“You know the old saying, ‘I’m not paranoid. They really are out to get me,’” Rep-elect Mo Brooks (R.–Ala.) told me earlier this month, “Well, this was exactly what happened to me when I ran for my first term in the state House of Representatives back in 1982.”
Brooks recalled how 11 out of the 45 voting machines in the legislative district he was seeking in Madison County did not have lever action next to his name on the ballot. In other words, Brooks said, “you could vote for twenty candidates for various offices on those machines but when you pulled the lever next to my name, it would not budge—thereby preventing people from voting for me.”
Fortunately for Brooks, the poll workers in the five districts with the faulty machines put a sheet on the wall permitting voters to select the GOP hopeful for state representative. As for the other six machines scattered throughout the district, “I lost votes,” said Brooks. Nevertheless, swept the district with 57% of the vote, and the feisty young conservative became the lone Republican state legislator from North Alabama.
“And a subsequent probe from the Bureau of Investigations found that the machines had been tampered with, but they couldn’t say who did it,” he added dryly. “Too many suspects and not enough evidence to say who specifically would do it.”
As state legislator, Brooks became a combative voice for both conservatism and reform in a chamber dominated by Democrats. When friend and fellow conservative Guy Hunt became Alabama’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction in 1986, Brooks became his key legislative point man in battles against the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association and state teachers’ union boss Paul Hubbard.
Hunt named Brooks to fill a vacancy as Madison County district attorney in 1991, but he subsequently lost a bid for a full term. In 1996, Brooks roared back to win a seat as county commissioner. This year, he won a three-way primary for Congress from the Yellowhammer State’s 5th District without a runoff. One of his opponents was one-term Rep. Parker Griffith, who had switched from Democrat to Republican but had the misfortune of a not-so-conservative voting record (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 56%) and of having donated to Howard Dean’s presidential bid in 2004.
“And voters felt I was best suited to fight Obama’s socialist agenda,” added Brooks, who won in November with 59% of the vote. When I asked if he really wanted to say “socialist,” the Alabamian replied: “Look, I graduated from Duke University with honors in economics, and the only course in which I got less than an ‘A’ was taught by a Marxist to whom I wouldn’t kowtow. This is a socialist agenda we’re dealing with.”
Drawing the Line in the Sand
As one who has even the briefest conversation with Mo Brooks will surmise, the first-elected Republican from Alabama’s 5th District since Reconstruction is someone quite sure of himself, where he stands, and how he will deal with the Obama Administration.
“I will compromise on matters not related to principle, such as how to best spend tax dollars,” he said, “But four things on which I campaigned hard I will not compromise on: first, repeal of the health care bill passed this year; second, greater economic freedom as opposed to government mandates, which are socialist; third, no tax increases, and fourth, no cap and trade, although it now looks dead.”
As to whether the repeal of “ObamaCare” will be either stopped in the Democratic-controlled Senate or vetoed by the President, Brooks shot back, “Then we will welcome a new President and a new Senate in 2012 who will finish the job that will start in the House. And the issue won’t go away. It will keep itself alive as long as people need health care. The more it is implemented, the more people will dislike it.”
In discussing the actions taken by Prime Minister David Cameron and the new Conservative government in Great Britain, I pointed out that to deal with debt that is now almost 12% of the Gross Domestic product, Cameron has called for the phasing out of 164 government agencies and programs as well as an increase in the value-added tax (VAT).
“Mr. Cameron and British Conservatives are not conservative by U.S. standards—certainly not by my standards,” he said, “As much as you are cutting spending, it cannot be accompanied by a tax increase of any kind. That will weaken families by depriving them of money they need to get by.”
And, he quickly added, “we aren’t going anywhere near a VAT tax in this country if I have anything to do about it.”
Toughened by his experiences coming up in the Byzantine world of Alabama politics, rock-solid in his conservative beliefs, Mo Brooks is the quintessential “uncompromiser” in politics. Whether his style and philosophy become the norm or the exception for the in-coming Republican House will surely be one of the defining political stories of 2011.