Inglis on why the tribe turned against him

Kathryn brings my attention to this interview piece with Bob Inglis on Salon.

Bob Inglis is a guy for whom I’ve always had a lot of respect — ever since he got elected to Congress in the early 90s as a fiscal (and cultural) conservative, and then voted against highway money for his own district. This was back when nobody did this. “Conservatives” like Strom Thurmond had always talked a good game, but brought home the bacon. Inglis was a trailblazer.

To listen to Bob Inglis talk is to respect him, just as he respects others — something that sets him apart.

Inglis has always been deeply conservative, and deeply committed to his principles. But the know-nothings of his party unceremoniously dumped him in the last election, basically — as near as I can tell — for not being as angry as they were.

Anyway, this is an interesting passage:

Inglis remembers campaigning door-to-door and encountering hostility for the first time.

“I’m wondering, ‘Why is this happening?’” he said. “And what I came around to is that what happens is the tribe selects you to go to Washington. You believe with the tribe, you agree with them, and you go to Washington as their representative.

“Then you get there and you mingle with these other tribes, and you come to understand their point of view – not agree with it, but understand it. So when that view is presented, you don’t have the same sort of shocked reaction that some of the tribe members at home have to hearing that view.”

He recalled getting to know John Lewis, the civil rights icon and Democratic congressman from Georgia.

“He is an incredible American,” Inglis said. “I just disagree with him on this budget thing. But back at the tribe, at the tribal meeting, it’s like, ‘He’s some kind of Communist, that John Lewis. He’s not an American.’ No! He’s an incredible American. He’s one of our heroes.

“But the tribe doesn’t see that. The tribe sees you as sort of getting too cozy with John. And then they start to doubt you, because of this betrayal response. We are hard-wired to respond very violently – as I understand it, the brain really responds to betrayal. It’s one of the strongest human emotions.”…

Inglis, a conservative Republican to his core, speaks here to a very UnParty sensibility. You have your principles and you stand up for them. But that doesn’t mean you delegitimize those with whom you disagree. If you do that, the deliberative process upon which our system of government is built collapses.

Bob understands that. Too few who still hold office do.

19 thoughts on “Inglis on why the tribe turned against him

  1. `Kathryn Braun

    But, Brad, just as bad as demonizing the other side is giving them a pass when they actually are acting like demons. It’s intellectually lazy to do either.

    I do like Bob Inglis.

  2. Juan Caruso

    “Inglis has always been deeply conservative, and deeply committed to his principles…

    Inglis, a conservative Republican to his core, speaks here to a very UnParty sensibility. You have your principles and you stand up for them. But that doesn’t mean you delegitimize those with whom you disagree. If you do that, the deliberative process upon which our system of government is built collapses.” – Brad W.

    Inglis was once a conservative representative with virtues I extolled publicly. He later succumbed to lawyer networking (which, incidentally but unsurprisingly provided his post-political employment opportunities). He left the conservative reservation siding too often with the excess of lawyers in congress. Poor Bob, was rewarded with additional terms for loyalty he squandered thanks to forgetting who he actually was from the start. He even IGNORED every warning his electorate specified. Just deserts, compadre.
    You ARE a good man, but as a politician you betrayed your base.

  3. Pat

    Bob Inglis is a nice guy. Not long ago, he made a very public apology to Liz Patterson regarding his first campaign for US Rep. One of his mistakes was trying to please the unpleasable in his party. I disagreed with a couple of his votes, but on the whole, my interactions with him were good. I see him as a kind, respectful, and sincere person.

  4. Mark Stewart

    Betrayal is in the eye of the beholder. So it fits that humans would react with violent indignation; it’s convenient to avoid facing the truth about the shallowness of our fears and just focus on the lashing out part. It’s easier not to let oneself see the tenuous facades we build to avoid considering the world and our place in it.

    Inglis sounds like he is also avoiding some hard truths by blaming a “tribe” for undermining him. Leaders find ways to disseminate knowledge and understanding – to move the cultural needle.

  5. Maggie

    You don’t have to leave your district and go to Washington to see people from “other” tribes. You just have to talk to and listen to members of your own constituency, your own district. You know, your neighbors. That is one thing Strom Thurmond understood. He represented the people of SC whether they voted for him or not.

  6. bud

    I think I understand the concerns of honorable conservatives who happen to see things differently than I do. I even have a few conservative positions of my own. I would maintain that the vast majority of liberals and moderates occupy that same respectful philosophy. But the Republican party is increasingly taken over by extremely dogmatic, inflexible ideologues who simply refuse to comprise or even consider the merits of liberal or even moderate debating points. I just don’t see the two political parties as equally obstinate when it comes to the issues at hand.

    As evidence of this difference just look at who is being ousted by the voters. We have a reasonable sort in Bob Inglis replaced by an extreme Tea Party guy. Did the opposite happen with the liberal Dennis Kucinich? No he is likely to be replaced by a much more moderate thinker if not by an out and out conservative. It is simply not a case of the extremes on both ends taking over. It’s a movement to the right.

  7. Phillip

    I completely agree with Bud here. It’s tempting to say, well liberals and progressives are guilty of the same thing, “delegitimizing” the political opposition. And you can find examples of that on both sides, to be sure. But, for whatever reasons (and I think it’s because money, and the power of money, trumps all in American politics) the purge of the “merely strong conservatives” by the radical conservatives did not happen in the same way on the left. The Democratic party is by no means dominated by the Kucinich-es, (who, as Bud reminds us, LOST his primary battle) or the Bernie Sanders-es. (Sure, there was Lieberman, but that was primarily a one-issue situation: support for a misguided war, which always evokes passion. See: LBJ, Abandonment of Democratic support for)

    What Inglis is talking about is not really this “tribal” phenomenon that he and some well-meaning “centrists” would like to think. It’s purely that he was insufficiently conservative to keep up with the relentless push to the right financed by the strongest influences and factors in what’s left of American “democracy” today.

  8. Ralph Hightower

    Inglis said that the crowd at a “town hall” meeting turned against him when he suggested “turn off Glenn Beck”.

    Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are as a destructive and divisive force as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are. That’s how those four make their money; by sowing seeds of dissention.

  9. Brad

    Phillip, Inglis was not “insufficienty conservative” for anything. If language has any meaning.

    Let’s take that one thing about which he was so spectacularly wrong: the surge. He voted against it. And you know what? Voting against it was the CONSERVATIVE thing to do. The surge was about doubling down on a Wilsonian venture that seemed to be going badly. There’s nothing, NOTHING conservative about that. Just as there was nothing conservative about going into Iraq to begin with.

    People get really confused about terminology in this country. Everyone agrees to pretend that liberal ideas are conservative and vice versa, and we all accept it, because in the end none of this labeling is about true, coherent ideas — they’re just about which side you’re on in a pointless, never-ending partisan conflict.

    The invasion of Iraq was a neocon idea. What is a neocon? A neocon is a disappointed liberal. People use “neocon” and “conservative” interchangeably, but they are not interchangeable.

    The conservative move was what the first President Bush did — refrain from toppling Saddam because it would risk disturbing the status quo in the region. The first Gulf War was about restoring that status quo, which Saddam had upset.

    The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was about the opposite — it was about upsetting the status quo in the region, and was done in the pursuit of liberal aims, of trying to move Iraq from the authoritarian strong man column toward the liberal democracy column.

    At the time, The New Republic set out that argument quite effectively, justifying it in Wilsonian terms. I cited it at the time. Invading Iraq was a decidedly unconservative thing to do. It was Bush II rejecting the conservatism of his father.

    And the surge was a matter of doubling down on that risky move.

    So Inglis did the truly conservative thing in voting against it.

  10. Brad

    And let’s take another example: Inglis’ vote to upbraid Joe Wilson over the “You lie!” incident.

    That was the only honorable vote for a conservative person, one who believes in traditional notions of civility and decorum, one who believes in civilization itself.

    But the partisans in his district are incapable of seeing that, because partisanship trumps all other ideas or values. By voting against Joe, Bob was voting against “our guy” in defense of Barack Obama, the ultimate embodiment of “the other” in current Republican ideology. It was about one’s own team versus the other team, period.

    Inglis voted in support of the conservative value that you don’t shout insults at the president of the United States while he’s delivering a formal address as your guest in your House.

    But the extremists who dominated the elections of 2010 care nothing for true conservatism.

  11. Silence

    @ Ralph – One small quibble:
    Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh make their money selling advertisements on syndicated radio shows.

    I think Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton make it by agreeing NOT to picket companies who donate money to their organizations. I’m not sure how it’s different than extortion, but it most be somehow.

  12. `Kathryn Braun

    If I might rephrase what Phillip wrote–Inglis was perceived as insufficiently “conservative” by the forces, etc….

    The people who turned their backs on him felt he sold out their “conservative” ideals. These are not poli sci grads, of course–“Keep your government hands off my Medicare” was said to Bob Inglis! To them, “Conservative” means “anti-government, except as comes to the enforcement of fundamentalist Christian morality.”

  13. bud

    Brad is frustrated with the misuse of the language. But language does evolve. Most people accept that invading a country that did not attack us first is a conservative or neocon, idea and not a liberal one. That is true regardless of the motivation behind the attack.

  14. Andrew

    FWIW, Inglis was not replaced by someone more conservative than him in Congress, just a Representative who, due to geography and trust, the primary voters felt more comfortable voting for.

    If anything, Gowdy is to the left of Inglis ideologically.

  15. Juan Caruso

    “If anything, Gowdy is to the left of Inglis ideologically.” – Andrew

    For what it is worth Gowdy is another lawyer (infiltrator, RINO in waiting). If he isn’t to the left of Inglis yet, and there have been abundant indications, it will not be very long. When this betrayal happens, and it will, it will be more difficult for conservatives to ignore the duplicity of elected lawyers. That is a fact.

  16. bud

    My how times have changed. Let’s compare political labels that would have applied in 1972 to the same political philosophy today:

    1972 2012
    Liberal Non-existent
    Moderate Extreme Socialist (rare)
    Conservative Liberal
    Moderate Libertarian Left-leaning moderate
    Extreme Libertarian RINO
    Insane Libertarian Conservative
    Reactionary Moderate

  17. bud

    Sigh. My chart is unreadable. Let’s try again:

    1972 ………. 2012
    Liberal ……. LOL Does not exist
    Moderate …… Extreme Socialist
    Conservative …Liberal
    Libertarian…Left-Leaning Moderate
    Extreme Libertarinn..RINO
    Anarchist ………..Conservative

  18. Steven Davis II

    bud do you sit around all day thinking of stuff to make up? I seriously doubt a Conservative in 1972 is a Liberal today.

    I would put money on a Liberal in 1972 being a Conservative today though. Think about how as a college student you were for saving the world, as you get older it’s screw everyone else and look out for #1.

    Maybe if you swap the left side with the right side of your little chart it might actually make sense.

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