My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Category: Politics (page 1 of 33)

The results are in….

First things first: congratulations to the winners.  To the losers: thank you for being involved, it matters.  To the incumbents (win or lose): thanks for your service.  Our democracy doesn't work if people don't come forward to stand for election and challenge incumbents.  Keeping politicians honest and holding them accountable is crucial.

No doubt you'll hear alot about how Trump is responsible for the Republicans problems and, to a large degree that is true.  If this had happened in Iowa I might simply shrug my shoulders and agree – I don't know a lot about politics in Iowa but I do about Virginia.  This is a devastating turn of events for Republicans in Virginia.  

For the state-wide races, Governor, Lt. Governor and AG, I believe Trump was the determining factor.  Trump drove turnout against Gillespie.  In addition, Gillespie ran on a Trump platform but never really embraced Trump himself.  That half-measure didn't help nail down his base because they didn't believe his new-found Trump-ism……although I expect that if he had done a full-on Trump campaign the results would have been even worse.

But at the local level I think it's a different story.  Trump isn't entirely responsible for the Republicans loss at this level and, indeed, this wipeout was some years in coming.  The first time I ran for office, our area was already trending blue.  I ran as a moderate republican who was mainly interested in taxes, economic growth and immigration (which was a budget and crime issue at the time).  The first time I ran I was the top vote-getter.  The second time I was unopposed.  The further right candidates had trouble, cycle after cycle, getting higher than third place.  The same was becoming true of the House of Delegates and Senate elections.  Despite the gerrymandered nature of their districts, it was getting harder and harder for right-wing Republicans to hold on to power – even when they mounted vicious oppo-driven campaigns.

Why?  Well, I believe that Republicans failed to modulate their policy and messaging to reflect a changing electorate.  Bob Marshall is about as far right as one can get and he was crushed by the first transgender candidate in VA.  Bob, and many other republicans, insisted on calling Danica "it" or "he" and that dog whistle crap didn't work.  Danica stuck mostly to illustrating a lack of results on Mr. Marshall's part and it was the right tactic.  Mr. Lingamfelter, who barely won reelection last time, really didn't try anything different and the result was predictable.  Mr. Miller, well, he got thumped by a guy who I didn't think fits the district but the margin was decisive. 

Now, no doubt some of these marginal candidates who won election will get rolled in the next cycle – that happens with some regularity.  However, I would urge my friends in the Republican party to do some soul-searching and come up with new policy initiatives, messaging and candidates that reflect the reality of the electorate present in their districts.  This electoral result will generate more credible candidates on the democrat side and republicans are going to have to work hard to win.  A new approach to policy would be good – or even having a policy approach that candidates are able to articulate would be a good start……I'm always here to help.

What about the GOP?

The GOP is, without doubt, the party in power.  They control just about everything.  Both houses of Congress, President and shortly the Supreme Court.  They're in control of some amazing percentage of state houses.  It really is almost without precedent.  

However, all of that kind of belies the fact that there are really no fewer than 3 republican parties.  There remains the old, social conservative republican party – but mainly at the state level.  You can see that on full display in Richmond with bathroom bills, pornography proclamations, abortion, gay marriage and other legislation crucial to controlling our private lives.  Actual governance kind of happens by accident and it's normally driven by the budget.  The stuff that gets considered in Richmond is just as crazy as anything you'd see further south.  That's the social conservative wing. 

Next you have the fiscal conservatives.  They are sometimes wrapped up with the social conservatives but not always.  The TEA party is pretty representative of this wing of the party.  These guys really do not care about anything but the bottom line.  I got no fight with that but this world view makes the allergic to planning because that commits them to spending money at some point in the future….even if they agree with those expenditures.  

Then you have the Trumpers.  They believe in Trump and his ability to singularly influence the outcomes on no fewer than a dozen policy fronts.  The Trump phenomenon is a populist one: he and he alone can deliver what everyone else needs.  Need a job? not a problem.  Fixing health care?  pish.  Rebuilding infrastructure?  easy.  Foreign relations and treaty issues?  We just need better deals.  The Trumper wing of the party is interesting because it contains a core of true believers for whom anything but good news is fake news.  However, the increment that put Trump over the top in the general election are folks from the middle and social conservatives who cautiously invested in the Trump phenomenon.

Interestingly, those three wings don't include guys like me.  Center-Right "Businessman Conservatives".  You know, the guys who have historically been responsible for cautious spending with a willingness to invest.  Think about guys from both sides of the aisle that everyone holds near and dear: Harry Parrish and Chuck Colgan come to mind.  We will occasionally invest in the fiscal conservative movement but they tend to extremism and we don't like that.  We aren't, after all, politicians really.  And don't start in with "RINO" and all that BS.  Those same businessmen conservatives balance the books in every municipality every year and the current brand of "republicanism" we see doesn't make much sense although I'm open to the argument that this is mainly due to the current messenger.

I don't know what the future holds for the GOP.  Along party membership lines, I think the group of people who identify themselves as "Independents" continues to grow as the parties become more extreme.  From a here and now perspective, my guess is that Trump continues to bumble.  At some point, it will occur to the GOP in Congress that they are going to have to run for office again so they'll crank up their legislative processes and start putting legislation on the Presidents desk whether he wants it or not.  Hopefully healthcare gets fixed in a useful way and we'll do some tax reform.

I don't remember much from the Nixon administration so the "Saturday night massacre" is really history to me.  I cannot imagine, mainly due to the massive changes in media, that interest in politics could be any higher than it is right now.  As I write this, we're about a month into a new administration, the national security advisor has already resigned and it's clear the Trump administration is headed towards some sort of reboot.  I welcome that.  Many of the centrists cautiously invested in the Trump administration and I, along with them, do hope that the President gets his act together.  I do think the President, along with a GOP majority in Congress, has a historic opportunity to get some big things done but the self-inflicted wounds are piling up.

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