On Friday, we all learned the sad news that Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) will be resigning from the U.S. Senate next year as he fights his battle against cancer. Coburn has valiantly fought waste in the federal bureaucracy and he will, God willing, fight off this wretched disease.
The impending vacancy in Oklahoma has triggered a special Senate election for this year, with the primary to take place on June 24, 2014. Over the weekend, several expected candidates, including Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), announced they will not vie for the seat, while Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) plans to officially declare his intentions to run later today. We are safe to assume the GOP establishment wants a united front. And if Lankford becomes their anointed candidate, in what is perhaps the most conservative state in the country, color us underwhelmed.
To be clear, Lankford is not a purely liberal Republican and an anathema to Oklahoma like Rep. Tom Cole would have been, had he contested the seat. And in a perfect world – one without a truculent Democrat Party and a treacherous GOP party establishment – Lankford would go with the flow and drift in the proper direction. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Our country, culture, marketplace, and system of government are on fire. If we don’t aggressively reverse the tide of Obama’s 100-year culmination of the progressive utopia, our slide into socialism and moral decay will be immutable. The only way to reverse this trend is to drive straight through the obstructionist bodies of the GOP establishment and the special interest ruling class. Politicians who support the status quo in the way we approach politics and policy are not up for the task.
Rep. Lankford is a quintessential status quo Republican. After just two years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Lankford was groomed for a leadership position, serving as the number six-ranking member in the Boehner-Cantor team. Nobody gets into leadership that quickly if they are bent on fighting the power structure in Washington. He has since served as a conduit for Boehner and Cantor, supporting their debt ceiling increases and funding for Obamacare in budget bills, thereby obviating one of the reasons for Republicans controlling the U.S. House.
Given that Lankford is from Oklahoma and has always had his eye on higher office, he tends to be more careful about his final votes than most other members of leadership. We noticed that Lankford voted for the Ryan-Murray budget deal in December, which busted the spending caps set by the Budget Control Act. Yet, he voted against the omnibus bill last week, even though that bill was directly born out of the December deal. Lankford cited a number of objections, but he knew exactly what the Ryan-Murray deal engendered. Moreover, he voted for the FY 2012 budget in December 2011, which contained similar objections. Clearly, he understood the optics of voting for this leviathan a week before announcing for the Senate seat would not bode well for his campaign.
Moreover, as we’ve noted before, immigration reform is likely to be the most important issue pending before Congress in the coming years. Lankford supports amnesty and is one of those Republicans who believes “doing nothing” (with regards to amnesty, not enforcement) is not an option. More disturbingly, he offered a typical liberal non-sequitur in support of amnesty: “I wouldn’t prohibit forever (people from getting citizenship). I’m a Christian, and restitution and reconciliation’s a big deal. If you do something illegal or inappropriate you should be able to resolve that, face the penalty, clear it and be forgiven.”
Lankford clearly doesn’t understand the broader consequences of our inane cycle of amnesty and will not be down for the struggle against Obama when he pushes it as a dangerous lame-duck president. When Obama issued his illegal administrative amnesty in 2012, all Lankford could muster was a feeble equivocation over whether it was even amnesty: “It is technically not amnesty, and it is amnesty. It’s both. That’s the frustrating part of it.” [CQ, GOP Avoids Taking a Position on New Immigration Enforcement Policy, 6/19/12]
Folks, we have enough of these consummate politicians in the U.S. Senate already. The Senate GOP Conference is even farther to the left than the House GOP. There is no way someone like Lankford will change the country club culture of Senate Republicans; we will be changed by them. Sending another mediocre Republican to the meat-grinder would be a waste of one of the most conservative seats.
Fortunately, Oklahoma is home to one of the most conservative game-changers in Congress. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), which the Madison Project endorsed last year for reelection, was a game-changer when he defeated the sponsor of the NatGas subsidy bill in a primary, he was a game changer when he voted against Boehner for Speaker, and he will be a game changer in the Senate when he stands up to weak-kneed leaders. Lankford is a yes-man for House leadership, and he will be a yes-man for Senate leadership.
We will never change Washington with the status quo.
Bridenstine has too much to offer Oklahoma in the Senate for him to sit this one out. We encourage him to jump in the race and give voice to conservatives.