North Central Floridas new Republican congressional nominee is a self-styled conservative Christian Republican with a libertarian slant who plans to take a hatchet to thousands of pages of federal regulations, beginning with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Hes avowedly antagonistic to the foreign policy orientation of the last several presidential administrations, including his own partys neoconservative wing, wants to return Americas troops home from abroad, and is a staunch civil libertarian who calls for the repeal of the Patriot Act and the latest incarnation of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
In what is being hailed in many quarters as the biggest upset of Floridas primary election season, and quite possibly one of the greatest congressional upsets in state history, large-animal veterinarian and political newcomer Ted Yoho scored a very narrow victory over 12-term congressman Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, in one of Tuesdays most hotly contested races.
Yohos certainly done his homework. [Ive] read the Constitution over and over again. Ive taken study courses on it through Hillsdale [College]. Ive read the Federalist Papers. Ive read [Michael Hollers] The Constitution Made Easy. Ive studied this document, he insists.
Yohos devotion to the nations founding documents and principles is matched by his utter lack of enthusiasm for his former opponents record in office: All throughout this race, I said, I can be just as conservative as Mr. Stearns. But when you look at the problems our country is facing, is conservatism [alone] something we need in our leaders? Yeah, he was a conservative, and conservatism is good; but we needed a much stronger leader.
When you look at his record over the last 24 years hes brought up some 209 pieces of legislation, but only five of them passed. We need to be effective at this time in our country, to stop the spread of what is going on in the country, he explains.
Yoho pulls no punches in giving a name to what he believes to be the chief spectre haunting Americas civil society: socialism.
The federal governments gotten way too big, he says. When you look at the federal government, the primary charges for it [in the Constitution] are national security, coining money, regulating commerce, and treaty negotiation.
One of the things I talk about, he continues, is taking a scalpel to regulations and mandates coming out of government. Over the last 11 years, according to the Heritage Foundation, theres some 21,000 new regulations that have come out of various administrative agencies. These agencies have so much power: they can choose what to regulate, how to regulate, how much to regulate, how to fine violations, etc. That process has to be brought into check. We have three branches of government, and the House of Representatives is designed to be the strongest. Theyve allowed that power to be taken away, but I feel we need to take it back [from the executive agencies]
Theres certainly a lot more to Yohos congressional campaign than the usual smattering of right-wing platitude. His interpretation of the Constitution places him well outside the mainstream of his political party, especially on matters of foreign policy and civil liberties.
Theres a lot we need to do in bringing our troops home. Why are we still in Germany? Why are we in Japan? he asks. There was a time when that presence was necessary, right after World War II, but with our technology and capabilities we have today, I we need to take another look at this.
Hes certainly no fan of the Bush foreign policy. I did not agree with a pre-emptive strike [on Iraq]. But once our president made it, I was 100 percent behind him. But once the mission went from preventing a possible attack from weapons of mass destruction to spreading democracy, I was not for that. Thats not a role for our federal government. We should not be promoting neo-conservatism, spreading democracy on the backs of American taxpayer and on the back of our military.
Naturally, hes absolutely not in favor of President Obamas committal of American troops to Libya and Uganda. Think about what President Obama did: We attacked a country. Thats an act of war. He attacked a sovereign nation, Libya, which never attacked us. He took powers he didnt have, bypassed Congress, operating on dictates from U.N. and NATO, he says indignantly. If the presidents doing things unconstitutionally, he needs to be called out on it.
But Yohos no pacifist. We should be a moral example to the rest of the world, but need to carry a big stick. I believe in Ronald Reagans policy: If you mess with us, we win, you lose; have a nice day, he says.
Hes just as emphatic about scaling back on certain domestic policies that have enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, especially among his partys war-hawks. The Patriot Act is unnecessary and overbearing; we need to repeal it. We want to be safe, but not at the expense of our personal liberties. He insists the NDAA should be repealed, as well. When you allow the federal government to arrest Americans and detain them indefinitely without due process, on a mere charge of terrorism, thats a dangerous road to go down in this country.
As to SOPA and CISPA, two proposed bills targeting Internet piracy, and roundly condemned by civil libertarian organizations on the right and the left, though enjoying broad bipartisan support in Congress, Yoho is emphatic: Theyre bad laws. We already have laws on the books against these offenses; we dont need to add to them. We need to fight hard to protect our individual rights. You look at some of the freedom indices that some of the think tanks publish, were 10th to 11th in the world. The citizens of Singapore and Hong Kong have more freedoms than we have. Its mind-boggling!
Yoho is a self-styled conservative Christian and very pro-life; life begins at conception. He insists, however, that controversial social issues such as abortion and homosexual marriages are properly states issues. Thats the way our founders set up this country. Im a big believer in the 10th Amendment, and leaving the federal government to that handful of powers delegated to it in the Constitution. The social issues are important, but this election is more about stopping socialism in our country, where the federal government dictates everything you do. Once wehalt this socialism, these social issues can be dealt with at the local level. Lets leave the federal government out of it.
When asked if he would continue Stearns efforts to investigate alleged fraud at Planned Parenthood, the nations largest abortion-provider, he says, matter-of-factly, Thats something that should have been done a long time ago. Im glad [Stearns] looked into it. Hes written a letter and I havent seen anything else [done] about that. We spend millions of dollars on that agency. Especially in this economy, where 42 cents of every dollar is borrowed money, thats just inappropriate.
He toes the typical line on immigration. This is a classic example of Congress having failed to lead, he says. We have an immigration crisis 30 years too long in the making. It is both a national security and an economic issue. I dont care how we do it, but we need to close off our border, and we definitely have the technological means to do so. My district is a heavily agricultural area. Were dependent on migrant farm help. What we need to deal with this problem is a workable guest-worker program. Amnesty is off the table. The Reagan administration gave amnesty to 3 million people, and that didnt work for us.
Coming as he does from a military family, veterans affairs are very close to his heart. When asked what action he planned to take to fix the many inefficiencies associated with disabled veterans health care, its clear a chord has been struck. Career politicians created this problem, or failed to prevent it. It all comes down to ineffectiveness of government. My dad served in World War II, my brother served in Vietnam, and my daughter is active in the Coast Guard, so this is an issue very close to me and my family, he insists. My role as a congressman will be to make government more efficient by getting rid of bureaucratic red tape.
Yoho has publicly committed to serving no more than four two-year terms in office. He brushes off concerns that this will leave him disadvantaged in obtaining leadership positions --e.g., committee or subcommittee chairmanships. Leadership is not something you wait in line for. Leadership is something you create by your actions and its something you take. I know this from the business world. If people realize a man is well-rounded and has great ideas, and is willing and able to build coalitions, youll get leadership. Leadership can be taken a lot earlier. The notion you have to wait in line is one I do not agree with.
Yohos district is considered by many analysts to be a rather safe one for Republicans, but the nominee has no plans to cut any corners. Were looking at this as a tough race. Were going forward with the same mindset we had going into the primary; were not taking anything lightly. Were looking at this as if we are opposing the strongest Democrat possible in the race. Weve raised some good money, and if it should happen to be an easy cruise-in, thats fine, too.
Reach Eric Giunta at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.