Folk hero freshman congressman ignorant in addition to inexperienced

Inspiring story: Rep. Ted Yoho used to be a veterinarian. Now he's another of the House's right-wing cranks

By Alex Pareene
Published January 16, 2013 1:41AM (UTC)
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John Boehner performs a mock swearing in for Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, on Capitol Hill. (AP/Cliff Owen)

Hooray for citizen-legislators who are also ill-informed ideologues! Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., has gotten a lot of press attention for being an inexperienced political "outsider" who beat a more well-known, better-funded incumbent in a primary last year, before winning election to the House in November. It is a cute story. He's a large animal veterinarian. He ran a funny ad with pigs in it. He probably drove a truck around his district shaking hands and stuff. Great stuff, very inspiring. This is why he's on cable TV all the time. A veterinarian, in Congress!

Obviously I'm in favor of people who aren't lawyers (or worse) getting elected to Congress. But I am much more in favor of electing people who understand politics and policy to Congress. Yoho is just a repository of right-wing media talking points. He decided to run because he was mad that incumbent Rep. Cliff Stearns hadn't "stood up against Mr. Obama on the things he's done that are unconstitutional." So, basically, he is going to push for impeachment, eventually. Good thing we got another guy who thinks moderate neoliberal economic intervention is unadulterated Maoism in Congress; it can always use more of those!


Naturally, Yoho also opposes raising the debt ceiling:

“With all the problems we are having, I won’t be afraid to tell leadership, ‘You need to explain to me why I should follow you anywhere,’ ” he told me, adding that, unlike two-thirds of last year’s freshmen, he would never have voted to raise the debt ceiling. “I think I scare them to death.”

He is a bog-standard talk radio conservative, only instead of one of those with years of experience navigating the House of Representatives, like his predecessor, he is one who believes that he will shake things up by constantly repeating clichés about being an outsider.

But even if you don't find Yoho's politics reprehensible, there's not much reason to get excited about this guy's amazing rise from animal doctor to random member of Congress. If you yourself are a right-winger, your agenda is much more likely to be advanced by skilled parliamentarians like career politician Mitch McConnell than by a guy who can't figure out how the committee assignment system works. John Boehner is your best hope, not your enemy. Yoho's first act as a member of Congress was to cast a rebellious leadership vote for Eric Cantor, a true conservative, and one who voted for John Boehner.


Naturally, Yoho's chief of staff also has no institutional expertise or relevant experience beyond an internship, because for some reason we have all agreed that what's wrong with Congress is "too much expertise and experience."

“I don’t care if things have been the same here for decades,” she said. “My motto is to go big or go home. I didn’t come up here to be like any other chief, I didn’t come here to fall into the crowd.”

This is basically what bad "Project Runway" contestants say, before they are eliminated. But Yoho has an incredibly safe Republican district so he will probably be around long enough to figure out how Congress works before some ignorant angry person primaries him.

(Speaking of large animal doctors, remember the story of then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist practicing surgery on gorillas during his lunch break? Or did I dream that?)

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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