citizenship america moral capital

August 17, 2011

Dear Representative Tim Walberg,

One of my heroes, Michigander Russell Kirk, once noted that the professor plays the fool when he enters into politics. This might very well be the case with this letter.  I teach history (American Revolution through American Civil War) at a small liberal arts college in your district. I’ve been teaching here for a little over twelve years. I was, however, raised next to wheat fields in Kansas, and, so, I admit I don’t know this district as well as you most likely do.

But, I do know American history, and I know integrity (and its opposite) when I see it.

Such a letter as this pains me, frankly, as I not only voted for you in 2010, but I’ve also been assured by many fine persons who know you that you are a man of excellence and high character.

Another close friend of mine, however, a Texan who served in the Reagan White House, makes an important point when she claims that a representative or Senator heads to Washington, D.C., with only a set amount of moral capital. For some, such as Representative Ron Paul, this capital has yet to be spent fully. For others, such as Representative Richard Nixon, the capital was used up quickly, though few noticed until it was too late. His immorality and poor choices left us as a republic much poorer than we were, and an understandable but deeply unfortunate cynicism crept quickly into our political culture.

As I look over your website, I see that you and I view the world in very similar ways. In particular, we both share what is THE marker of humanity and a humane society—we each value the protection of human life in its most innocent form.

When I look at your votes, however, I have to scratch my head in wonder.

First, you are a representative in the greatest republic in the history of the world. Granted, you’re only one of 435, but I ask you to consider your place in history. Please, do what you can in your position to make a mark, to defend the legacy of this republic, to make the House and country a better place.

Second, considering the first, I ask you to remember that you represent not just this district at any one specific time but that you represent this district past, present, and future. How you vote reflects not only those who came before you, but also those who are to come—specifically our children and grand children and great grand children.

In light of this, I must ask—why did you vote for the Boehner Compromise bill on the budget? There was no real compromise in this, only a deferment of the problem. Your vote, along with the vast majority of the members of the House, voted to postpone and, frankly, pass the buck (so to write) to another Congress.  While it’s possible you’ll be a member of that future Congress, it’s also possible you won’t. In what way can you keep those in the future accountable? Promises of and for a Congress that doesn’t even exist yet are no promises at all. Indeed, if anything, your vote has contributed to a horrible precedent—Congress might very well just continue to postpone and defer and. . . .  Where will it end?

And, as you know very well, this Compromise solved absolutely nothing. Indeed, it only exacerbated our current debt and budget follies. The failure of Washington to reign in the federal government led directly to the S&P downgrade.

From what I can see in the press, you’re now blaming President Obama for our budget and debt and downgrade woes. I will fully admit, I’ve never once thought much of our current executive, and I’m sure I never will.  I don’t in any way understand how anyone could ever have supported him. But, president he is.

Your blame of the president for the current economic crisis, however, is as false as false can be. You voted for the Compromise, and you’re as responsible as every other member of Congress who voted in favor of this compromise that the president unwisely desired. Historians will not forget this, Representative Walberg.

Third, I ask you to be far more open in your voting and your decisions. From what I can see of your Facebook page, for example, you consider yourself an ambassador to Washington, D.C., representing the people from this district who happen to be traveling to the District of Columbia.

Additionally, I can easily see what you believe on your personal, rather static, webpage, but I’ve had a very difficult time tracking down your votes.  I would like to suggest as an exemplar of openness, your colleague from Grand Rapids, Justin Amash. Representative Amash clearly explains every vote he takes and the reasons for every decision leading up to that vote. If every member of Congress offered as much openness as Amash does,we might very well have a much more just republic.

So, I take us back to the beginning of this letter. Representative Walberg, do you still have moral capital to expend in Washington? After your vote for the Boehner Compromise and now your blame of the current president for the very situation you contributed to, I question your ability to govern properly.

From what I know of you, as I stated before, you’re a man of integrity. A man of integrity knows when to step down. Please choose wisely as we enter the 2012 election cycle. The future of this republic might well depend upon it.

Yours, sincerely,

Bradley J. Birzer


Books on or by Dr. Kirk may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Essays on or by Dr. Kirk may be found here

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