The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Jim Wheeler is a ‘slave’ to his constituents

Back in September, during the lead-up to the government shutdown, I slammed Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) as “Exhibit A in GOP lunacy.” He said then, “All that really matters is what my district wants. And my district is overwhelmingly in favor of my position.” Turns out Massie has nothing on Nevada Assembly member Jim Wheeler, who said he would vote to reimpose slavery if that’s what his constituents wanted.

Yesterday, a YouTube video surfaced of Wheeler responding to a question from a town hall attendee in August. Slavery came up when the freshman legislator referenced a 2010 blog post from a conservative critic who asked,  “[W]hat if those citizens decided they wanted to, say, bring back slavery? Hey, if it’s what the citizens want, right Jim?”

“If that’s what they wanted, I’d have to hold my nose, I’d have to bite my tongue and they’d probably have to hold a gun to my head, but yeah, if that’s what the citizens of the, if that’s what the constituency wants that elected me, that’s what they elected me for,” he said. “That’s what a republic is about. You elected a person for your district to do your wants and wishes, not the wants and wishes of a special interest, not his own wants and wishes, yours.”

Notice all those caveats? “I’d have to hold my nose.” “I’d have to bite my tongue.” “They’d probably have to hold a gun to my head.” Dude?!

How about telling those hypothetical constituents that slavery is a moral evil that has indelibly scarred this nation? How about reminding them that the 13th Amendment would make such a reprehensible vote unnecessary. How about telling those lost souls that what they want is wrong? In short, how about showing some leadership in the face of blatant stupidity?

Wheeler released a statement yesterday saying, “The media is having a good time with a clearly facetious statement I made in a town hall meeting earlier this year.” And he added, “I used an over the top example of something that I absolutely do not agree with, and even mentioned that to get me to vote for such a thing, my constituents would literally have to hold a gun to my head. In reality, that isn’t the case at all. If my constituents wanted to do something as outlandish as bring back an abhorrent system, then I simply couldn’t represent them anymore. They would remove me from office, or I’d have to resign.”

How nice that Wheeler found his moral core (however hollow it might be) after he got caught.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj