03 August 2010

On Censure Resolutions

I know a thing or two about censure resolutions. For those of you who missed it in June, I was the author of the resolution by the Lexington County GOP censuring Senator Jake Knotts for the “@*#&$%! raghead” remark (though, in truth, I’m just as angry about the “@*#&$%! pro-lifers” remark Knotts made at another Senator just off the Senate floor earlier this year…).

Last night, the Greenville GOP voted 61-2 to censure Senator Lindsey Graham over a litany of ills concluding with being not enough of a Republican. You’ve heard them before, and if you’re like me, you agree that Senator Graham was wrong on most, if not all counts: Judges Haynes (no), Sotomayor and Kagan (yes), amnesty for illegals, closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, supporting TARP, cap and trade, comments about Glenn Beck, comments about earmarks, etc.

The question is do these resolutions work, and do they matter?

Clearly I think there’s a place for them, or I wouldn’t have written the Knotts censure. Were I a member of the Greenville GOP, I would likely have voted yes last night.

But it strikes me that these resolutions eventually become whistling into a tornado.

Senator Knotts reaction was one of complete contempt. If the resolution was intended to force him out of office (it wasn’t), it failed miserably. If anything, Senator Knotts is more dug in than ever. Likewise, the reaction out of the Graham camp will likely mirror his performance at the Greenville GOP convention last spring – I won, I’m your Senator for four more years, get over it.

All that said, local County Parties have a right to express their displeasure with their elected officials, especially when those officials depart from the values they expressed when getting themselves elected. Senator Graham spoke to the Lexington GOP Convention in 2007 and talked about making sure President Bush got his pro-life judges. By the end of that summer he had put the knife to the Haynes nomination over the Guantanamo issue. For those of us who are conservatives who care about judges, that knife was lodged in our backs, too. Good on Greenville for holding his feet to the fire.

There’s one more thing that makes Greenville’s censure interesting, different, and bold. The Greenville GOP added one last clause that puts some teeth into the resolution that others may wind up copying. They barred the Senator from addressing Greenville County GOP meetings in the future. That’s about as strong as a County Party can affect within the boundaries of the law. We can’t throw people out of the Party (the law defining Party membership is too vague), but we can bar folks from meetings.

What the censures will eventually turn into (it seems to me) is fodder for primary campaigns against Knotts and Graham, assuming both men decide to run for reelection as Republicans. Graham has two more years to develop his response (and for the hoopla to die down) than Knotts does, but that’s also two more years for opposition to develop a gameplan. Either way, both men can probably expect mailpieces/TV ads blaring “Rebuked by the GOP” or something similar.

Whether those efforts succeed may rise and fall on whether or not we can finally change to a voter registration by party/closed primary system that protects the First Amendment Freedom of Association rights of party members. In a closed primary, Knotts or Graham would almost surely fail. In a system that allows Democratics to vote in Republican primaries, Knotts and Graham at least have a chance to survive politically. Time will tell.


maxine said...

exactly correct Joshua!

sctrojanbob said...

Right on Joshua! I was appalled when my own county executive committee first amended and watered down a censure resolution on Knotts, then defeated it 10-12. I give Greenville County three hurrahs!

Anonymous said...


Censure resolutions and other such communications are true power to the people. When people speak out in the arena of ideas (which is all politics really is) the politicians ignore them at their own peril.

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