The timing of the news that Congressman Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) will be taking part in a breakfast fundraiser, in his honor even, headlined by none other than former Idaho Congressman and Senator Steve Symms (R-Idaho) is rather interesting. The reason for which I place emphasis on the 'R' behind Symms' name is because in no way or even alternate universe, as Randy Stapilus points out, would Steve Symms be considered a moderate Republican. He is as Republican as they come. And, the reason for which I say the timing of this announcement is interesting is because Minnick will be surrounded by good, loyal Democrats this weekend, Democrats who despise Steve Symms. The news of the fundraiser comes on the heels of the Club for Growth's release of a "Swearing Off Pork" brave members list that not only includes Congressman Minnick, but mislabels (or not) him as an Idaho Republican.
Admittedly, I have not been very kind to Congressman Minnick lately because of the position he has taken against earmarks. I understand the general frustration with earmarks, the way in which they bloat spending bills, but I also understand that this country and particularly the state of Idaho are currently in a recession and whatever funds we can pour into state projects will not only benefit the state in the long-term, they will create much needed jobs. However, Congressman Minnick doesn't see it that way.
I've often wondered if Minnick's positions against earmarks, against spending bills like Obama's stimulus package, and his oft-stated opposition to AIG and hope for their forced bankruptcy are a way of pandering to the Republican base in the 1st district. Without moderates and a few Republicans, Minnick stands no chance of re-election in 2010. However, he seems to be alienating the Democratic base in this across-the-aisle pandering attempt and without them can he win re-election in 2010? I highly doubt it.
We've all heard the Minnick talking points and I don't mean the talking points Minnick's staff have developed for discussions about any of his votes, I mean the talking points we, as Democrats, have been told as a way of calming the eventual storm of annoyed and irritated Democrats who thought Walt Minnick would be independent on some issues, but a Democrat when it truly mattered. We've all heard that we shouldn't be worried or irritated as long as Minnick is voting with his party over 50% of the time. He's sitting steadily at 65% according to Open Congress. We've all heard that we should be genuinely happy to have a Democrat elected to a federal office. And, we've felt somewhat obligated to defend him because he is a Democrat after all or so we're told.
There will come a time when the talking points just aren't going to cut it. We can't continue to defend Minnick because he's between a rock and a hard place if he hopes to be re-elected. There will come a time when even a missive from a man who knows a thing or two about pandering to the conservatives while keeping the progressive base content will do nothing to calm the frustrated tide of Democrats who hoped for so much more from Congressman Minnick. Is that time now? When we look back one November evening in 2010 when Walt Minnick is defeated in his bid for re-election, will be look to the fundraiser headlined by Steve Symms as the tipping point?
It will be interesting to hear what kind of reception Minnick receives this weekend at the Stallings Banquet. Will Democrats casually look the other way when he, like the man the banquet is named for, stands firmly in conservative roots despite his party affiliation or will Democrats give him an earful? Will the Democrats in the room who devoted so much time and money to the 1992 Senatorial bid of former Congressman Stallings, originally a campaign against none other than Steve Symms, only to have their hopes dashed when Symms was forced out and the seat went to Boise Mayor Dirk Kempthorne be forgiving of Minnick for hob-knobbing with the enemy?
Unfortunately for Minnick, Democrats in this state who haven't elected many Democrats in the last couple of decades have an awfully good memory.