Ann Wagner: Missouri Congresswoman in absentia

Missouri has produced great people who are a credit to our state and are known for their legacy of public service. Towering figures like Harry Truman, John Danforth, Thomas Eagleton, Dick Gephardt, Mel Carnahan, and Stuart Symington who’ve undeniably contributed in a meaningful way. Objectively speaking, great Missourians who we can all be proud of. Congresswoman Ann Wagner [R-MO CD 2] is not one of those great Missourians. Perhaps there was a time she could’ve been, but the Faustian bargain she has made with Donald Trump has divested her of whatever dignity she could’ve hoped to muster after what was an already lackluster congressional career.

In October 2016, Ann Wagner had the chance to stand on the right side of history with essentially no consequences. Donald Trump had just been heard on audio describing the ease at which he could commit sexual assault because “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” Wagner was running for re-election in a not especially competitive congressional district (which is true no longer) and had staked her career on fighting human sex trafficking. Wagner had every reason and arguably every responsibility to speak out against this candidate whose entire being dripped with misogyny.

She did speak out for those very reasons:

As a strong and vocal advocate for victims of sex trafficking and assault, I must be true to those survivors and myself and condemn the predatory and reprehensible comments of Donald Trump, I withdraw my endorsement and call for Governor Pence to take the lead.

This was a bold statement from a sitting congresswoman and could’ve been something that her constituents, many of them women, could’ve been proud of…it she hadn’t reneged on her position less than a month later.

Wagner, days before the election, appeared on disgraced St. Louis conservative Jamie Allman’s radio program to declare:

I have always been voting for Donald Trump, and I will do that next Tuesday, and I encourage everyone listening to vote for Trump as well.” She continued, “I don’t know why there has been some, perhaps some confusion here, but since last May, after Donald Trump released his list of Supreme Court justices, I made it clear that I am voting for Donald Trump. I want an entire ticket sweep up and down.

Since the 2016 election, Wagner has missed no opportunity to appear beside the President at bill signings and public events. Wagner’s sycophantic praises of the Trump administration, as well as the way she has clung to the McConnell/Trump agenda is baffling, considering there were about 177 GOP-held seats that gave the President a larger margin of victory than he received in Missouri’s 2nd. Therefore, it stands to reason that Wagner has tied herself to President Trump (voting with his position 96.6% of the time) because she thinks her constituents can be placated simply by the fact that she’s a die-hard Trump Republican. Wagner seems to have this notion that she doesn’t have to lower herself and meet with her constituents because (a) her conservative record inspires fundraisers, and (b) she thinks it’s enough to just be a reliable Republican vote and not necessarily represent the diverse views of the district.

In her three terms as a congresswoman, Wagner has never held a town hall meeting and has refused to debate democratic opponents. Her absence is so noticeable in the district that it has become an ongoing joke with all the Democratic candidates currently vying for the democratic nomination. One candidate, Cort VanOstran, frequently posts “Where’s Ann?” followed by his daily schedule declaring that voters can always find out “Where’s Cort.” Which is admittedly corny, but it wouldn’t work if Wagner didn’t have such a major communication problem. It’s a criticism that has stuck, at the Webster Groves 4th of July parade, Wagner made a very brief appearance but didn’t appear at the end of the parade route. At the Gateway Arch re-opening, Wagner arrived for the ribbon cutting but was gone very soon after. When she does address voters, it’s exclusively at Republican township meetings and not the open forums that even notoriously reticent politicians like Mitch McConnell attend.

Wagner may not know it yet; however, I suspect she does after the release of her most recent ad that is intended to “re-introduce her to voters” (a problem she wouldn’t have if she showed up, but this election will likely be the fight of her political life.) It has always been true in politics that representatives shouldn’t forget the people who sent them to Washington, because it will eventually come back to haunt them. That’s true in not traditionally competitive states like Indiana, where Sen. Richard Lugar lost a Republican primary because of votes to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and to support the DREAM ACT. It’s even more true at the congressional level: Remember that Eric Cantor was defeated in his primary and lost his chance to become Speaker of the House. Wagner occupies a seat that is about 9% more Republican leaning than the nation as a whole, and several independent agencies have rated Missouri’s 2nd as competitive. Ann Wagner will not be defeated in her primary, but her lack of connection with her constituents and loyalty to a man whom 45% of Missourians (many in her own suburban district) disapprove of in a year of democratic energy If I worked for the Missouri GOP I’d start reading the writing on the wall.