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2006 Election &Conservatives &Politics Richard Falknor on 07 Apr 2007

A “Big Tent” for Virginia Tenth District Republicans:But Is It Big Enough for Mainstream Conservatives?

Friday’s postal service brings an invitation for a Republican Jefferson Day Dinner on May 4 in Ashburn. The proposed program is surely consonant with Tenth District chair Jim Rich’s wish for ” a process that welcomes people into our party.”

The Republican event, which ordinary folks may attend for as little as $75 and for which the grand seigneurs of the party may pay $5,000 for ten dinner tickets and six tickets to a “VIP Reception” features Representative Frank Wolf and “special guest Edward Gillespie,” Virginia GOP chair, among others.

Readers will recall the consistently low ratings the National Taxpayer Union gives the good congressman as well as his failure to sign the Americans for Tax Reform taxpayer-protection-pledge which the president, 196 House members and 43 senators have affirmed.

Not to labor the fiscal point, Mr. Wolf has consistently voted to restrict political speech.

The veteran House incumbent is clearly uncomfortable with protecting property rights, but apparently finds a trip to Syria to treat with the chief of that benign regime a welcome relief from the tedium of northern Virginia.

Mr. Gillespie, of national renown, earned some earlier spurs by his spirited defense of the nomination of Harriet Miers as a justice of the United States when he was reported to have suggested that there was a “whiff of sexism and a whiff of elitism” in the opposition to that failed presidential selection.

The Virginia chair is also an immigration buff.

On April 2, 2006 in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, the one-time RNC chair and author deplored a “narrowly focused border-security bill.” In a tag line attached to that article, the WSJ declared that “[h]is firm, Quinn Gillespie & Associates, represents clients who support a temporary guest worker program.”

The National Review reported in a cover story by John O’Sullivan in September 12, 2005, “the White House has helped set up a new bipartisan coalition to push for more open immigration. It will be headed jointly by two former congressmen (one Republican, one Democrat); organized by a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie; and funded to the tune of between $50,000 and $250,000 by corporations such as Wal-Mart. It is to be called ‘Americans for Border and Economic Security’ (or ABES) and it is meant to soften up public opinion on behalf of the president’s immigration reforms.”

But as immigration expert Mark Krikorian just this week wrote in National Review on Line, “[T]he fundamental political split in the future is America vs. post-America — and whatever their intentions, the supporters of mass immigration and loose enforcement are objective allies of the party of post-America.”

The party may well continue to celebrate all sorts and conditions of Virginia Republicans: spenders, taxers, muzzlers, governmentalists, capitulators, and porous-border voices!

But those Virginian Republicans who are in the national conservative mainstream will wonder whether they are still a valued part of the state GOP. They will also ask themselves whether those now ascendant in the Virginia Big Top will lead us to even greater political disaster in 2008.

After all, John Fund reports from a national perspective last Thursday that “thousands of punters who take positions on the 2008 presidential race at Intrade.com or the Iowa Futures Market judge that Democrats have a 57% chance of recapturing the White House next year.”

2006 Election &Maryland politics &Politics Richard Falknor on 28 Nov 2006

Maryland Conservatives and the Ehrlich Interlude

This is the moment for Maryland conservatives to began rebuilding, now, not sometime next year, not waiting for the Maryland Republican establishment complicit in the many opportunities forsaken in the last four years, nor for some Maryland (possibly center-right) “leader” who will relieve us of the burden of hammering out practical, sometimes bi-partisan new approaches and of organizing county by county and local jurisdiction by jurisdiction.

But to proceed wisely and effectively, we first need to review the last four years.

Of course, it will be some time before all the 2006 Maryland voting numbers are thoroughly crunched. In the meantime, as the hoary maxim says, victory has a thousand fathers and defeat is an orphan.

The Republican establishment, statesmen ever, in Maryland and nationally, put the blame for gubernatorial and Congressional defeat on forces for which, naturally, they cannot plausibly be held accountable, largely “the war in Iraq.”

Less frequently is the blame placed on the president’s ineptness as wartime commander-in-chief or as legislative leader, or on the Congress, or particularly the Senate for abandoning some first conservative principles. And certainly not on Republican incumbents nationally and in Maryland simply for ignoring their base. As Peggy Noonan so aptly pointed out last spring,

“One gets the impression party leaders, deep in their hearts, believe the base is . . . base. Unsophisticated. Primitive. Obsessed with its little issues. They’re trying to educate the base. But if history is a guide, the base is about to teach them a lesson instead.”

But some election numbers are already indisputable. Tim Pawlenty, in one of the bluest of states, eked out reelection as governor in Minnesota. Mark Sanford, many of his party enraged with his adherence to conservative principle and particularly his bringing two pigs into the state House chamber to illustrate the porking in the state legislature, triumphed in his reelection as governor of South Carolina.

The governor of Maryland lost many votes that he had received in 2002, but he still did better overall than the U. S. Senate candidate Michael Steele. Mr. Steele became the darling of the Washington, D. C. conservative commentariat, but his warm and fuzzy campaign for United States Senator was, to put it charitably, very light on substance.

A year’s campaign by Maryland and national taxpayer advocates could not persuade Mr. Steele to sign the no-new-taxes pledge, which most Republican U. S. Senators and the president had signed.

A useful benchmark Michael Barone gives us on Maryland is that in 2004, the president “[carried] whites 55%-44% and [lost] blacks 89%-11%.” Barone points out that 28 percent of Marylanders are black, and that Maryland and Virginia “have by far the two highest percentages of Federal and public employees.”

While it is probably true that the nation as a whole is more conservative than it was a decade ago, the elephant in the Republican living room is the battle between conservatives and advocates of governmentalism within their own party.

Willy nilly, the U. S. House Republicans focussed on bringing home the bacon. Outgoing Speaker Dennis Hastert reportedly underscored its importance to new Republican members. The president’s legislative leadership consisted of underwriting a greater and more expensive Federal role in public education, signing on to statutory restrictions on political speech, and risking budgetary and eventually national security through a vast new Medicare entitlement.

The Senate, under the tutelage of the White House, did its utmost to import poverty and hazard the integrity of the voting process through its immigration bill. Yet prominent Republicans in that body harassed the president’s efforts to protect the United States.

In Maryland, the new Republican governor called his 2002 election a mandate for slots. Too many General Assembly Republicans bought into this non-transparent tax that would create yet another slush find for even bigger government in Annapolis. In the words of the Wall Street Journal,

“Expanding a state government’s gambling empire hardly encourages those in charge of the purse to spend more wisely or thriftily. Which is why, as public policy goes, it’s a bad bet.”

As the Maryland Taxpayers Association warned in 2005,

Please do not be misled into believing that free-market and low-tax voices urge the growth of state gambling empires. They are more likely to see Maryland slots as ‘feeding the Annapolis beast’ with the money of society’s poorest.

Many Maryland conservatives know that the governor approved major tax hikes in 2004, and a state property tax hike in 2003. As his sometime chief of staff Steven Kreseski explained in 2003, “The governor just stated what he couldn’t accept [hikes in income and sales taxes], but there are 50 types of taxes he could accept.”

Over the course of four years, the now-outgoing governor managed to estrange himself from conservatives of many stripes: free-market and low-tax advocates, gun owners and gun-rights defenders, and traditional-values voices.

While not every Maryland conservative understood where the governor was on many arcane Annapolis issues, they certainly grasped his ham-fisted firing of Mr. Robert Smith from the WMATA Board for defending traditional marriage in a non-government venue and the governor’s jaw-dropping subsequent public defense of that act.

When the governor intervened in the 2006 Carroll County Republican primary in behalf of incumbent tax-hiking delegate Susan Krebs, he guaranteed a hostile reaction from the local conservative base which very likely diminished his expected plurality in Carroll County.

The Maryland Republican establishment either didn’t grasp or didn’t care that Mr. Ehrlich was a visible member of the Republican Main Street Partnership with its anti-culture-of-life, pro-governmentalist posture. After all, it had been decades since the Republican establishment had tasted the fruits of political power in Annapolis.

“Why rock the boat for some wingnuts,” the establishment must have reasoned. “Enough of bomb-throwers.” (Bomb-throwing is the Maryland Republican establishment’s term for nearly any principled conservative proposal.)

We now learn that the governor’s men are preparing a “book” about his “legacy.”

Perhaps any legacy prepared by those on the public payroll should include these lines:

“The governor did not grasp the moment when he vetoed the Wal Mart bill to offer an alternative to Maryland health-financing reform. He did not develop a bi-partisan approach to statutory eminent-domain reform. The governor did nothing toward systematic state and local regulatory reform. The governor did not try to reshape the Thornton Plan, a wrong-headed scheme to dump millions more into the failed Maryland education cartel. He did not try to head off the “gathering storm” of state pension liabilities by urging defined-contribution reforms. He did not try to privatize the state’s giant transport and other potentially commercial state activities, steps that could bring in substantial revenue. He seemed to be most energized when slots were on the table. Largely for this reason, Bob Ehrlich’s is a story of reform opportunities forsaken.”

The outgoing governor is not a bad public man. He is just no conservative; nor is he any kind of Reagan Republican, nor even a traditional-values-oriented low-tax Bush Republican.

Perhaps all of us Maryland conservatives bear some responsibility for the last four years for simply going along, trying to limit criticism to specifics, suggesting alternatives, and looking for common ground with Mr. Ehrlich wherever possible, in the delusory hope of convincing the governor to make incremental improvements along conservative lines. This cooperative model has generally guided the back-and-forth of national conservative groups with the Bush administration. But there was no back-and-forth with the Ehrlich administration.

The governor did not delude us. We deluded ourselves by trying to see what was not there. We must take care not to do so again.


2006 Election &Virginia politics Richard Falknor on 02 Nov 2006

Voting Right — Our Lives May Depend on It

ED: This posting first appeared on NoVaPolitics.

Next Tuesday we exercise our traditional voting rights for members of the Congress – - – in Virginia, we will vote for one US Senator and for our particular U S Representative.

Electing senators and representatives who will vote for Republican organization of their respective chambers is simply essential to winning the war we are in, and thus to defending America successfully – - – whatever the individual imperfections of any individual Republican candidate.

Some of our brethren unfortunately have not grasped the full dimension of the Islamic radicals’ war against the US. These conservatives see our fight as a distraction from other parts of our agenda, rather than as the preeminent challenge which the nation must surmount – - – along with the critical work of getting control of our borders, right-sizing government, taking back education from bureaucrats and multi-culturalists, and advancing a low-tax, job-growth economy.

All of us who work to help those conservatives and others see how the world we once knew is ending, should read and digest Mark Steyn’s definitive (to date) primer on this war and why we must win it. Steyn titles his book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It.

Victor Davis Hanson in his review of America Alone spells out the heart of Steyn’s message:

“Instead, day in and day out, on the op-ed pages of the British, Australian, Canadian, and American daily papers, Steyn has brought home the simple fact of this war: whatever mistakes we have made are not fatal if we keep our heads. As he puts it near the end of the book, the problem is not merely that we are only employing a fraction of our physical power: ‘This book isn’t an argument for more war, more bombing, or more killing, but for more will.’” [Underscoring added.]

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2006 Election &Virginia politics Richard Falknor on 22 Oct 2006

A “Heads Up” on the Wolf-sponsored Iraq Commission

ED: This posting first appeared on NoVaPolitics.

Conservative Virginia readers will want to pay close attention to the Washington Post’s endorsement of Representative Frank Wolf, the long-serving Tenth District Republican.

Here is one of the highlights of the Post’s October 14, 2006 paean to the senior member of the House appropriations panel:

“It was chiefly at his prodding that Congress established a bipartisan commission on Iraq, led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former representative Lee H. Hamilton, that represents the best hope at this point of forging a national consensus on how to proceed in the war.”

Last month, Insight Magazine quoted the congressman as saying:

“‘What the United States needs on Iraq is some fresh ideas from people able to speak out, and no one is more qualified to do that than Jim Baker,’ Mr. Wolf said.”

But national-security expert Michael Rubin has a different take on what he calls “The stacked Baker-Hamilton Commission.” In his Weekly Standard article Conclusion First, Debate Afterwards . . . Rubin writes – - -

“POLICYMAKERS ARE ABUZZ with the explosive recommendations for U.S. policy toward Iraq soon to be released by the Baker-Hamilton Commission: Abandon democracy, seek political compromise with the Sunni insurgents, and engage Tehran and Damascus as partners to secure stability in their neighbor.While former secretary of state James Baker and former representative Lee Hamilton said they would withhold their report until after the elections on November 7 to avoid its politicization, they have discussed their findings with the press. On October 8, for example, Baker appeared on ABC’s This Week, and the next day he discussed the group’s findings with Charlie Rose. On October 12, both Baker and Hamilton appeared on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.”

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2006 Election &Virginia politics Richard Falknor on 18 Oct 2006

Virginia Conservatives, “RINO-plasty,” and 2006

ED: This posting first appeared on NoVaPolitics.

There are too many reports of conservatives acquiescing in a 2006 Congressional defeat, perhaps escaping into their fantasy that Republicans will somehow be “punished” for straying from historic principles, and that a consequently “cleansed” party can return to power easily in 2008.

Theirs is a perilous path to follow. Jim Geraghty in National Review Online addressed this line of thought last May:

“Your effort to re-conservativize the Republican Party in Washington by staying home this year will have the effect of massacring the actual conservatives and empowering the moderates who you disdain. Perhaps we can call this counterproductive maneuver ‘RINO-plasty.’

But that’s okay, the staying-at-home-conservatives insist. The GOP will win back the House and Senate in 2008, establishing a true conservative majority.”

Geraghty explained:

“. . . [w]hat kind of lengths do you think the Democrats will go to in order to keep power once they’ve got it? Does the “Fairness Doctrine” ring a bell? You think Pelosi and Reid wouldn’t try that tactic to hinder conservative talk radio? How about McCain-Feingold 2.0, with a particular focus on controlling “unregulated speech” on the Internet and blogs?”

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2006 Election &Virginia politics Richard Falknor on 28 Sep 2006

Virginians in Congress: The Good, the Bad, and the Lost

ED: This posting first appeared on NoVaPolitics.

The Good: Last week, all sorts and conditions of Virginia House Republicans came together to support the Federal Election Integrity Act, H.R. 4844, requiring photo-identification to vote in Federal elections and proof of citizenship to register for Federal elections.

And, as a bonus to fiscal conservatives, Virginia Representative Eric Cantor teamed up with Indiana Representative Mike Pence to offer legislation, H.R. 6057, eliminating the capital gains tax on inflation. Some tax authorities argue that the Administration could do this by executive order. (Full disclosure: your correspondent was one of 20 signers of a coalition letter to Congress urging an end to taxing inflation on capital gains.) The Club for Growth has made H. R. 6057 a priority. That pro-growth voice reports 67 co-sponsors of the measure last evening.

The Bad: In a time of porous U.S. borders, one would think members of all parties would be eager to secure the US voting system. Lamentably, Virginia U.S. Representatives Robert Scott, Rick Boucher, and James Moran voted not to do so.

And Tenth District challenger for the U.S. House Judy Feder crows:

People in this district – indeed, all across Virginia and across America – are desperate for change and accountability in Washington, DC.”

But apparently that promised accountability does not extend to explaining where she stands on securing our voting system. NoVaPolitics asked Ms. Feder for her views on the Federal Election Integrity Act. She failed to respond.

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2006 Election &Virginia politics Richard Falknor on 28 Sep 2006

Powerlineblog Deconstructs Attacks on Allen

ED: This posting first appeared on NoVaPolitics.

Readers’ attention is invited to Scott Johnson’s analysis today of Larry Sabato’s charges against senator George Allen.

Johnson yesterday had raised questions about Sabato’s statements.

Powerlineblog, written by three lawyers, ranks among the very best of conservative blogs.

One hopes that Allen can move promptly to get the public’s focus back on national policy issues and the record of his opponent. Continually responding to ad hominem attacks of this nature becomes a mug’s game for the Senator. It is long since time for a scrutiny of Jim Webb’s public record and his views over the years.

2006 Election &Virginia politics Richard Falknor on 28 Sep 2006

Metro Pork — the Earmark That Keeps on Taxing

ED: This posting first appeared on NoVaPolitics.

Last July 17, in one of the House of Representatives leadership’s less prescient moments, that body approved arguably the largest earmark of modern times — $1.5 billion to the management-challenged Metro transit system. This stand-alone package (HR 3496) authored by Representative Tom Davis and supported by Representative Frank Wolf, two Virginia Republicans, has a special gift for the unwary taxpayer. In Heritage’s Ron Utt’s words:

As troubling as this inequitable transfer would be, Mr. Davis’s proposal also requires that, as a condition of Metro receiving the $1.5 billion federal bailout, all communities in its service area establish a “dedicated funding source” (a euphemism for a tax increase) to match the federal subsidy.

The danger is that this succubus could be attached to a genuinely urgent Senate vehicle and slide through to the president’s desk where veto pens may still be on order, if not under construction. Mr. Davis has no shame about standing behind this measure, and, consistently, voted for greater transparency on earmarks last Thursday. Mr. Wolf, on the other hand, appparently believes that the less sunshine the better on such dark matters and voted the other way on sunshine.

Some old-line Virginia Republicans, even if not entirely comfortable with these raids on the U. S. Treasury in behalf of local outstretched hands, nonetheless object to such public scrutiny of Republican spending during an election year. What they entirely miss is that this kind of egregious spending jeopardizes the House Republican majority nationally even if such Congressional largess may go down relatively smoothly in northern Virginia.