It should surprise no one that Bill Bolling took the opportunity to offer advice to the Republican Party of Virginia in the aftermath of Election 2013. I would even disagree (slightly) with my fellow BD contributor (D.J. Spiker) who insisted that “no one asked.” I’m sure plenty of Democrats and media folks were begging for a missive just like this from the outgoing Lieutenant Governor. What I found interesting, however, was that Bolling offered advice that he, himself, refused to follow – and I don’t mean during his pre-2012 record (with Spiker dissects quite well).
In fact, Bolling doesn’t offer “advice” as much as complaints. He sees voters in Virginia being turned off by the GOP, and is very specific on the reasons why. When it comes to how to address the problem, however, he becomes much more vague, and for good reason – when Bolling himself decided to recast himself as a “moderate,” he completely ignored the very problems he now raises.
For example, in the Times-Dispatch column, Bolling specifically talks about winning over “more moderate and independent voters in Northern Virginia and rapidly changing suburbs in Richmond and Hampton Roads.” Here’s the problem: his version of “moderation’ included backing a $1.3-billion-a-year tax increase that was specifically aimed at the wallets of these very voters. Republican after Republican in the General Assembly from “the rural parts of our state” defended the tax-hike as something from which their voters were largely spared. If there was a worse way to upset “Northern Virginia and (the) rapidly changing suburbs in Richmond and Hampton Roads,” I have trouble thinking of one.
Bolling then stumbles with basic math: “An objective analysis of exit polls from recent elections shows that we are losing favor with three key demographic groups: women, young people and rapidly growing populations of Hispanic, Asian and Indian voters” – but lumping in Hispanic, (I presume East) Asians, and Indians (South Asians, again I presume) into one supergroup is only part of the problem. Again, these “key demographic groups” all share one thing in common – they are poorer than Virginia on average. Not to beat a dead horse, but the aforementioned tax increase was almost malevolently designed to whack the poorest voters the hardest in the affected regions of the state – regions where a dollar doesn’t go as far as rural Virginia in the first place. Again, if Bolling is concerned about driving these voters away, his first concern should be the fellow in the mirror.
Things get worse in the next paragraph:
With women and young people we have to more effectively communicate our views on important issues like abortion and gay rights, and with growing immigrant populations we must be open to responsible immigration reforms that show these new Virginians that we value the enormous contributions they make to our state.
Hmmm, that sounds like getting the party to change its message, its policies, or both on divisive social issues, issues on which Bolling moved not at all towards the “center” over the last year and a half.
Instead, Bolling played the game we usually get from Republicans looking to win over voters concerned about social issues, but who would consider voting GOP anyway: do nothing on the social issues themselves but abandon the very limited-government and low tax policies that would win them over in the first place. Instead of using 2013 to openly discuss how to best protect unborn children without alienating their would-be mothers, or having a frank discussion about how the same-sex marriage debate is light-years away from 2004 (or 2006, for that matter), Bill Bolling spent the year defending a tax increase that whacked the very voters he now says the party must court, with the added indignity of supporting a plan to lump them into Medicaid – a system that is so flawed that numerous studies are showing patients without any insurance might actually be healthier than Medicaid clients.
Here’s what Bolling, McDonnell, and even Cuccinelli seem to have missed: in the 21st century, three Republicans went wobbly on taxes (Earley in 2001 by refusing to comment on a proposed tax hike for months, Kilgore in 2005 for being all over the map on the issue, and, yes, Cuccinelli in 2013 for backing a smaller version of the tax-hike, then taking credit for making the big one constitutional).
In 2009, by contrast, Bob McDonnell (as much as it pains all of us to remember) specifically ran an anti-tax-hike platform – and led the GOP to its best election result in the history of Virginia Gubernatorial elections (a clean statewide sweep and a two-thirds-plus majority in the House of Delegates).
The Republican Party does have problems in Virginia, but fixing them will require more than the standard nonsense that we have seen going back a dozen years. When Republicans run as the party of smaller government and lighter taxes, they win. When they don’t, they lose.
Cross-posted to Bearing Drift