Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District Representative Mike Simpson recently debated his primary election opponent, Attorney Bryan Smith, which provided Idahoans with a great opportunity to get inside the heads of both men. The debate topics covered most major issues such as immigration reform and gun rights, but in the end the topic at hand did not seem to mean much.
Just like an hour with Bill O’Reilly, the debate usually devolved into a shouting match of who is less liberal, or who is less supportive of “Obama’s welfare economy.” Yeah, that phrase was actually used multiple times, along with a slew of other sensationalized talking points.
Although incredibly conservative himself, Simpson provided a more concrete set of solutions and less fear of liberal rhetoric. For example, when immigration reform was discussed, Smith suggested closing America’s borders should be step No.1, followed by deporting all those here illegally. Simpson’s stance on the issue is considerably more moderate, suggesting year-round work programs and more efficient ways to gain citizenship legally.
Another portion of the debate discussed gun rights, and more specifically background checks at gun shows. Both men touted their undying commitment to the Second Amendment, and the approval it has garnered from the gun lobby.
Yet, Simpson showed his political savvy in discussing the need for compromise during times where it might be politically necessary — like when Democrats threatened to pass strict gun laws unless Republican lawmakers acted quickly.
As more issues were discussed, this trend continued — Simpson would take a more realistic approach and Smith would channel the likes of Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan catering heavily to the Tea Party. Smith continually tried to paint Simpson as a self-interested liberal changed by the political climate of Washington D.C., which should not come as a surprise considering Smith’s rigid ideology.
This fear mongering and unshakable commitment to ideology is business as usual in Idaho, but it is just a smaller version of a much larger problem. A prime example of this problem would be the recent filibuster by senate Republicans on the Democrats Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.
A Bloomberg National Poll asked American’s last month whether they agreed with raising the minimum wage to $10.10, as suggested by President Obama during the State of the Union. Over 69 percent of those polled answered in favor of increasing the minimum wage, representing a significant portion of the American people.
Yet despite this support, Senate Republicans moved to filibuster the bill without providing a worthy compromise or solution of their own. Just like endless attempts in the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act, this filibuster is a political move that at the end of the day does not solve many of the problems faced by Americans.
One vote in the House of Representatives will not be the end of the world, and politically Simpson and Smith are a mere stones throw away from one another. However, these two men represent two vastly different approaches, one being wholly more effective than the other.
Simpson understands the need for compromise and has continually found the most compromising conservative position he can. While Smith’s worldview caters to obstructionism and gridlock, both of which have damaged the American political process and hurt the American people.
Justin Ackerman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org