The Status Quo Session
Friday, March 10, 2006 :::
Next week, I'm supposed to participate in a discussion of what the legislature has accomplished this year. My knee-jerk reaction is to say that, well, not a great deal has been accomplished. Aside from another big increase in state spending, that is. And another tax battle that will rage, quite possibly, for weeks to come.
The TD has its own look at what has and has not been done so far. The scorecard is fairly grim for anyone who believes in limited, less intrusive government. Which begs the question: what sort of legislature do we have? And more to the point, what's eating the GOP?
I suggest the GOP majority is the party of the status quo. Big ideas are rare and bold initiatives are pared to a timid minimum...and even those are promptly squashed in the Senate.
Part of this is generational. The older, more senior members seem, to me, to be more concerned with maintaining the established order -- not rocking the boat too much in either direction -- in order to preserve the image of What Was. Younger members, generally, seem far more impatient, even to the point of brashness, in trying to push forward an agenda. These members tend to be more numerous in the House than in the Senate. Certainly, the Senate has its share of impatient members. But their numbers are so small as to be almost irrelevant. That may change over time. But if it occurs at all, the change will be gradual -- and perhaps so slow that those who pine for change now may give up hope long before it arrives.
Is it necessarily bad to have a status quo legislature? Not entirely. Change for its own sake is rarely a good thing. But change is inevitable. And no amount of intransigence in either body can stop its coming.
For conservative activists, the slow pace of change is breeding frustration. Some are willing to walk away from the GOP entirely if, for example, the House decides to agree to the demands of the Senate and the Governor for more taxes during a time of surplus. Some will be glad to see them go. Conversely, the more liberal members of the GOP tent may decide to bolt and never return if the House, in particular, decides to become even more active on social issues, or fails to compromise with the Governor and Senate on taxes. Some will welcome their departure. But in either case, the result may be a GOP that no longer holds majority status in either house.
Would that be a bad thing? I think not. Minority status can be humbling and clarifying. It gives a party the chance to reflect on what it really ought to stand for, as much as to what it should stand against.
In recent times, there have only really been two "movement conservatives" leading the Virginia GOP: Dick Obenshain and George Allen. Obenshain paved the way, Allen reaped the rewards (much to the chagrin of some). No one that I can see has risen sufficiently to take up that mantle and become a galvanizing, statewide force.
Is there someone out there who can do it?
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 3/10/2006