The Irony of Victory

As the year draws to a close, everyone is trying to spin the media – mainstream, establishment, conservative, etc – in search of a narrative that frames their 2011 “accomplishments” in a favorable light. The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes is out with his take: The Agony of Victory: It’s the age of anxiety for Republicans.

Interestingly, Heritage Action and our legislative scorecard are front-and-center.  While we appreciate the coverage, our initial reaction is that Mr. Barnes should change his title to “The Irony of Victory.”  Let me explain.

Mr. Barnes notes that some Members of Congress are not pleased with our legislative scorecard, which is unapologetically conservative:

But it’s how HA determines its ratings of House members’ voting records that has particularly irritated Republicans. One reason conservatives have gotten lower ratings than they expected: HA includes votes on minor issues and sponsorship of legislation in determining its rating.  (emphasis mine)

Using simple logic, that criticism can mean only one of two things: 1) members do not vote conservatively on small issues; or 2) members do not think small issues are important.  Both are concerning, but we’ll take each one in turn.

Many, including Mr. Barnes, like to note “Republicans in Congress agree on just about everything: repeal of Obamacare, entitlement reform, tax reform to broaden the base and reduce tax rates, serious cuts in domestic spending, no deep reductions in defense spending, right-to-life issues.”  Let’s focus on Obamacare:  every single House Republican voted to repeal it (good), but 95 of them voted to extend certain provisions of Obamacare to veterinarians (bad).

Like most Americans, Heritage Action expects Members of Congress to do the right thing on issues large and small.  Given the criticism, you would expect Mr. Barnes and others to think small issues do not matter.  Not exactly:

In the bipartisan spending bill for 2012, enforcement of the law on lightbulbs was banned. So save your old incandescent bulbs and expect to find more of them on sale again. A small Republican victory, for sure, but also reason for good cheer and less fretfulness among Republicans.  (emphasis mine)

Mr. Barnes heralds a nine-month reprieve for the incandescent light bulb as a “small…victory.”  It is ironic (and unfortunate) that pundits choose to tout small victories while ignoring the many small defeats (i.e., expansion of ineffective grant programs).  Heritage Action’s scorecard is “hugely influential” precisely because it doesn’t ignore these type of votes…and we never will.

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