OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 :::

Michael Barone on Virginia

And elsewhere, too. But here, Barone offers his ideas on what, if anything, the Virginia election might mean. Unlike some national political writers (see post below), he does not read entirely from the "It's All Dubya's Fault" script. Rather, there is a lot of common sense (Kaine hung on tight to Warner's coat tails) and then there's this:

There's this national implication here. Supporting tax increases does not produce political death. If voters feel—as voters in traffic-clogged Northern Virginia and perhaps the other suburbs do—that higher taxes will produce goods that you want—fewer traffic jams—they will support you. Ross Douthat and Reiham Salam in their brilliant article in this week's Weekly Standard argue that tax cuts are not such a strong political plus since ordinary people aren't so heavily taxed anymore. (More on this article in forthcoming blogs.) Voters are willing to be taxed more to get what they want. At the same time, unaccountably, Kilgore declined to sign Americans for Tax Reform's pledge not to raise taxes—despite the fact that the Warner tax increases have stuffed the state's tax coffers—and he didn't promise to cut taxes either. So you could argue that he wasn't the ideal tax-cutting candidate. Even so, Republicans need to pay some attention to Douthat and Salam's argument that broad-based tax cuts aren't such great politics anymore as well as their argument that Republicans would do better to advocate different tax cuts now that tax rates are lower than they were.

I've not yet read this article by Douthat and Salam as closely as I intend to, but a cusory look gives me the overall impression that it's more concerned with challenging Beltway conventions, and may not entirely fit Virginia's situation. In fact, it would and should be an affront to Goldwater conservatives everywhere. However, there is this:

This is the Republican party of today--an increasingly working-class party, dependent for its power on supermajorities of the white working class vote, and a party whose constituents are surprisingly comfortable with bad-but-popular liberal ideas like raising the minimum wage, expanding clumsy environmental regulations, or hiking taxes on the wealthy to fund a health care entitlement. To borrow a phrase from Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Republicans are now "the party of Sam's Club, not just the country club."

Therein lies a great political danger for Republicans, because on domestic policy, the party isn't just out of touch with the country as a whole, it's out of touch with its own base. And its majority is hardly unassailable: Despite facing a lackluster Democratic presidential candidate who embodied virtually all the qualities Americans loathe--elitism, aloofness, Europhilia, vacillating weakness--George W. Bush, war president and skilled campaigner, was very nearly defeated in his bid for reelection. GOP operatives boast that their electoral efforts were targeted down to the minutest detail, and that their marketing prowess delivered victory for the incumbent. The trouble is that even such extraordinary efforts delivered only a narrow victory.

A somewhat close parallel to the Virginia situation. I was suckered into believing that the VAGOP's "72 Plan" would work the same sort of magic it did for Bush in 2004. I was wrong. It did not work at all for Kilgore.

Which leads me even more to the idea that it seems some moderates in the GOP -- particularly in Northern Virginia, but elsewhere, certainly -- voted for Tim Kaine. The reasons were probably legion. But at the same time, the downticket numbers show Bolling and McDonnell outpolling Kilgore substantially. I think these numbers are a sign of a conservative backlash.

I could be very wrong. But reading around today, it does seem that the anecdotes are piling up...conservatives never fully rallied to the Kilgore banner. Could that have been changed? Possibly. Anything is possible after the fact. But it should be instructive moving forward. I remarked just before the election that it was somewhat remarkable Ken Cuccinelli would have to take to the pages of the Washington Times to make the conservative case for Kilgore. Even so late in the game, the sale hadn't been made. For some, it never was. And that made a difference.

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 11/09/2005 6 comments


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