Free Markets, Free People

Republicans

The National Political Scene

That scene is incredibly muddled and getting more muddled every day. In some ways, such as the Democrat retirements, it reminds me of the political atmosphere of 1994.  Charlie Cook, who knows Democrats and their electoral chances, pretty much writes the Democratic Senatorial majority off as a dead loss after 2010:

Come November, Senate Democrats’ 60-vote supermajority is toast. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how Democrats could lose the Senate this year. But they have a 50-50 chance of ending up with fewer than 55 seats in the next Congress.

When the Republican in the race for Teddy Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts is competitive, you know the electoral landscape has changed and just about anything is possible.

Of course, in terms of divided government, that’s very good news. The fact that it is Republicans, who for the most part, still don’t seem to have a clue, not so much. Of course that obviously depends on who the Republicans end up running, or winning, those seats. Florida’s race between Crist and Rubio is a good example. Crist is the moderate establishment (business as usual, McCain type Republican) while Rubio is more of the Tea Party conservative.

And it is there that the establishment Republican party seems to be missing the boat – again. After a sweeping victory by Barack Obama and the Democrats, the Republicans quite naturally tried to do a little soul searching and, for whatever reason, came to believe that their problem was they didn’t appeal to enough moderates. Yet in the year that has passed since the Obama administration has been in office and the Congress with prohibitive Democratic majorities has been wreaking its havoc, independents, who establishment Republicans choose to characterize as “moderates”, have been abandoning the Democrats in staggering numbers. And they’re looking for a place to go.

Why are they abandoning the Democrats? Because they bought into a myth a compliant and noncritical media aided and abetted concerning the new administration and now they’re seeing the radical truth. And they don’t like it.

However, what they don’t want is a merely less radical replacement. Democrat lite. What independents are in the middle of doing is rejecting, in toto, the Democratic agenda. Rasmussen and others have been providing these clues for months. In the latest Rasmussen poll:

With Democrats in majority control of both the House and Senate, it’s not surprising to find that 79% of Republicans are not confident that their congressional representatives are actually presenting their best interests, but 74% of voters not affiliated with either party agree. Democratic voters are evenly divided on the question.

74% of voters “not affiliated with either party agree” that their Congressional Rep (obviously that includes some Republicans) is not actually representing their best interests. Now that could be for any number of reasons, but on thing for certain, if 74% aren’t happy with their Rep, I’d guess they’re not happy with what the establishment Republicans are selling either.

Enter the Tea Partiers. First written off as brownshirts, angry whites, red-necks, un-American, ‘teabaggers’ and any other pejorative the left-wing thought it could get away with, the movement has grown into a political force. But make no mistake about it – it’s a populist movement. Regardless it has, to a large degree, managed to tap into this unhappiness with what is going on in Washington and give it some structure.

And what continues to astound me is the establishment Republicans seem to think that they “own” the movement – that when push comes to shove, this group will fall in line and vote for them.

Hello! Crist/Rubio!

There is going to be a war between the Teapartiers and the establishment Republican party. The Teapartiers don’t necessarily support or even like many of the establishment Republicans. As a result that war is going to be waged in primaries. And much like it was on the left (Lamont/Lieberman) it is a war for the soul of that party. Establishment Republicans really don’t seem to understand that – yet. So we see stories like this one where the establishment party is said to have “soured” on Sarah Palin. Love her or hate her, she represents as well as anyone, the populist nature of the movement that the Republicans don’t seem to yet understand. Add the stupidity of the leadership and the visible infighting within the establishment wing of the party, and you hold little hope that they will wake up in time to smell the roses and figure out the formula for electoral success.

What part of this don't Republicans get?

Where’s this all headed? To more polarized politics, if that is possible, with the sides much more differentiated – if the Teapartiers get their way. Republicans are going to be moved in a much more conservative direction, come hell or high water, if they want Tea Party support. And the Tea Party movement is going to attract (has attracted?) enough of the independent voters to make the electoral difference.

Conventional wisdom says the electorally successful win by appealing to their base, picking off enough independents to make the difference and then governing from the center. I don’t think that CW is valid anymore. It appears that the public has finally had the scales removed from their eyes with the present administration. The premise that a centrist government is what America wants has been overcome by events. Those events, products of that centrism, have given us the state of affairs with which we’re now afflicted – a welfare state with huge deficits, a debased currency and a behemoth government that is out-of-control. Listen closely to those who spoke up at the summer town halls. It wasn’t just about Democrats and Republicans, folks – it was about the direction of the country and the realization that both parties had participated in creating the horrendous mess we now enjoy.

All of that to say that CW is ready to be turned on its head and, in fact, people (to include independents) are demanding action to roll back government and reduce spending. That should be right in the Republican’s wheel house. Yet instead of really talking their supposed principles and actions to accomplish them, establishment Republicans still insist that it is more important to ensure they have a “big tent”. That is a complete sell out of their principles. The “tent” is established by those principles. What Republicans have to do is fashion a message that makes that tent attractive and brings people to them. That’s what will make it “big”. Compromising their principles to fill the tent is a sure way to lose – and that’s precisely what they’ve proven over the last few elections.

Politically, 2010 is going to be a very interesting year to watch. For libertarians, the best hope is divided government and a Republican party that rediscovers its primary principles and decides to live up to them. I think we’ll get the divided government. However, my concern is the midterms will see enough Republicans elected, despite themselves and their lack of a principled stand, that the important message about principles will continue to be lost on them – again. That will result in a Senate not much different than we have now, where compromise and collegiality are more important than principle and the people. That means big government, more spending and more deficit. And that means Republicans will remain the minority party and out of the White House in 2012.

~McQ

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Health Care Reform – Left and Right

In case you missed it, which is entirely possible, it appears one of the potential “show stoppers” for the reconciliation of the health care reform bill between Democrats in the House and Senate is no longer an issue. Surprisingly that would be the “public option”.

A week or two ago, the House Whip, Rep. James Clyburn, made it clear in an interview that the House wouldn’t be rubber stamping the Senate’s version of reform. No sir. Because, you know, the House isn’t some second class legislative body and it has certain requirements that must be in a bill, such as a strong public option, before the support of House Democrats can be considered to be behind it.

That, of course, was then. Now Rep. Clyburn is singing a different tune:

“We want a public option to do basically three things: create more choice for insurers, create more competition for insurance companies and to contain costs. So if we can come up with a process by which these three things can be done, then I’m all for it. Whether or not we label it a public option or not is of no consequence,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

When asked by CBS host John Dickerson whether he could give his support to a bill that has no public option, Mr. Clyburn said “Yes, sir, I can.”

I’m sure that Clyburn actually meant he wanted something which created more “choice for the insured” vs. “insurers”, but nevertheless his defense of dropping the public option is exceedingly weak by anyone’s standard. That’s not to say dropping it is a bad thing – obviously I’d like to see the whole bill dropped. But that’s not going to happen. However it is interesting to watch the willful self-delusion necessary to state the Senate bill does these things parroted by someone who was adamantly against the Senate’s version of the bill because it lacked that very thing he now says it contains.

And, of course, it doesn’t “create more choices for the insured” or more “competition for insurance companies” and it certainly doesn’t “contain costs”. It mostly increases government’s intrusion into the market by mandating coverage (Who is going to monitor and enforce that? Government.), requiring insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions (Monitor? Government. Result? Increased cost.) and increase taxes (Enforced by? Government. Result? Increased cost, although not “direct”.).

It also leaves a significant portion of the uninsured uninsured. Well, not really. They either self-insure or pay a fine (or, got to jail). In fact, this bill is so bad that even the ever dependable statist hack Bob Herbert is having problems swallowing the “major accomplishment” line on this boondoggle. He’s not at all happy with one particular provision in the bill. Methinks it’s probably because Mr. Herbert knows he’s one who will be paying for it:

The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it’s a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care.

The so-called “Cadillac health plans” are those which cost more than what the government (via the Senate bill) has decided cost more than what it arbitrarily has designated as a “cost-effective” health care plan. In other words, it has declared a certain amount paid for health care coverage to be “enough” and anything over that excessive and taxable. The entire intent of the bill is to make those who enjoy better health care insurance benefits pay for the privilege through a tax penalty which will then subsidize those who don’t have insurance to the tune of 150 billion.

As Herbert realizes, that means a number of things might happen, none of which translate into “if you like your coverage, you can keep it”.

The idea is that rather than fork over 40 percent in taxes on the amount by which policies exceed the threshold, employers (and individuals who purchase health insurance on their own) will have little choice but to ratchet down the quality of their health plans.

These lower-value plans would have higher out-of-pocket costs, thus increasing the very things that are so maddening to so many policyholders right now: higher and higher co-payments, soaring deductibles and so forth. Some of the benefits of higher-end policies can be expected in many cases to go by the boards: dental and vision care, for example, and expensive mental health coverage.

Proponents say this is a terrific way to hold down health care costs. If policyholders have to pay more out of their own pockets, they will be more careful — that is to say, more reluctant — to access health services.

Notice how it is in the private market that these “proponents” seem to be aiming their “cost cutting” knife. Tell me – how does cutting costs in these private plans at all effect the 89 trillion in future benefit obligations of Medicare and Medicaid? That’s where the unaffordable costs are. Isn’t that the area where government should be focusing its “cost cutting” effort? Sure it claims it will cut 500 billion from Medicare – something absolutely no one believes will be done. But this so-called “cost cutting” measure aimed at “Cadillac plans” is pure and unadulterated semantic nonsense.

There’s no benefit in terms of “cutting costs” to be found in taxing them. It’s a revenue stream, pure and simple. The “cost savings” rhetoric is purely to dupe those who don’t know any better. It does nothing to “cut costs”.  In fact, it increases the cost of those plans. But it does accomplish two “progressive” goals – it levels the benefit field so the vast majority of people, most likely including the entire middle class, is on “equal footing” with everyone else, especially the “poor”. In fact, only the rich will enjoy Cadillac plans after the Senate gets done with it (oh, and the Senate of course, which has exempted itself from what we proles are allowed to have).

The other goal it will supposedly accomplish is ration health care consumption without calling it that (increasing the cost will impose self-rationing). And, it will do it through cost. Yes, irony of ironies, that was exactly the complaint progressives used to support government intervention in this market. But as we all know, the left is irony impaired. By jacking up co-payments to levels that hurt, people will indeed be less likely to consume health care. But that’s not a “cost cutting” measure no matter how badly progressives want to characterize it as such. Because someone will be consuming health care. It’s a finite product and government is in the middle of expanding the market by millions and millions at a higher cost (pre-existing conditions) than before.

Newt Gingrich is out there saying Republicans should be running on repealing this bill (obviously assuming it will pass and be signed into law). I agree. This is the perfect platform and perfect example of government out of control. The good news, if there is any, is the bill is structured in such a way (taxes begin immediately, benefits don’t kick in for 4 more years) that it can be repealed before the damage is done.

Unfortunately, and I say this based on history, the Republicans most likely won’t have the stomach to just repeal it and return to the status quo, or even better, pass legislation that enables the market (tort reform, sell insurance over state lines, etc). My guess is they’ll get wobbly and assume they have to pass some sort of nonsense that appeases the whining on the left. Of course it won’t appease the left’s whining – their compromises never do – but it will compromise the Republican’s principles – again. That’s assuming the same old faces that got the GOP in the mess it now finds itself in are still running the show then. I think you get my point.

So, in summary, the stage is set to pass this monstrosity. The stage is also set for the GOP to use its passage as a platform for electoral success and its eventual repeal. If even Bob Herbert understands that his travesty does much more harm than good, then the average voter is going to pick up on it as well. And since it is going to effect that average voter immediately while they see no benefit from the increased taxation, the GOP should have a very strong case to make. But they better have their ducks in a row and be willing, for a change, to actually stand on principle and then once in power, have the spine to implement those principles and do what is necessary to roll back government intrusion, power and spending.

And that, of course, is the weakness of the plan – the GOP has never, ever, shown it has the cajones to live up to its principles once in power. That’s because the perks of power are just too seductive and the incentives of the existing political system work at odds with any stand to limit them.

~McQ

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Lindsey Graham And “Climate Change”

Or, what Lindsey Graham may end up costing you.  He was interviewed by the AP concerning his advocacy of AGW (which he says was something he learned about from John McCain and Hillary Clinton).  Here’s his answer to one of the questions:

Q: How did you get involved in this issue?

A: It was a slow evolution. I started traveling with Sen. (John) McCain, who has been a climate change advocate for a long time, and I went to the Arctic region with him and Sen. (Hillary Rodham) Clinton. I came to the conclusion from listening to the scientists … from people who lived in the regions, that the canary in the coal mine is in the Arctic regions, and that the planet is heating up. How much is caused by greenhouse gases, I don’t know. But I believe to some extent it’s a contributing factor. …

Now, why did I choose to do something this time around? … The one thing that I could say without any doubt, that the best chance to create jobs for the future here in this country is energy independence. And you will never become energy independent until you price carbon.

Where are the friction points to getting to 60 votes (to advance a bill)? If the emissions standard is not meaningful, if it’s not economy-wide, I don’t think you get there. This whole issue of China and India and a global regime looms large in getting 60 votes in the Senate. Without some assurances that this is not a unilateral surrendering of market share to China and India — because our companies will have a burden imposed upon them not shared by China and India — is a huge political problem. … Those are some of the trip wires that exist to getting to 60 votes.

First the false premise – you can easily get to “energy independence” without pricing carbon. The whole purpose of pricing carbon is to cut emissions, not create “energy independence”. Fully exploit existing energy resources, build new clean (nuclear) energy production facilities and aggressively pursue clean and renewable energy solutions. That’s how you become “energy” independent. Government’s role, if any? Enabling that process.

Secondly, Graham outright admits that without the participation of India and China, we would be ceding market share to them because they wouldn’t have to face the costs we would face. So there’s no question he understands that any pricing of carbon is going to cost the US economy. He’s not averse to that, he simply wants it to be a shared burden which puts them at the same disadvantage as us. That’s nuts. We’re in a deep recession and he’s talking about steps to deepen it. And even if we weren’t in a recession, he has to be aware the science is dubious and the effect most likely marginal at best if they imposed the most stringent controls possible.

Graham isn’t up for election this cycle or the next, but in 4 years his day comes. If he becomes a party to this sort of economy killing device in cahoots with John Kerry, Republicans had better find a suitable primary opponent to run against him, because if they don’t my guess is he’ll be looking for work after the 2014 election and SC will have a new Senator – even if he’s a conservative Democrat.

Oh, and Climate-gate?

Q: What are your thoughts on the scandal over the hacked e-mails from some prominent climate scientists, which many Republicans have claimed discredits the science showing that pollution is causing climate change?

A: Well, I never embraced this from that point of view. You will never convince me all these cars, and all these trucks, and all these power plants spewing out carbon, fossil fuels, day in and day out for 60 or 70 years is a good thing. It makes perfect sense to me that this amount of carbon pollution over a long period of time has had a detrimental effect on the environment. I don’t get wrapped up into how much is caused by man, or how much is caused by nature. I do believe pursuing clean air and clean water is a good thing for my generation to do.

Science – we don’t need no stinkin’ science. We’ll just “price carbon”, put the economy in the crapper and lo and behold, clean air will abound. The true statist’s answer to everything – more government, more cost, less freedom.

~McQ

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Interview with Tom Campbell, CA Gubernatorial candidate

I spoke with Tom Campbell for over 45 minutes on a range of topics, and I’ve split my posts on that discussion into two posts, one here and one over at The Next Right. Here at QandO, I’m going to cover the more policy-oriented topics, and over at The Next Right the topics have to do with new media, elections, and the politics of fiscal conservative governance.

It pains me to see my native California in such dire straits. The state is broke, farms are collapsing, and unemployment is over 12 percent. The public colleges that might help retrain a lot of those workers are slashing classes.

The tax and regulatory burden has finally overcome the state’s many natural advantages, leading its citizens to abandon the Golden State. And these are people who can’t be having an easy time selling their homes: California, one of the first to suffer in the real estate collapse, is still near the top of the heap in foreclosures.

California, as we say, has issues. I talked with Tom Campbell about some of the most important ones: the budget deficit, jobs, health care, education, water and infrastructure.

Continue reading

Poll Says Public Beginning to Blame Democrats For Recession

It was inevitable (the party in power always gets blamed – eventually), but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the fact that this perfect storm may crest precisely at the 2010 midterms (although you shouldn”t count out the possibility of Republicans completely blowing the opportunity):

Nearly two years into the recession, opinion about which political party is responsible for the severe economic downturn is shifting, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday morning indicates that 38 percent of the public blames Republicans for the country’s current economic problems. That’s down 15 points from May, when 53 percent blamed the GOP. According to the poll 27 percent now blame the Democrats for the recession, up 6 points from May. Twenty-seven percent now say both parties are responsible for the economic mess.

“The bad news for the Democrats is that the number of Americans who hold the GOP exclusively responsible for the recession has been steadily falling by about two to three points per month,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “At that rate, only a handful of voters will blame the economy on the Republicans by the time next year’s midterm elections roll around.”

I’ll say it again – gridlock is good. It has a tendency to weed out all the extremist garbage and narrows the focus of legislation greatly. It also limits the power of the President, as it should be. So I’m quite pleased with this turn of events. And as you might imagine, the “current economic problems” is code language for “jobs”. No jobs, no peace, and a tough re-election campaign from Democrats next year.

Guess who the Congress is mad at?

It’s the economy, stupid.

As an aside, speaking of tough re-elections next year, John McCain is in a statistical dead heat with a GOP primary opponent next year.

Nice.

~McQ

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Thinning The RINO Herd?

Here’s an interesting exchange between Chris Wallace and Republican GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Fox News Sunday yesterday:

WALLACE: Let me turn, because I would — I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t ask you a few political questions, Senator.

Conservatives are now talking about launching primary challenges against candidates who are actually picked by the Senate Republican leadership in a number of states. We have them up on a map there — in Florida, in Connecticut, in Illinois, in California, and your home state of Kentucky.

In fact, it has gotten so serious that the National Republican Senate Committee has stopped endorsing candidates because it seems that it creates a grassroots backlash.

How concerned are you — how much of a threat is this split within the GOP to your chances in 2010, the way it kind of messed up things in that upstate congressional district in New York?

MCCONNELL: No threat at all. I mean, what you see here is enormous enthusiasm to run. People believe that getting the Republican nomination means you have a good chance of winning.

And so we’ve got, for example, a four-way primary in Connecticut for our nomination, a state we haven’t been competitive in in a very long time. So our view is this is an indication of the shifting political environment.

We all know the Gallup poll just last week, in response — asked the American people if the election were held today would you vote for the Republican candidate for Congress or the Democratic candidate for Congress. Our side had a four-point lead. Among independents it had a 22-point lead.

The political landscape, Chris, has shifted dramatically in the last year…

WALLACE: But — but let…

MCCONNELL: … since this administration, and that’s…

WALLACE: … but let me just…

MCCONNELL: … why all of these — that’s why all of these people want to run for office.

WALLACE: But let me just briefly ask you about the political landscape within the party, because it now seems that an endorsement by the National Republican Senatorial Committee is a bad thing, not a badge of honor.

MCCONNELL: Well, they generally don’t endorse anyway. So it doesn’t make any difference. I mean, we’re happy that there are a lot of people running, and the reason they’re running is because they think the nomination’s worth having because they think they can win in November.

Now I find all of that very interesting for a couple of reasons. One:

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s public support is collapsing in South Carolina – driven by a wholesale revolt among the GOP electorate and a steady erosion of his support amongst independents.

Already consistently loathed by a solid third of GOP voters, Graham’s recent leftward bent – including his co-authoring of a controversial “Cap and Tax” proposal supported by President Barack Obama and liberal Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) – has him locked in a “terminal free fall,” according one prominent Republican consultant.

I told you about that in a post entitled “Why The GOP Remains A Minority Party“. Graham is typical of the type of politician the conservative base is sick and tired of. While NY-23 was the harbinger, Graham’s defeat in a primary would be the definitive signal that the game has decidedly changed within the GOP. Mitch McConnell, putting the best face he can on it, has obviously sniffed out the trend and is “enthusiastically” supporting it.

That’s the second thing I find interesting – will the NRSC be throwing funds Graham’s way in his next re-election campaign (certainly doing so would be interpreted as a sign of endorsement) or not? Taking McConnell and the NRSC at their word (always an iffy bet) I’d have to say no.

The bottom line here is the politicians are paying attention. Given McConnell’s words they don’t see this building opposition to the more “moderate” Scozzafava-type Republicans as going away. In fact, when McConnell says they’re seeing a “shifting political environment”, he’s admitting they’ve finally figured out where that shift is headed, the fact that it is not a fad or a temporary phenomenon and that he and the rest of the GOP politicians had better get on board or find themselves facing a primary opponent.

I’m going to be very interested to see where that leaves mushy old Lindsey Graham in all of this when election time rolls around.

~McQ

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Why The GOP Remains A Minority

About a week ago, amidst all the hoopla about the health care bill and then missed when the atrocity of Ft. Hood occurred, was this:

Even as a Senate global-warming bill remained in limbo with Democrats refusing to delay a committee vote until an economic analysis was completed, hopes rose for a potential bipartisan compromise.

The Senate, meanwhile, appears to be moving away from the bill, authored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., which would require a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 and would have the government sell the right to emit carbon dioxide.

Even as Boxer conducted an unusual one-sided hearing on her bill in the Environment and Public Works Committee, Kerry, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., held a news conference to announce they are working on a compromise that might attract GOP votes and has earned a tentative endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

So, here we have a Republican, sort of, lending a hand to the Democrats and buying into the premise that a) this cap-and-trade economy killer of a tax is valid and b) needed. He just wants to modify it a bit:

Kerry, Lieberman and Graham released few details about the new bill, but said it would include a cap and trade proposal. They said it would also address increasing nuclear energy, more drilling and clean coal technology, all initiatives that are high on the wish list of Republicans willing to work on a climate change compromise.

Of course this is the sort of legislative formula which is killing our country. This is exactly how the lousy legislation gets through the system. Republicans like Graham buy into the premise of cap-and-trade, try to get it reduced just a little bit to make it more palatable, and then  attempts to sell it by including things that Republicans want – more drilling, nukes and clean coal.

The problem, of course, is with Democrats in charge, you can count on cap-and-trade being implemented, but for some reason, you can bet that more drilling, nuclear power and clean coal just won’t see the same urgency to implement found among majority Democrats. So in essence, what Graham is proposing is tantamount to selling out the GOP’s principled position for the 30 pieces of silver offered in promises for things Republicans want.

You’d think by now, having watched the Democratic shenanigans with drilling (are we doing so yet or are they still “slow-walking” the process) they’d know better.

The Graham capitulation has been noticed by his home state party.

The Charleston County Republican Party’s executive committee took the unusual step Monday night of censuring U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham for stepping across the GOP party line.

County Chairwoman Lin Bennett said the unanimous vote “is an effort to get his attention. They (party leaders) are just fed up, and they want him to know they’re fed up.”

The resolution mentions Graham’s cooperation with U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on a bipartisan energy bill, and his support for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program and the time he called some opponents of immigration reform “bigots.”

Sure it’s only one county doing so, but it is an unusual step. And frankly, I think it is a long overdue one. Graham’s actions, as far as I’m concerned, are one of the main reasons the GOP is in the shape it is in. There is a time to work in a bi-partisan manner and there is a time to stand on principle. The GOP supposedly believes we’re over taxed, a position I happen to support as well. So why is a member of that party stepping across party lines and lending support to what everyone, even Democrats, acknowledge is a new huge and burdensome tax?

Why should anyone ever believe Lindsey Graham again when he says he’s against new taxes when he’s involved with Democrats proposing one? Why should anyone ever believe Lindsey Graham when he says he’s against excessive spending when he voted for TARP?

The answers to those two questions tell you precisely why even the GOP’s base doesn’t trust Republican legislators and why their collective poll numbers remain dismal. Calling Graham to account for his position is both healthy and necessary if, in fact, the GOP is serious about its principles. And, if the Tea Parties are any indication, it is clear the base is. And apparently the GOP’s grass-roots are willing to stand up as well as indicated by this county organization’s censure of Graham.

I wonder if Graham will get the message or arrogantly dismiss it as he’s been known to do in the past? The reason the GOP is in the minority right now isn’t because it is a conservative organization that appeals only to old white men in the South. It’s a minority organization because its own base doesn’t trust it to live up to its own principles. How do you generate the enthusiasm necessary to turn out the vote if what the base is left to vote for is a version of Lindsey Graham’s Democrat lite?

~McQ

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Analyzing Last Night’s Vote

Michael is of the opinion that last night’s results tell us fiscal conservatism is back in vogue. I think there’s certainly a hint of that in the VA win. What is certainly true is voters in VA rejected the Democratic message. And more remarkable was the fact that they rejected it down ticket as well – a sweep for the Reps. Not only that, they picked up majorities in heavily Democratic suburbs.  The size of the victory was stunning, to say the least.

But was it a rejection of the Democrat’s principles, an embrace of fiscal conservatism, a repudiation of the Obama administration or simply a reflection of the unease people feel with the economy and a belief Republicans handle that better? Or was it a little of all of those things?

What I’m driving at is both sides have a tendency to read too much into electoral wins, take off on a tear and find themselves on the losing side the next time around. The VA win, of all of the votes last night, was the biggest win for the GOP. But they need to temper their assessment so they, like the Democrats have, don’t overreach.

NJ, on the other hand, was a horse of a different color – or should I say donkey. Corzine had abysmal poll numbers well in front of the election. One of the biggest concerns among voters there was the corruption in government – it was rampant. And interestingly, the Republican candidate for governor, Chris Christie, had lead the fight against corruption, quite successfully I might add. So I’m not so sure that NJ, while still a huge win for the R’s, was so much a repudiation of Democrats and their principles as it was a repudiation of a specific incumbent. Again, the GOP should tread carefully to avoid reading too much into the NJ win.

That, of course, brings us to NY-23. The lesson in NY-23 can be summed up in one sentence, uttered last night by Brit Hume: “That’s why you have primaries”. The story here isn’t necessarily that the Democrat won. Given the disarray on the Republican side, I’m surprised it was as close as it was. Instead, it is about how badly the establishment GOP screwed up their selection process. Someone needs to tell them that the days of backroom selections which don’t reflect the desire or mood of the constituency were over a century ago. Had they had their primary and Hoffman won then it is hard to believe that the same level of support from the NRCC with no Scozzafava on the ballot siphoning off 5% of the vote (or campaigning for the Democrat) wouldn’t have yielded a much different outcome. In other words, establishment Republicans blew the election, not the activists. The good news for Republicans is they get to do this again in NY-23 in 2010. Let’s see if they can do a better job this next time.

All in all, a pretty decent night for the party that was in the wilderness not 6 months ago. But caution in interpreting the results should indeed be their watchword. In my opinion, establishment GOP types have not yet quite figured out the conservative insurgency which is now going on among them (and reflected in the Tea Parties, etc). Look for other challenges to Scozzafava-type candidates to continue in the future. They need to understand that much of their base has already rejected the usual approach to identifying candidates for office and that part of the base is willing to buck the establishment picks as they did in NY-23. In fact, NY-23, although a loss, will only encourage them.

The last observation I’ll make has to do with so-called independents. Indies went heavily for the GOP in the two governor’s races last night. That, if anything, should worry Democrats. Independents were the swing vote that decided the last presidential election. In a single year, they’ve found at least some Republicans worth their vote.

Additionally, this time it was the Republican base which was motivated. Democratic turnout was much lower in almost all areas of NJ and VA. And, unlike 2008, the young reverted to form and stayed home. Those are trends for the GOP to build on. However, as noted, they need to avoid over reaching as they do so.

~McQ

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Fiscal Conservatism Big Winner Tonight

Landslide victories up and down the ticket in Virginia, a somewhat surprising upset in the Democratic stronghold of New Jersey, and a fine showing (and potential victory?) in upstate New York tonight, all make one thing clear: fiscal conservatism is back. The Republican Party will try to seize the moment as their call to ascendance, but that’s wishful thinking. The real victor tonight is fiscal conservatism. If the GOP doesn’t get on board, then they should expect to be wandering in the wilderness for a little while longer.

With that in mind, let’s think about the NY-23 race for a moment. As I’m writing this, it looks like the results won’t be known for some time. The conservative upstart and darling the grassroots Tea Party movement, Doug Hoffman, is trailing with a majority of the precincts reporting. However, as I understand it the exit polls give him the edge, there are several conservative-leaning precincts that haven’t been counted, and the number of absentee ballots (which won’t be tallied for some time) far outpaces the difference between Hoffman and the Democrat Bill Owens. In short, we probably won’t know the result of this race anytime soon. So be it.

Let’s assume that Hoffman loses. What does that mean? Liberals will point to the fact that, in races where someone was actually sent to Washington and thus could have a direct effect on Obama’s agenda, the Democrats made a clean sweep. GOP old-timers like Newt Gingrich will be quick to chide the base for supporting a third-party candidate thus handing a formerly Republican seat to Pelosi and her crew. Both will be completely wrong.

The idea that Democrats got a clean sweep of DC seats is an interesting spin, but it doesn’t make much sense in the long run. The way that House elections are districted virtually ensures party control of those seats, pretty much by design. That a Democrat wins an election as a Representative of a Democratic district is hardly indicative of anyone’s agenda, much less as a referendum on the latest national policy being rammed down our throats debated in Washington. Moreover, any knowledgeable Governor-elect knows that the health care bills proposed by Congress will be making their lives much more difficlut if passed, simply by virtue of the fact that they all try to pass a good deal of the costs onto the states in order to meet that magical, Obama-approved number of $900 billion. And let’s not forget that the liberal media and the White House itself [Yeah, big dif — ed.] has been distancing itself from the results all this past week. You can’t have it both ways, but don’t think that will stop the libs from trying anyway.

On the GOP side, you can expect the establishment types to aggressively tut-tut the conservative cranks who put the wind in Hoffman’s sails. “Better to have a RINO who supports Boehner for Speaker than a Dem who’s a sure Pelosi vote,” will be the admonishment. “Poppycock!” should be the response. If smaller government and lower taxes are truly the desired goal, then electing someone whom nominally carries the Republican standard but walks and talks like a Democratic duck does not further that aim. Instead, it makes it harder to obtain because, by Newt Gingrich’s logic, the base would have to continue to vote for her regardless of how she actually votes while in office, just to maintain the Republican caucus. In reality, it’s much easier for a conservative base to be energized into voting to unseat a Democrat tax-and-spender than a Republican one. Having Scozzafava in that seat would impede that opportunity.

If, on the other hand, Hoffman pulls out the win against all odds (e.g. running as a third-party candidate, only getting one slot on the ballot to two each for the other candidates), that would be a remarkable and unmistakable victory for fiscal conservatives. To be sure, in my mind, the fact that Hoffman is the candidate whom the Democrat has to beat is already a victory for fiscal conservatism. But an actual electoral victory would be huge. It sends the clear message that Congress’ profligate ways are no longer acceptable, and it almost ensures that ObamaCare, PelosiCare or WhateverCare will never become a reality. That’s because, regardless of what liberal pundits and Democrat mouthpieces say, the politicians who depend on reading the Tea leaves correctly will quickly surmise that voting for the health care monstrosities coming out of Congress is a suicide mission. Self preservation dictates that these savvy solons legislate these monstrosities to a slow, painful death. The same could be said of Cap-and-Trade or any other erstwhile tax bill considered for passage. In the very least, therefor, a Hoffman win means that fiscal insanity is held in low regard for the next election cycle.

So hold your heads up high, pioneers, for the returns tonight strike a harmonious tune. Fiscal conservatism sets the beat, and that symphony sounds sublimely sweet.

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111 New Bureaucracies In House Health Care Bill

Hidden within the murky depths of the 1990 page health care insurance reform bill is a bonanza of new government bureaucracies among the numerous agencies, programs, funds and “corps”.

Among some off the new agencies, the list cites a Health Insurance Exchange; the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation; the Public Health Investment Fund; the Public Health Workforce Corps; an Assistant Secretary for Health Information; the Food and Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health; grant programs for alternative medical liability laws, infant mortality programs and other issues; and about 100 other government-sponsored creations.

If smaller and less intrusive government is one of the GOP’s guiding principles, then being the party of “no” on this particular monstrosity is the most principled stand they can make.

~McQ

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