VA – 7: No endorsement

April 15, 2014

I have previously posted my views on the political bloodletting within the Republican Party of Virginia. For those who chose not to click on the link, I lamented the vitriol, lack of strategic thinking, and personalizations that I have seen from both “sides” of this battle. It’s as if issues don’t matter anymore.

There is no better example of this debacle than the fracas over the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District – which is why I refuse to endorse either candidate who remains.

The incumbent – Eric Cantor – has been accused of much by the “insurgents” within the GOP. I have no idea if any of them are true. I do know that he was a leading supporter of TARP (a.k.a., the bank bailout), an economic and political mistake for which Americans are still paying (especially Republicans, from the political angle). I already slipped on this banana peel once in 2012, and I will not do so again – ever. Eric Cantor will never win my endorsement for a Republican nomination (supporting the Ryan-Murray budget didn’t help either, but that’s a minor matter, compared to TARP).

This does not mean, however, that I can support his opponent, Dave Brat. Brat, for all his strong rhetoric on spending today, spent years as an aide to State Senator Walter Stosch, one of the most prolific tax-hikers in the RPV (the Warner tax hike of 2004, HB3202 in 2007, and Plan ’13 From Outer Space). Brat even donated to Stosch as he faced the fight of his political life in 2007 – his nomination fight against Joe Blackburn.

That in itself would be troubling enough. When one adds Brat’s own statements on foreign affairs – such as his insistence (Breitbart) that Communist China “is feeding 1.2 billion people for the first time in human history” through “free market capitalism” (there are over half a billion desperately poor Chinese in the rural hinterland who would greatly dispute both points if they were free to speak) and his own campaign website where he rails against “two unfunded wars” – it becomes clear that he is not ready for Washington anymore than Cantor is deserving to stay there.

I am grateful that my home is in the 4th District, as thus I need not cast a vote in the 7th. To be fair, either man is sure to be superior to whomever the Democrats nominate.

That said, I do not know who would receive my vote if I were in the 7th. I do know that neither of them have deserved it. Therefore, I endorse neither. 

Oh joy…another immigration flame-fest

April 6, 2014

So, new RPV Executive Director Shaun Kenney (full disclosure, close friend of mine) takes some time to sit with center-left activists on the immigration issue. Much of his talk centers around thanking them for stopping by, talking about how it’s important to talk to folks who don’t necessarily agree with them, and an observation on the debate that was miles above anything discussed on the matter since…

I genuinely believe that both sides of this debate want to do the right thing; it’s just a matter of getting those wires to touch.

It didn’t take long for the wires to vehemently protest. Soon Greg Letiecq (also a friend) was slamming Shaun for advocating amnesty - something which, I confess, I didn’t catch in the video excerpt Greg provided, although Greg and Shaun have made clear their disagreement on the issue for years. Soon Jeanine Martin and Brian Schoeneman (whom I would also call friends, but as I’ve never met either of them in person, I don’t know what they would think), joined in the fray, with Martin claiming Shaun would hurt poor people and Brian calling Jeanine and Greg racists (in the comments).

Yeah, it’s that kind of party.

Sadly, as both sides spent their time reminding themselves how wonderful they are – hey, we’re bloggers; it’s what we do – the questions I raised almost two months ago remain completely outside of the discussion:

  • What are we doing to encourage entrepreneurs to come to America?
  • What labor shortages in the American economy (such as, health care) can be alleviated via immigration reform?
  • How can we use our immigration policies to take advantage of capital flight in areas around the world, so that those who own that capital will feel more welcome here (along with their capital, of course)?
  • In other words, how can we use immigration reform as a supply-side economic opportunity, rather than merely an argument about Keynesian “aggregate demand”?

As I stated in that post, anything that doesn’t address the above subjects is just noise…which is exactly what we got from nearly everyone concerned – a lot of heat, but very little light.

As for Shaun, I’m glad he’s willing to talk to folks outside his political comfort zone. At the very least, we all need to remember how to disagree without being disagreeable.

I would have been much happier if he and Mr. Sajur had spent some time talking about the above topics….

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

On the Bank Bailout, the Buckley Rule, and Ed Gillespie

March 27, 2014

There has been increasing talk among Virginia Republicans about “the Buckley Rule,” and how it should impact decision on the nomination for U.S. Senate. There are, however, two problems with the application (usually from Ed Gillespie supporters): the rule isn’t quite what they think it is; and even if it did, Gillespie still wouldn’t qualify.

First of all, the rule itself is repeatedly “both misquoted and misapplied” as Neal Freeman noted in his account of when the rule was first promulgated (National Review). He should know; he was there. Buckley came up with the rule during the 1964 Goldwater-Rockefeller nomination battle. Despite what we may think, Rockefeller had his defenders on the right. He trailed LBJ by less than Goldwater, and his anti-Communism was rock-solid and unquestionable (Goldwater himself noted in his autobiography that before he decided to run himself, he was leaning to Rockefeller). It took months for NR itself to make a decision:

These intramural arguments, as I say, were protracted, begun in the winter and carrying on into the early spring. WFB sat at the head of the table, encouraging others to speak, keeping his own counsel. In early June, after Rockefeller had won the Oregon primary and Goldwater had won California, after all of us had had our say, after rumors had begun to creep out of 35th Street that NR might shift its support to Nelson Rockefeller — the equivalent, today, of word leaking out of 15th Street that the Washington Post might endorse Michele Bachmann — Bill, who rarely proposed, decided that it was time to dispose. With each of us in our assigned seat and with six pairs of eyeballs staring at him unblinkingly, Bill announced that “National Review will support the rightwardmost viable candidate.”

Victory for Team Goldwater! We all knew what “viable” meant in Bill’s lexicon. It meant somebody who saw the world as we did. Somebody who would bring credit to our cause. Somebody who, win or lose, would conservatize the Republican party and the country. It meant somebody like Barry Goldwater.

Indeed, NR did endorse Goldwater. More to the point, one year after this, Buckley himself chose to run for Mayor of New York – despite having no shot at winning – against the Republican establishment’s candidate, John Lindsay….

in the general election.

So clearly, those who use the Buckley rule as an electability argument have it wrong. However, even if they had it right, Ed Gillespie has a problem that sinks his electability: his support for TARP (a.k.a. the Bank Bailout).

Gillespie supporters will, of course, take issue with this. They will tell you (and me) that the key issue in 2014 isn’t the bank bailout, but the failures of the Obama Administration. As it happens, the critique against the Administration has three planks: government has grown massively large and costly; the economic “recovery” is so sluggish as to be hardly felt; and the president’s dangerous habit of assuming the Affordable Care Act is an American Enabling Act giving him legislative powers to change the law on the fly. The problem is that pro-TARP candidates are unable to use any of these arguments.

If Ed Gillespie tries to criticize the president and Mark Warner for reckless spending and government enlargement, Warner can throw the $700 billion bank bailout back in his face, but Mark Warner cannot accuse Shak Hill of supporting hundreds of billions in spending for America’s biggest banks.

Likewise, any attempt by Gillespie to discuss the economy will be trumped by Warner mentioning the 2008 financial crisis – and then remind everyone that Gillespie agreed the crisis was exceptional because of his support for the bank bailout. Only Shak Hill can remind voters that the bank bailout and hysteria ginned up by Washington to get it enacted made things worse, not better.

Finally, there is the fact that after TARP was enacted, Bush’s Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen rewrote the law at whim. That he had the authority to do so was bad enough, but Warner can play it simple and demand to know why Bush can change the law at whim but not Obama. Only Shak Hill can address this issue with the hypocrisy charge being thrown back in his face.

In short, Shak Hill can deliver the conservative message in 2014 far batter than Ed Gillespie can. As a result, he is a more “viable” candidate than Ed, and in my opinion, a more electable one, too.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

My thoughts on the current struggle within the Republican Party of Virginia

March 19, 2014

For those of you not familiar with the intricacies of the battle between the “establishment” and the “insurgents” in the Republican Party of Virginia, here’s a brief summary…

The 2013 campaign for the Republican nomination for Governor was short-circuited when Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling chose not to run. He was preparing for a primary, but in 2012 the Republican State Central Committee chose to make the nomination process a convention (reversing a previous decision). Bolling’s decision to drop out handed the nomination to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who went on to lose to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Bolling supporters and most moderates in the party are convinced that the switch to the convention was dirty pool on the part of Cuccinelli’s supporters. They are also convinced that Bolling could have defeated McAuliffe. They have responded by taking revenge on the “insurgents” or “Tea Party folks” by using the rules of convention calls to exclude those who they do not know or trust from the conventions (the process is known as “slating” – in effect, voting for only their “slate” of delegates to be allowed). It is within the rules, but considered very bad form, and the victims are furious at the “establishment.”

Folks in the party are taking sides, but I am not. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a pox on both houses.

Why I have no sympathy for the “establishment”: Given the actual events of 2013, I can’t help thinking that the entire Bolling campaign for Governor was just a cover for the tax hike (Plan ’13 From Outer Space). I’ll admit that probably isn’t entirely fair, but as just about every single Bolling supporter I know is arrogantly defending that piece of legislative drek, it’s more fair than the alternative. Moreover, the notion that Bolling could have done any better against Cuccinelli in a primary than in a convention completely baffles me. Had Bolling shown half the energy in 2013 that his backers are showing this year, he’d have won the nomination. Still, that’s not as important as the tax-hiking nonsense.

Why I have no sympathy for the “Tea Party folks”: They have spent far too much time flying their causes and issues into a mountain. To challenge Eric Cantor (whose support for the bank bailout is enough to open my mind to supporting a replacement), they endorsed an aide to Walter Stosch, tax-hiker extraordinaire, and then hurl invective at anyone who criticizes the move. In the 10th district, they have decided to throw everything including the kitchen sink at Barbara Comstock, who opposed Plan ’13 From Outer Space. Last year, they insisted that Ken Cuccinelli was the real deal, completely ignoring his appalling squishiness on the aforementioned Plan ’13. They have turned a revolt against higher taxes and spending into a conspiracy of personal vendettas that have done nothing to advance their cause.

In short, I’m being asked to take a side in “a Republican civil war” or “a battle for the soul of the party”…between a group of tax-hiking, big-government politicos on the one hand and a group of vengeful, incompetent fools on the other.

Sorry, but no dice. I will choose my endorsees based on the issues. As for the rest, I’m sitting it out until both sides begin to act like they deserve the power to govern. At this point, neither side does.


Cantor rips DeBlasio attack on charter schools

March 1, 2014

Virginia’s own Eric Cantor took the lead in blasting the New York Democrat’s order to shut down three charter schools (Washington Examiner):

“Mayor de Blasio has decided to continue his war against kids, most of whom live in poverty, by forcing charter schools to relocate or cancel scheduled openings. Poor and minority children deserve the best education opportunity possible, not to be stuck in failing schools because of the mayor’s hostility towards helping them. Tonight, parents will go to sleep worried that their kids will soon no longer have access to the education they need, and that is shameful. Most of these parents are struggling to get by, and their kids don’t deserve this,” said Cantor.

This isn’t the first time Cantor has gone after DeBlasio on this, but it took new urgency amid the mayor’s closure order, which is looking more and more like a personal vendetta against the charters’ operator, Eva Moskowitz (New York Post).

Cross-posted to Bearing Drift

Bob Marshall is now running in the 10th, but I still prefer Barbara Comstock

February 10, 2014

One week ago today, I endorsed Barbara Comstock for the Republican nomination for the 10th Congressional District. Since then, a new entrant, Bob Marshall, has caused me to rethink my decision – but not to change it. Barring the discovery of documentation showing that Delegate Comstock supported the bank bailout, she is still my preferred choice for the seat.

Don’t get me wrong, Bob Marshall has done yeoman’s work for all Virginia taxpayers in his 20-plus years as a Delegate. In fact, that’s half the problem: the House of Representatives is a far different body, one in which individual members have far less power than legislators do in Richmond. If Bob were running for the Senate, I would be thrilled; he’s not.

Moreover, Barbara Comstock is not your typical “Establishment” Republican in Virginia. Last year – as a Fairfax County Delegate with nearly every interest group screaming, begging, and cajoling her to support Plan ’13 From Outer Space – she said No.

In other words, assuming this comes down to Comstock and Marshall (and given the rest of the field, it almost certainly will), it is in fact a battle between two genuine supporters of limited government. The question is this: would Virginia be better served by Comstock in Washington and Marshall in Richmond? Or the other way around?

I think the answer is obvious. Virginia would lose far more than it could possibly gain if Marshall is sent to Congress. Better for him to stay where he is most valuable (Richmond), while Comstock can continue standing up for taxpayers in her own, quiet way in Washington.

The economy, blame, TARP, and what it means for the GOP

February 7, 2014

CNN conducted a poll on the state of the economy, and as one would expect, the people are not happy (emphasis added):

Thirty-six percent of those questioned rate the current economic conditions as good. That’s up four percentage points from December and it is the highest level since January 2008, a year before Obama entered the White House. Sixty-four percent continue to say the economy is in poor shape.

But that’s not the key takeaway. This is (emphasis added):

Five years into Obama’s presidency, only a third of the public believes that Obama and the Democrats are primarily responsible for the country’s current economic problems.

More Americans continue to blame former President Bush and the Republicans.  But the number who say the GOP is more responsible – now at 44% – has dipped below the 50% mark for the first time since Bush left the White House.  Fourteen percent blame both parties equally.

I would humbly submit that the above poll (which, as implied in the excerpt, had blame for Bush over 50% in 2012) is the most important poll of the last several years – more important than the demographic polls, or the issue polls, or the “branding” polls, or anything else. I say that because it makes clear that the economy is still a winning issue for the Democrats – and has been since 2008. It also reveals the way forward for the GOP – which the other polls don’t.

First, let’s address the key takeaway: how can it still be Bush’s fault five years after he left office?

The answer is the Democrats’ message on the economy, and the GOP’s complete inability to counter it – something we are in danger of seeing all over again in Virginia if Ed Gillespie is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

Ever since the president put his hand on the Bible the first time (in 2009), the Democrats have had the same message regarding the economy: “the crisis did it.” Any comments from the Democrats on the subject go back to the fall of 2008. That has been their get-out-of-jail-free card for five years…and it has worked because Republicans have been foolish enough to present supporters of the 2008 bank bailout as their leaders (Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, Romney, and Ryan). If your leaders all think things were so bad that the major banks needed $700 billion, it’s impossible to argue that the Great Recession and weak recovery that followed were due to Obama policies – no matter how true it might be.

This is why I can not support TARP supporters for Republican nominations. We should have learned this lesson when Romney lost (I know I did). Unless we nominated candidates who did not support TARP (and thus can argue that it did more to exacerbate the problems of 2008 than to solve them), we are simply swallowing the Democrats’ economic narrative whole. That means the economy is no longer a winning issue for us, period (it also means we can’t change the subject when “War on Women” nonsense comes up, because switching the economy does us no favors).

Until the Republican Party repudiates the bank bailout, it will always be blamed for the state of the economy so long as it remains this weak. We have to counter the Democrats’ narrative on 2008, and we can’t do this if we nominate candidates who agree that things were so bad that the bailout was necessary.

Unfortunately, for all my friends who support Ed Gillespie, that means he cannot be nominated, for he will not win.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

Shak Hill for U.S. Senate

February 4, 2014

So we now have four Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Virginia. They are: Ed Gillespie (whom I’ve already discussed), Shak Hill – a former city Councilman, Tony DeTora – a Capitol Hill staffer, and Chuck Moss – a business owner.

While Gillespie is the most well known, he is also on record defending TARP (a.k.a., the bank bailout), which would be a crippling blow to his campaign (and the party as a whole) should he be nominated. For that reason, he doesn’t make the cut.

That will sound harsh (or crazy) to many, but we have to remember the Demcorats’ campaign playbook at the federal level. Their entire economic platform boils down to four words: “the crisis did it.” Republican candidates who opposed the bank bailout can remind voters that the manner of the bailout itself – the scare-tactics behind its passage, the panic said scare-tactics created, and the last-minute shift in implementation – did far more damage to the economy that anything done before it. They can also reach the millions of Americans (and Virginians) who opposed it, too.

These were voters that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (both TARP backers) simply couldn’t reach. Ed Gillespie won’t be able to reach them either. This is why I believe he cannot defeat Mark Warner, and why I won’t support him for the nomination.

The three remaining candidates have unique qualities. Hill and Moss have extensive private sector experience, while DeTora has Capitol Hill experience (which should not be discounted).

However, only Shak Hill has experience in both the private sector economy (outside of lobbying) and in government. He is also the only candidate in the bunch (including Gillespie) who has actually won an election. That combination is unique to him and it will, I believe, have the most appeal to Republicans, independents, and open-minded Democrats.

For these reasons, I am endorsing Shak Hill for U.S. Senate.

Barbara Comstock for Congress

February 3, 2014

This has been an endorsement delayed by various things, but now that I have a spare moment…

I freely acknowledge that I do not live in the 10th Congressional District; however, I know many who do, and for what it’s worth, I think they’d be well served by Delegate Comstock.

Those who read this blog know that I focus more on issues than personal relationships. In this case, the key issue is Plan ’13 From Outer Space (the McDonnell tax increase from last year)…and Ms. Comstock opposed it.

Given her district, that is one courageous vote, a vote that makes it clear she will stand for limited government even when the Republican leadership loses its way.

There are other candidates, but Ms. Comstock is the only one with experience in office – experience that she has used not to curry favor with party leadership, but to stand with her constituents.

Given her history in Richmond, I believe Barbara Comstock will make an excellent member of Congress.

Impeaching Mark Herring is a terrible idea

January 27, 2014

“I’ve never seen anything as brutally clear as this…an odd, set, stony quality to it, as if tomorrow’s already happening and there’s nothing you can do about it. The way you feel before an ill-considered attack - knowing it’ll fail. But you cannot stop it.”

- General John Buford (acted by Sam Elliot), Gettysburg (1993)

Of course, Buford did manage to “stop” his nightmare scenario (the Union Army charging up a hill that could not be taken) by his own actions. I doubt I will be as successful, but I feel I have to try to stop what will be a catastrophic error by the Richmond Republicans: the impeachment of Mark Herring.

Plans to impeach Herring are already afoot. My friend Shaun Kenney has the details. The crime: Herring agreed with plaintiffs suing the state over the 2006 Marriage Amendment. The plaintiffs said it violates the federal constitution, and Herring essentially said the plaintiffs were right. This is apparently a “constitutional crisis.”

I beg to differ. The “crisis” will be within the Republican Party if they actually try to impeach and remove Herring. This is a mistake on multiple levels.

First, there is the matter of constitutions: In case anyone forgot, Herring’s oath is to uphold both the Federal and state constitutions, and the Federal one comes first. You can argue with Herring’s reasoning on whether or not the 2006 amendment violates the Federal Constitution, but he has the power to express his opinion and act on it. To attempt to remove him from office for upholding the Federal constitution (as he sees it) is a much greater danger than anything Herring has done. I would also note that this great concern for the state constitution was appallingly missing back in 2007 when “transportation solutions” were a priority, the result being a dog’s breakfast of legislation that nearly every Republican not named Bob Marshall swore was a great achievement, yet was laughed out of town by a unanimous state Supreme Court. Voters might find the idea that the Constitution is paramount when it can stop same-sex-marriage but irrelevant when it protects their money from the taxman to be…a bit strange (more on that later).

Second, there is the question of Herring’s action: I’m reading some bizarre hair-splitting from some who say that Herring didn’t have to defend the 2006 amendment, but he shouldn’t have opposed it publicly. Why? Based on the rulings from the federal Supreme Court on this matter last year, refusing to defend and openly advocating for the plaintiffs is a distinction without a difference. Does it really matter that Herring is simply open about his agreement with the plaintiffs?

Next up, we have the political implications, which are vast and multi-dimensional. For starters, as I noted above, the RPV’s respect for the state constitution is hardly consistent, and Democrats will gleefully remind voters of that for months and years. Again, voters saw the Richmond Republican crew pass and celebrate a blatantly unconstitutional tax scheme less than a decade ago. They will wonder why the constitution is so important now, and they will conclude that the Republicans care more about stopping gay marriages than keeping taxes low and government limited. That’s the political equivalent of drowning the Commonwealth in blue paint.

Yet there are also ramifications for just this year. Political capital that would otherwise be saved up for stopping Medicaid expansion (Brian Schoeneman explains the financial implications here; he didn’t mention that Medicaid does – at best – nothing to improve the health of the poor, but that would just reinforce the point) or Governor McAuliffe’s budget spending spree will be wasted on an effort doomed to fail (seven Senate Democrats would have to vote to remove Herring from office, and that’s not happening).

Finally, there is the one thing we are all forgetting - the flip side of what Herring has done: I may be the only person to notice this, but there are serious problems with the 1971 Virginia Constitution. Article 10 (on education) specifically discriminates against schools of faith, and could be read to make vouchers illegal in the Commonwealth (a potential violation of freedom of religion). Article 11 (on environmental protection) could be used to ride roughshod over property rights (and the Fifth and Fourteenth federal amendments). Do we really want future Attorneys General to arbitrarily defend an overreaching state government? Or muzzle itself in the face of such overreach? I feel the question answers itself.

For these reasons, impeaching Mark Herring is a terrible idea – one that will damage Virginia, the cause of limited government within Virginia, and the Republican Party of Virginia for years – if not decades.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


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