded by Whip Kevin McCarthy until the vote was “locked.” They were willing to vote with Boehner, but because there were sufficient votes, they were “allowed” to vote for principle. I’m still trying to confirm who those three were, and they do not merit inclusion in the roll call of courage and conviction. There were 19 Spartans standing at the gates as the Persians advanced. There were three opportunists standing behind them….under cover….away from the arrows. Luke’s Gospel is good. Lukewarm is tepid.


Comment:   cearlwriting@hotmail.com       or     www.littlestuff-minoosha.blogspot.com

  1. Michael, this is a very good explanation of how our politicians are! I make sure to keep up with my Senators and Representatives votes. We never know how they are influenced by a selfish appetite.

    Thank you

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