What started out as light comedy has turned into full-on farce as Rep. Vance McAllister becomes ever more desperate to stay relevant and to resurrect a political career the grave of which he continues to dig deeper.
McAllister, who had no political experience before parlaying a lot of his own money and the wit to diagnose a political environment optimally arranged to elect an unknown to Congress, less than a half year later was revealed – apparently through a leak by his own staff – to have committed extramarital infidelity, prompting him to declare he would eschew an attempt at reelection this fall in order to put family affairs into order. Lately he’s hedged on a withdrawal from politics, not realizing that once surrendering that it’s unlikely any electorate ever would take him back.
But, as he made his mark as preacher of dysfunction in Washington, perhaps a return of zeal to stay in power prompted him to get back to that narrative through a bizarre story. His claimed anecdote highlights that (in his words) “money controls Washington” and how work on Capitol Hill is a “steady cycle of voting for fundraising and money instead of voting for what is right.”
Essentially, he alleges that a colleague (who he refuses to name) told him the Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative public policy research organization, would give him a $1,200 contribution to him if he voted against a bill dealing with the Bureau of Land Management. But if he voted for it, some unnamed “environmental impact” group would pony up $1,000. Later, the representative whose name he dares not speak tells him he got his check, to which McAllister says his never came, and chalks that up to Heritage and its operative Gov. Bobby Jindal not liking him for some reason; McAllister’s winning campaign framed him as a little guy against big bad elites like Jindal.
Taking the parameters McAllister gives, and keeping in mind he entered Congress only in November of last year and the floor vote had to happen at least a couple of weeks ago for the scenario to play out, and that it had to lose in the House because Republicans control it (given his implication that Heritage is against it), only 12 bills even qualify dealing with the BLM in that time span, and every one of them either passed the house or has yet to receive a floor vote. Most have become law and most were trivial.
So let’s get this straight. Here’s a guy who, despite his hardly having been in Congress any time, complaining about it all the while, and in disgrace for the past couple of months, is trusted enough by another Member to receive instructions on how to curry monetary favors contrary to federal law from at least one organization that doesn’t even give campaign donations (there is a political arm to Heritage called Heritage Action for America, which has made no contributions in the 2014 cycle to date) concerning a bill that apparently cannot exist and to a lame duck it makes no sense to try to influence. And one so fascinated by this he kept track of what donations came over the transom after the vote. And told by a guy dishonest enough to cheat on his wife at least once. This is about as credible as the idea of Edwin Edwards quitting his political comeback and new family to enter a monastery.
Obviously McAllister is a fibber of the first magnitude, but far more interesting is why he would come up with this half-baked whopper. Certainly it makes him appear as a maverick, always ready as the champion of trod-upon voters to fight the evil known as Washington, D.C. Yet it also, in its disparagement of a prominent conservative group and Jindal, sheds light on a potential quarter-baked, convoluted strategy to get reelected.
If McAllister harbors delusions of a comeback this fall, he knows he will not make a runoff as a Republican, for not only do many GOP voters disdain candidates untrustworthy in matters such as marriage that signal their untrustworthiness in governing, even more distrust those who feel entitled to do it as soon as they get elected, and more still see people as hypocrites who say they must abjure reelection to save their marriage from this deep-seated problem only to come back shortly thereafter and say they’re rested, relaxed, and ready to go again. In fact, so do a lot of Democrats and nonpartisans; a reputation as a hypocrite you can’t trust isn’t exactly the strongest endorsement for reelection.
However, McAllister may think that Democrats may be desperate enough to win the district as to accept him as a Democrat and vote accordingly for him, allowing him to put together a rainbow coalition and storm to victory. Think again; he will get no party support because party activists never will support a turncoat of convenience when they need to husband every resource to get out the vote for Sen. Mary Landrieu’s reelection bid. In fact, to boost turnout for Landrieu, they’ll run at least one genuine, probably black, Democrat to accomplish this, would not lift a finger to help him, and thereby reduce even further his chances of winning (while they dream he would make the runoff against their candidate). And while in doing this, for example, he might pick up another $1,000 contribution from major Democrat activist Calvin Fayard, he can kiss goodbye another $2,600 from frequent Republican donor Lane Grigsby. This isn’t exactly the recipe to win again.
So maybe, facing these dynamics, then he would run as an independent? Fine, but then hardly anybody would be giving him money and certainly no partisan assistance, both of which he needs still owing to himself hundreds of thousands of dollars consequence of his special election win. And he really thinks his tarnished name with this minimal ability to spread a “pox on all houses/I can save Washington from itself” message will draw enough voters to make the runoff against a Democrat, which is the only way he remotely has a chance of winning?
McAllister now claims the yarn was taken out of context. But if he really is thinking about a comeback and the fable was part of that strategy, there’s a term describing this condition: dementia praecox. Having initially made himself into a cliché of a self-serving politician and next into a buffoon, all that’s left for him to transform into a total joke is to follow the script above into self-parody.