Bob Sigman — Don’t watch Yoder the man, but Yoder the voter

11/19/2013 3:22 PM

11/19/2013 3:22 PM

You might not think of U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder as a dyed-in-the-wool tea party zealot. Yet there he was, right at the forefront of shutting down the government for 16 days last month and, a few days later, taking the country to the brink of fiscal disaster.

His votes not to end the shutdown and not to raise the national debt limit make it clear: Yoder, whose 3rd U.S. House District includes Johnson County, has cast his lot with the tea party.

Instead of offering reasonable alternatives to Obamacare and dealing realistically with the debt that Congress has piled up, Yoder and his tea party cohorts regressed into a no-compromise mode of meaningless rhetoric that ended in tail-tucking defeat.

The surprising thing is, Yoder does not seem like an entrenched tea partier when he is back home. The second-term Republican speaks calmly, and quite effectively, about solving the nation’s problems such as the monstrous $17 trillion-plus national debt and improving the economy.

But in Washington he sheds that smooth, even-handed exterior. There he morphs into a right-wing radical, a member of the most rabid Republican congressional contingent in generations. Perhaps ever.

In Washington, Yoder and his tea party cohorts equate compromise to surrender and a threat to “freedom’’ as they view it.

Yoder and his tea party cohorts distrust “big’’ government, even though they are an integral part of it. They summarily dismiss taxation and regulation as intrusions. The tea party constantly makes mindless attempts to throttle both necessities, threatening the welfare of the country.

Anyone who disagrees with tea party ideology is disparaged. Republicans who are a smidgen to the left of them are called RINOs, Republicans In Name Only. Democrats are “liberals,” a dastardly nomenclature reserved for the worst of the worst.

Civility is left on the outskirts of Washington, which has been aptly described as 68.3 square miles surrounded by reality.

For all of their vitriol, Yoder and his fellow tea partiers can’t seem to pick a battle they can win. They thrash about, hurtling from one daunting issue to another. They led in shutting down the federal government in a failed attempt to derail the Affordable Care Act. They awkwardly jeopardized the financial stability of the nation and economies around the world before cooler heads prevailed.

Yoder’s willing role in the tea party has made him a darling of far-right special-interest groups, a National Journal evaluation shows.

His voting record last year earned him an 88 percent rating by the Club for Growth, 82 percent by Americans for Prosperity, 80 percent by FreedomWorks and 70 percent by the John Birch Society.

Project Vote Smart, which monitors congressional votes, found that Yoder voted multiple times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even though there was no chance for repeal.

Yet, in some inexplicable, twisted way, the likes of Yoder and the grandstanding Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas seem to think they are winning. Even so, opinion polls show their misguided governance is rejected by a broad swath of the public.

There is no hope whatever that Yoder and his tea party zealots will halt their moves to gum up the works. That does not bode well for the urgent issues that Congress must soon resolve.

A word to the wise: Don’t pay heed to what Yoder says, look at the way he votes.

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