Washington

Where do Republicans Go From Here? A Grassroots Perspective.

Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey wrote in his book, Armey's Axioms, “When we act like them, we lose. When we act like us, we win.” Such words seem appropo after the 2008 general election. However, there is so much more to those words today than when they were written.

I cannot tell you how many times during the Bush Administration, political staffers at the state and federal level would seemingly say the same thing, 'I didn't sign up for this.' From the ill-executed war in Iraq to the prescription drug plan to the recent government bailout, many Republicans – both grassroots and professionals alike were caught off-guard by the brand of conservatism and, thus, the brand of Republicanism being executed at the highest levels of our government. And, worse yet, it was for the world to see. But, in his defense, President Bush didn't do it alone. He had a lot of help.

President Bush's proclamation of “compassionate conservatism” when he ran for office in 2000 was great rhetoric and a wonderful mission statement. However, Republicans failed to understand that it actually meant something. Compassionate conservatism meant spending – a lot of spending on government programs. It meant deficits and increased debt. It meant a foreign policy that focused on American exceptionalism and a Wilsonian offense spreading democracy around the world rather than a peace through strength national defense policy. In short, it was a brand of conservatism with which many Republicans were uncomfortable. It was not the brand of conservatism that built a center right America. However, he was “our guy” and they kept their lips sealed.

Now, in the wake of the recent elections, both grassroots and professional Republicans are asking, “where do we go from here?” Pundits have been busy today arguing whether Republicans and conservatives should revert back to their principles and become more partisan, thus, playing the role of loyal opposition? Or, should they acquiesce and work with the increased majorities of the House, Senate and new President-Elect Obama. Oddly, the answer can be and should be - both.

For years, conservatives have tried to indicate their political leanings by expressing themselves as Paleo-conservatives and Neo-conservatives. These designations spoke to the type of conservatism they believed in. As described by Wikipedia, Neo-Conservatives were/are, “a modern form of conservatism that supports a more assertive foreign policy, aimed at supporting American business interests abroad.” Paleo-Conservatives were/ are described as, “arising in the 1980s in reaction to neoconservatism, stresses tradition, especially Christian tradition and the importance to society of the traditional family.”

But, as President-elect Obama plainly put it, “Change has come to America.” This must be with the Republican Party and conservative movement, too. We can revert back to our most fundamental traditions, principles and philosophies; be a loyal opposition when warranted and work with the new majorities in the House and Senate at the same time. How? It won't be because of re-branding an image or reinventing the wheel. It will be by returning to our roots; a center right roots of thinkers and philosophers that ushered us into a time of peace and prosperity. We need to look to the past writings of Russell Kirk, Edmund Burke, Richard Weaver, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.

In these writings we will find a stark contrast with modern conservatism most recently on display. We will find a place in the very first chapter of Russell Kirk's book, The Politics of Prudence, a proclamation that conservatism is, in fact, the lack of ideology. It is not partisan but reasoned. It is not argumentative or “gotcha” but measured. It is a far cry from the conservatism contemporaries have come to know. Further, we will find a reason for a just and moral order in our society for the sake of shared interest and partnership toward a shared future – not to force dogmatic practices on an unwilling citizenry.

In other writings from Hayek and Mises we will find a proven direction to build prosperity without taking from the rich and giving to the poor. In Burke, we will find a role for regulation without over-regulating to the point where we choke a small business' or individual's opportunity to make a profit. In Weaver, we find that ideas have consequences. Every decision carries with it levels of impact. But, as Weaver notes, “All work is a bringing of the ideal from potentiality into actuality.” We work together.

As a collection, we find a place where minorities have a home through public policies that directly benefit them and a place where they are not only welcome but are relied upon. We find a proper role for government while not intruding into peoples' personal lives or asking them to give up their liberties in the name of national security. We find a place for achieving peace through strength without active nation building or misdirecting aggression; not confusing offense with defense . We find a place for a limited social safety net while still relying on the hard work and individual responsibility of every able citizen because the greater we limit the fall, conversely, the greater we must limit the success. And, we find a place where we are truly “our brother's keeper” but a keeper by choice – not by government force.

In this time, we can begin anew to read and understand and share what traditional conservatism is and what it was meant to be. We need our state and federal leaders to do the same and be able to practice and articulate it. In this, we will be able to work with a President Obama when he has it right and serve as a loyal opposition when he has it wrong. Rather than a partisan approach – we show what a reasoned, measured and prudent approach to public policy looks like. More importantly, we will show our citizens and the rest of the world what we were supposed to be; what our movement was built to be and what our Party quit trying to be. At the very least, we will most certainly find a brand of conservatism that most of America agrees with – they just haven't seen it in a quite a while.

Why I Prefer to Be a Bad Sport for Now


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On November 5 John Kasich wrote: “We must figure out how to reorganize and restructure ourselves so that we can once again command the confidence and respect of not only the members of our own party, but voters of all stripes.”  I certainly agree that conservatism must be redefined, and I will offer my suggestions in a moment.  But I submit that none of us is ready for the task just yet.

 

In her 1969 groundbreaker On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D., introduced a model known as the Five Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  While not every process entails all five stages, the good doctor stated categorically that everyone experiences at least two.  But it appears that virtually every conservative commentator has tossed the model out and substituted his own single-phase paradigm: Submission.  No sooner had Senator McCain delivered his concession speech than some of my favorite radio talk show hosts – who had been breathing fire just hours earlier – blandly appealed to my optimism as though the proponents of capitalism and self-determination had merely lost a preseason football game.  Perhaps they don’t want to appear sore losers.  Perhaps they want to come across as “high-roaders.”  But in whose eyes?  I guarantee you the liberals are so drunk with victory that they don’t care whether we lost sportingly or otherwise.  Besides, it is a bit late for conservatives to worry about image.  We have been drubbed.  We have been bulldozed, hoodwinked, ground into the muck.  We fought fair while they pulled every dirty trick in the playbook, and they clobbered us silly.

 

Where is the outrage, ladies and gentlemen?  Do liberals hold a patent on passion?  Did someone outlaw indignation while I wasn’t looking?  The liberals seem to wield it freely enough.  History instructs that we can not move forward until we fully appreciate where we are.  Permit me to remind all of those blasé “we’ll-gettum-next-timers” a few facts I can recall off the top of my head about the man who just gave conservatism a bloody nose.  Barack Hussein Obama: (1) exhibited blatant sexism during the primaries, then thumbed his nose at feminism by snubbing Senator Clinton in favor of “Conehead” Biden; (2) showed the “common man” his true elitist colors when he rejected public campaign financing and outspent Senator McCain by a factor of 7 to 1; (3) would turn our courts into tools for “redistributive justice”; (4) used government computers and databases to find dirt that would discredit Joe the Plumber; (5) has bragged about the fact that he wants to increase the tax burden on the producers of this country so that he can guarantee a better living for the 30-40% who are freeloaders; (6) was endorsed by both Hugo Chavez and Iran’s parliament; and (7) has little patience for the notion of individual rights.

 

And another thing.  Let us not forget that, despite his silken demeanor, the man is an empty suit when it comes to concrete solutions.  I know attorneys because I am one.  The first lesson they teach in law school is how to use as many of the biggest words available to say as little as possible.  Our new chief executive took that lesson to heart.  People are weeping and screaming and dancing in the streets because “we” made history on November 4 by electing the first African American in U.S. history.  Unfortunately, a majority of the voters got so caught up in making history that they forgot to ask what kind of person lay beneath the fashionable skin they were about to vote for.  Let’s face it.  Obama didn’t have to make sense.  He needed no substance.  And he didn’t need to curry favor with moderates.  All he needed was to be a good looking, well-spoken black man who hung out with “cool” people like Madonna and Bruce Springsteen.  And he knew it from day one.  When I was a boy I was taught that the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s would someday stamp out racism.  I’m sorry to report that racism is still with us; it has merely switched sides.

 

This is the America our complacency has nurtured.  So spare me the silver-lining pablum.  I want to hear some emotionally healthy yelling and desk-pounding out there.  I’m not talking about rioting or bullying.  Those of you with an established forum in the media know exactly what to do.  I only hope you’ll find the motivation to do it.  As for the rest of you, try this as an example.  When I moved to a college town some years back, I confess that I allowed my vitriolic liberal brother-in-law to temper my philosophies.  Whenever he would rant about the evils he perceived Bush to have perpetrated, I was quick to remind him that the common enemy wasn’t Bush – it was career politicians and elitists in general.  When he simmered down I patted myself on the back for "remaining above the fray."  But one evening my 9-year-old nephew bragged to me that he had browbeaten a schoolmate of his into “voting” for a liberal in an important race.  With the glassy-eyed exuberance of a Hitler youth, he recited the mantra he had heard night after night from his father.  I decided I had placated the brother-in-law for the last time.  Though I don’t hang out as much with my sister’s family as a result, I can rest assured that my nephew now knows his father’s way of thinking is not the only way.

 

So conservatism as we know it has been pulverized.  It lies dead in the gutter.  How do we resurrect it?  The first thing we do is reintroduce ourselves to some fundamental principles many of us have forgotten: lower taxes; limited government intervention; disciplined government spending; individualism.  All variations of the concepts of tradition and convention must be eliminated from our lexicon.  Who do we attract?  On the count of three, let’s all scratch our heads.  One … two … three … and there is our answer: Real People.  But just what is a real person?  As a rule of thumb, real people don’t toe the party line or wear the homogenous blue blazer.  Take me, for instance.  I’m into The Who, Pearl Jam and the Black Keys, but I refuse to buy a suit that is anything but double-breasted.  I have tattoos, but I believe shoelaces should be tied, belt loops should be belted and undershorts should be covered in public.  I am licensed to carry a concealed weapon, and I will not hesitate to go for the kill shot if someone breaks into my home.  On the other hand, I have never understood, and will never understand, the attraction of game hunting.  I am an agnostic.  I detest abortion, but I think an outright ban ignores reality.  Though I am a heterosexual, I don’t understand how letting gays get married diminishes the institution for straights.  By the same token, I don’t understand why gays feel the need to impose an archaic religious ritual on an otherwise fulfilling relationship.  I don’t indulge in illegal recreational drugs; just the same, I don’t see the harm in legalizing marijuana or cocaine – people bent on destroying themselves will do it one way or another, so there’s no reason to spoil the party for responsible users.  Blah, blah, enough about me.

 

The point is that today’s conservative is not as easy to peg as was the little twerp Michael J. Fox played on prime time television in the 1980s.  That is why there were so many so-called Independents out there for Obama and his string-pullers to swoop up this time around.  The key to redefining conservatism is to refrain from overdefining it.  Agree on a very limited number of core principles, leave the rest of the slate clean and welcome the deluge of fresh new faces with bold ideas who will inevitably flock to your doorstep.

 

-R. Thomas Risk

 

 

Seattle Paper Publishers Pictures and Addresses of Homes With McCain Signs

**Update** 4PM 11/01/08

Like Obama, the folks that run The Stranger "newspaper" in Seattle are all about tolerance... as long as you believe the same things they believe. If you don't, well, then you deserve intimidation and a good "outing." just as Obama has tried to intimidate radio talk show hosts, just like he has tried to use the office of the Attorney General to quash political free speech, The Stanger publication has decided that the best way to force citizens of Seattle to toe the far left political line is to have their homes photographed and their addresses made public for the outrageous crime of having a McCain/Palin sign on their property.

Editorial Director Dan Savage, another boring Seattle gay activist, has helmed this intimidation disguised as "humor" in order to attack his political opposition. Good thing ol' Danny is all "tolerant" and stuff, isn't it?

The feature was supposed to be a "funny" take on the Halloween "horrors" of homes that have political signs prominently displayed. But, what the end result actually relays is a different kind of horror. This article indulges in exactly the sort of behavior it pretends to despise. What is more intolerant than publicly ridiculing someone, ginning up hatred for them, and then publishing a photo and the address of their home? What is the purpose of this? Is it so that the more unhinged of your putative political compatriots can know just where to go to... what? Take revenge? Perhaps damage private property? Maybe worse?

The article starts off with this phrase: "Cobwebs and witches are for children and morons." I would counter to Dan Savage that political intimidation and endangering people because of their views is for Stalinists and Nazis.

Apparently Savage is not only this editor's last name, it is his creed.

**Update** 4PM 11/01/08

Looks like the wimps over at the gay centered "newspaper" The Stranger don't have the courage of their convictions, amusingly enough. They've pulled their story and re-directed the link to The Drudge homepage.

Apparently, the Stranger folks just can't take the scorn any more. They know what they did was indefensible and now they are pretending it never existed.

One thing is sure. If I had a dollar for every time the curse word f_ _k appeared in this "newspaper" I could comfortably retire after but a month of issues. Apparently literacy is a four letter word to these high-minded inteleckshuals.

If you'd like to read the text Hell Houses, the story from The Stranger, G'Willie over at GEOBENT took the time to reproduce it before the "newspaper" took it down.

Be sure and Visit my Home blog Publius' Forum. It's what's happening NOW!

Advice for Obama Press Corps: Keep Your 'Chute Handy

As confirmed by Politico.com's Ben Smith in his corroboration of the story that broke on the Drudge Report last night, the Obama campaign did indeed bump three major newspapers from the press group traveling aboard the candidate's plane.  Although press accounts are not specific, it is assumed that their removal was conducted while the plane was still on the ground.

The Obama campaign indicated that they will try to find seats on campaign buses for the disenfranchised Dallas Morning News, Washington Times and New York Post staff, and that they are encouraging them to travel with Joe Biden. 

(Two major right-leaning newspapers, who now have an axe to grind, riding along with the king of the gaffes?  One would think that Team Obama would be better served in the final days of the election by giving them daily interview sessions with Barack than by placing them within earshot of gaffemaster Joe.)

While it is true that in a similar move, Senator McCain barred Maureen Dowd and Joe Klein from his campaign plane, there is a subtle but important distinction between that punishment and the kind of retribution Obama is meting out. 

Dowd and Klein are columnists.  They write commentary and analysis in their own voice and the result is mainly the opinion of the writer as an individual.  When a columnist gleefully pounds away at a politician, it doesn't seem at all out of bounds for the politician to shut down that one person's access.  Even if the lex talionis - eye for an eye - mode of justice may be harsh, at least it observes some semblance of symmetry.

A newspaper's endorsement of a candidate is a decision more often made by the ownership of the paper, in consultation with the editorial staff, but it is never made by reporters.  The reporting done thus far by the ejected journalists has not been harmful to Obama.  On the contrary, most campaign trail reporting tips toward positive coverage of a candidate as reporters develop a relationship with the candidate they are covering.  Label it human nature or the Helsinki Syndrome, depending on your perspective.

There is no balance in Obama's retaliatory strike and it could say something larger about how he will apply power to other problems that arise.  In international terms, we assign a particular label to people and causes that consider innocents as appropriate tools for conveying political messages.  In domestic terms it is political thuggery and the penchant the Obama camp has for silencing dissent should at least give us a reason to retain skepticism, whether you color yourself red, blue or purple.

The Chicago-style politics of making war on anyone a politician classifies as 'enemies' by hitting their proxies is something that we, as a nation, have been trying to extinguish for more than one hundred years, but the Obama machine is reviving those tactics of naked power and proving that they still work.  He is giving us a sample, a sneak peak of his wilder side.

With the prospect of single-party rule of the federal government, and intimidation of media who are perceived as 'unfriendly' to an Obama administration, more than ever it seems clear that a vote for Obama is a vote for change.  When we realize what the word 'change' really means in Obamaspeak, I only hope that we will be able to change back.

WA-08: Netroots Hero Inflates Degree in "Economics"

Hypothetical:  let's say you're a Democrat making a repeat run for Congress in an affluent, metropolitican suburb.  You're grabbing attention for your national ties to the netroots, which is raising questions in national publications about just how in tune with your potential constituents you are.

Would it be wise to stretch the truth by claiming your degree from Harvard is in economics rather than computer science?

Probably not.  The basic details:

WA-GOV: Rossi Outraising Gregoire Down the Stretch

The rematch of the 2004 gubernatorial contest that proved to be the closest such election in American history is shaping up to be just as competitive as mail-in ballots start arriving in most voters’ mailboxes later this week.

Public polling shows the race all knotted up, with the incumbent Christine Gregoire still below the important 50% threshold (note: there are no 3rd party candidates on the General Election ballot as there was in 2004). And pay attention to this from the write-up of the latest SurveyUSA poll:

Most striking: SurveyUSA is polling in 28 states. In state after state, as Democrat Barack Obama has run up the score at the top of the ticket, down-ticket Democrats have benefited. In other states, a rising Democratic tide is floating the boats of Democratic candidates for Senator, Governor, and Attorney General. Not in Washington State. Dino Rossi, rare among Republicans running for statewide office in 2008, is not being dragged down by John McCain. Christine Gregoire is not being pumped up by Barack Obama.

WA-GOV: Rossi v. Gregoire "Tight as a Tick..."

All signs currently point to a gubernatorial race in Washington state that is eerily close to the 2004 results, which produced the closest such contest in US history.

 - The latest public poll?  A 48-48 tie from Rasmussen.

 - The RCP average for the race?  Another 48-48 tie.

 - Pollster.com's trend line?  A margin of 0.9% for Rossi.

It's an amazing electoral brawl.  One difference, however, is the state of the race at this juncture in the election cycle.

In 2004 Dino Rossi was a little known state Senator who ran an excellent campaign, running down the favored Christine Gregoire (then the sitting state AG) toward the end of the race.  Public polling in 2004 showed Gregoire with a clear lead in early October rather than the current dog fight.

Such standing is not inconsequential given that the lion's share of state voters will begin receiving their ballots by the end of next week in what will largely be a mail-in election.  Within that construct, it should be noted that political observers have identified that later mail-in ballots in Washington state have recently favored Republicans as the counting moves from early to late mail-in ballots (more background the true political junkies here).  In short, Republicans and Rossi have a history of closing races well in the Evergreen State.

All to say that despite the terrible headwinds blowing against Republican candidates this year, Dino Rossi is in a better position to win in a blue state in 2008 than he was in the amazingly close race of 2004.

WA-Gov: Contrast in Rossi v. Gregoire Race Widens

A round-up of recent events in the Evergreen State gubernatorial contest:

1)  Christine Gregoire's controversial stem cell ads have been chased from the TV airwaves, with the Tacoma News Tribune following the Seattle Times in castigating them.  An effective counter from Dino Rossi probably didn't hurt either.

2)  A late-in-the-game state Democratic party lawsuit to force ballots to declare Rossi a "Republican" rather than the "Prefers GOP Party" label currently used was promptly tossed out.  Background:  in Washington's somewhat unique "Top Two" primary system, candidate's declare their party preference in language of thier choosing; Gregoire appears on the ballot as "Prefers Democratic Party."

WA-08: Darcy Burner Still Not Running on Pocketbook Issues

Perhaps it should come as little surprise that a candidate who is a darling of the netroots is running a campaign that puts little emphasis on the economic issues that are dominating the headlines and top the concerns of voters this year. Yet, that's exactly what Democrat Darcy Burner is doing in her re-match against Republican Congressman Dave Recihert, in a race that regularly lands on assorted "House Races to Watch" lists (latest example from the Fix).

Behold, Burner's latest ad:

This amounts to getting into a resume contest with Reichert, he of King County Sheriff and Green River Killer fame (official bio here). Sure, the Reichert campaign can easily compile a list of accomplishments to counter the ad itself, but resume wars were a loser for Burner in 2006. Recall the ad that sent the left into a tizzy for its supposed sexism: 

What a Night!

Last night, both the Democrat and Republican nominees for President of the United States, Barack Obama and John McCain, met face-to-face in a debate forum for the very first time. Both appeared energetic and prepared to engage in this rhetorical battle in front of thousands who were there and millions watching at home.

Both of these two met and exceeded expectations set forth by their respective campaigns. For Barack Obama, long term, this might be where the good news for him ends.

I say “long term” because of the raw transcript of the debate. There were a number of instances where Obama looked as if he was trying to be all things to all people. There were also moments where he showed his youth and inexperience in other areas.

First, when the moderator Jim Lehrer asked the candidates about scaling back the federal budget as to what each of the candidates would do as president, Obama never mentioned one area where he would freeze or reduce spending. Instead, he mentioned his support for increased funding for early childhood education. All told, the combination of the Paulson bailout plan combined with Obama’s four-year spending proposals would add an additional $1.5 trillion to the federal budget alone. He needed to show where his cuts were going to be, but he showed an instance where he was going to increase spending.

Meanwhile, McCain gave areas where he would reduce spending starting with his least favorite items on the budget, earmarks. Next, McCain went to eliminating the ethanol subsidies and by tighting the screws on defense contracts so that defense spending is more efficient.

Obama supporters might be fast to point out that he will eliminate $10 billion a month ($480 billion over four years) by ending the war in Iraq and eliminating the Bush tax cuts for those making $250,000 or more a year. For the 48 months that he would be president which would not even come close to covering the costs for his spending proposals, tax cut for the bottom 95% of wage earners, covering a projected $600 billion deficit in his first budget, and the Paulson bailout plan. Sacrifices will have to be made and they might most likely start with the proposed tax cut (a la Bill Clinton).

The second mistake by Obama was a reversal of his position on so-called dirty energy. John McCain has made the construction of 45 new nuclear power plants to provide energy and combat climate change along with support for clean coal and offshore drilling parts of his energy plan along with renewable energy, flex-fuel vehicles, and better fuel economy.

Prior to last night, Obama had previously expressed his desire to tax coal, natural gas, and place a windfall profits tax on the oil companies which even he admits would not produce another drop of oil. However, last night Obama got in to the mode of being all things to all people by advocating his support for drilling, clean coal technology, and nuclear energy. The Sierra Club cannot be happy about this.

Third, Obama was clearly on the defensive about unconditional negotiations with Iranian President Mahmoud “Adolph, Jr.” Ahmadinejad. A major mistake made here was the citation of former Secretary of State and McCain’s friend and advisor Dr. Henry Kissinger. Obama cited Kissinger as one of five former Secretaries of State who had advocated Presidential-level talks with Iran. The five include both of Bill Clinton’s (Warren Christopher and Madeline Albright) and James Baker, who served under Bush-41. McCain had said that Kissinger was not one of the five though Obama insisted he was. 

After the debate last night, Kissinger said the following: “Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level.  My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that any negotiations with Iran must be geared to reality.” Oops!

Fourth, there was a moment in the debate where John McCain and Barack Obama were comparing the bracelets they received from mothers who had lost their sons in Operation Iraqi Freedom. McCain gave the name of the soldier who was on his bracelet instantly without having to look. The same cannot be said of Obama who had to look at his to get the name. It might have been better for Obama to have not mentioned the name if it required him to take a look.

However, the biggest missteps by Senator Obama went under the radar because they were sprinkled throughout the debate. In all, there were eight instances where Obama expressed his agreement with Senator McCain. Within minutes, McCain’s campaign released a web ad (potentially a television ad in the future) showing where Obama agreed with McCain on responsibility and accountability, the earmarks process, and that business taxes are high. More could be made against Obama on the issues of spending cuts, the success of the troop surge strategy in Iraq, and that the world cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran.

Writing in the National Review, Byron York stated a prediction: “The next time McCain and Obama meet in debate, on October 7 in Nashville, start a drinking game in which you take a big swig every time Obama says, ‘John is absolutely right.’ I’ll bet you get to the end of the debate without ever lifting a glass.”

In all, Senator McCain won this round despite the curtailing of national security issues (the original topic of the debate) for three questions on economic issues. The night was largely on McCain’s turf thanks to national security, talks about government spending more than anything else, and the aforementioned missteps of Senator Obama. However, for McCain, thanks to Obama’s energy and exceeding expectations, the win was not by as wide a margin as some anticipated.

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