The other night while surfing various political sites and social media groups I came across a troubling Facebook page; “Democrats Done with Jim Matheson”. For those of you unfamiliar with Representative Matheson, he is a Democrat Congressman from the reddest of states, Utah. Matheson has been a political chameleon as of late, voting with the Republicans on several issues including the shutdown and the countless repeals of the Affordable Care Act. He represents Utah’s 4th district which overwhelmingly voted for Governor Romney over President Obama in 2012 by double digit margins. He also won a razor close election edging out his Republican rival Mia Love by .3%. Ms. Love has already announced she will run again, and this time Matheson does not have the help of a presidential election.
This Facebook group’s premise explains the reason for rejection, “This page is for Utah Democrats that are sick and tired of Jim Matheson. We see him for the real man he is. A DC politician only worried about reelection.” I completely agree -- Matheson is worried about re-election, and as a vocal Democrat, I am too. However, I am more worried about losing the seat than any floor vote Matheson casts. In fact I ENCOURAGE Matheson to vote with the Republicans every single vote where a majority is established (and with the Hastert Rule, that is every vote). For those of you balking at such a position let me explain further.
Irrelevance is being a minority party in the House of Representatives. A minority party cannot decide the floor agenda, appoint committee chairs, direct debates, or initiate votes. In setting up our government, the Framers designed the representative body of the House to work in a democratic setting. Unfortunately, what they did not take into consideration is the rampant gerrymandering that has undermined the intent and balance of the Constitution. In 2012 there were 1.5 million more votes for House Democrats yet today there are 33 more Republican Representatives. In order to return appropriate balance Democrats will need to flip those seats, many of which are anchored in steadfast red districts, to return the balance of power back to the majority.
Any primary challenger that successfully defeats Matheson will cost Democrats a congressional seat. Even an unsuccessful primary challenger will force Matheson to the left, which will be leveraged against him in the general election. Even more problematic than losing Matheson’s solitary (and inconsistent) vote is the daunting challenge for Democrats to flip one more seat and regain control of the House. If by small chance Democrats do achieve majority, and Matheson continues to vote with the Republicans, Democrats would still be in a much better place.
For all my Democrat friends in red districts the same strategy applies. Vote with the furthest right leaning candidate in primaries or the candidate that polls strongest against a Republican challenger. No one candidate is above control of the House, which should be the only priority for Democrats in 2014.