Like Clockwork, the Blame Game Commences

It didn’t take long for the finger pointing to begin. Richard Viguerie, the Northern Virginia direct-mail guru who bills himself as “the funding father” of the conservative movement, maintains that Republicans lost eight General Assembly seats this week because its leaders had failed to stay true to their core values. Writes Viguerie in an e-mail missive today:

The present Republican team in Richmond has failed, especially in the Senate. Grassroots activists and donors should demand these leaders be replaced for their failures. “No one should be surprised at the election results. This is a direct result of the Republican in Name Only (RINO) legislative leadership. These RINO legislators have openly collaborated with the liberals in the General Assembly and with Democratic governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to massively increase spending and taxes.

“As a result, the Virginia Republican Party—like the national Republican Party—has lost its brand as the party of fiscal responsibility. And the predictable election results have been the same on both the state and national levels. Liberal voters who want higher spending and higher taxes predominantly vote Democratic, while conservatives, having been betrayed by Republicans, lose heart and interest in voting.”

There are elements of truth here. The Republican Party has lost its brand as the party of fiscal responsibility. But there’s more to the story. People want low taxes and sound finances, but they also want government to fulfill certain responsibilities in the realms of education, transportation, the environment, the social safety net and other core obligations. Voters look for a package of low (or moderate) taxes, efficient government and creative solutions to society’s challenges.

From my vantage point, the now-retiring state Senate stood for the “take-your-fish oil” brand of fiscal conservatism, which translated into raising taxes in lock step with rising demand for government services. In the five years I have been covering politics closely in Virginia, I saw little original, creative or innovative legislation emanating from the senate. The House of Delegates, by contrast, has been a fount of ideas — some good, some bad. For the most part, those ideas — including the most sweeping structural reforms to transportation and land use in 70 years — were ignored by the media. (I’m not accusing the media of bias, just noting that the biggest business-of-government story of this generation went largely unreported.) The failure of the House has not been a failure to think creatively about Virginia’s challenges but to bypass traditional media channels to reach the public.

Democratic Party leaders — first Gov. Mark Warner, then Gov. Timothy M. Kaine — projected an image as men who could “get things done.” Senate and House Republicans, by contrast, warred with each other, projecting an image of fractiousness. Now that key polarizing figures are departing — John Chichester and Russell Potts foremost among them — Senate Rs may mend fences with their House counterparts. That could solve the “fractiousness” problem.

But the Rs have to convince voters that they’re both serious about fighting tax hikes and capable of addressing Virginia’s very real challenges. If what we hear from the Rs in 2008 is more politics of symbolism — flag burning amendments, prayer in schools, etc. — they will fail miserably. If they can advance an agenda that solves real problems and keeps spending/taxes in check, they can re-emerge as winners.

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13 responses to “Like Clockwork, the Blame Game Commences”

  1. Stephen Braunlich Avatar
    Stephen Braunlich

    With you til the end. Nice post though. It always irks me when national figures get involved with state stuff. That said, Viguerie is really the funding father, given his role in direct mail development.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t know who did the direct mail for the Republican candidate in my district but it was all crap.

    It was bad inside and out….it was the same cookie-cutter layouts I have seen hundreds of times. In addition, the negative hit pieces outnumbered the positive stuff 3-1.

    The Dem’s won because a majority of people are tired of the same old Republican mantra of God, Guns and Gays.

    A Democratic majority in the Senate will prevent most of this crap from making it out of committee, thank god (no pun intended).

    On a side note I saw that several of the winners on Tuesday campaigned on getting rid of the abusive driver fees….we’ll see.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I agree.. these guys are delusional. Maybe it’s a character flaw of being a “rightie”.

    I’m still trying to figure out how the righties think that voters are replacing the RINOs when D’s to the LEFT of the RINOs are winning.

    Are the R’s to the RIGHT of the RINOs suffering delusions by thinking the RINOs are losing them votes?

    Chichester, a RINO, could and did mop the floor with R’s to the right of him.. and also easily beat D’s to his left.

    So when the “guru” says that RINO’s are losing the R’s votes, he’s so far on the other side of the looking glass that it is comicable.

    It’s hard to believe that the “leadership” of the R’s is this far from understanding realities.. but heck.. I don’t hear the Dems complaining.

    I appears to me that the “righties” in the R party are bound and determined to give the D’s a majority… maybe it’s a liberal scheme…

    No stronger force turning parts of the state “Blue” that the far right R’s themselves.

    The “righties” strived mightily to replace Chichester. Had they actually succeeded, they probably would have handed that seat to the Dems… expanding the “blue” NoVa to south of the Rappahannock.

    I think the “righties”also played a role in the loss of Allen – when he dummied up and exposed himself with respect to what wing of the R’s he really was associated with.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    I was raised a “rightie”, but every day I find it harder to admit. We are suffering from a severe identity crisis, but going down the liberal path isn’t for me either. I am glad to see the middle persons advance. That’s it! The middle persons party in 08!

  5. Anonymous Avatar


    While it’s true Viguerie is a nationla figure, he has some deep Virginia political roots…ran for the Republican LTG nomination against John Chichester in ’85 (and lost) and the latest iteration of his marketing firm is based in Manassas. His other agencies have been NoVa-based, too.


  6. Groveton Avatar

    The Republicans have more excuses than than the oceans have fish. They say things like, “Northern Virginia is becoming more liberal so it is voting more Democrat.”. In reality, Northern Virginia’s votes for the Democrat Party candidates are a vote against the Republican politicians’ failureine. Taxes continue to skyrocket in Northern Virginia and services provided by the state contnue to decline relative to taxes. And nobody (and I mean nobody) in Northern Virginia believes the problem is that Northern Virginians pays too little in taxes. All the current Republican talk about location-specific this and location-specific is seen for the double talk that it is. The question is, and has always been, does Northern Virginia pay a fair total amount of tax relative to the total amount of services it receives?

    The Republican Party has held itself out as the party of fiscal honesty and responsibility. I have historically voted Republican because I thought their message of fiscal honesty and responsibility was more valuable than the Democrat promise of social justice. Now that I see the Virginia Republicans are con artists when it comes to fiscal honesty and responsibility – I’ll vote for social justice. At least that’s something.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Groveton – See my post on the item below. Fairfax County’s make-up has changed significantly, just since 2000. I’m sure that some people are voting differently than they did before, but the identity of about 10% of the voters has changed just since 2000. New people may think differently than those who were here earlier, but have moved. It doesn’t take that many votes to swing an election.

    Having said that, the GOP has generally lost its fiscal conservativeness. Too many people have become John Chichesters.

    NoVA gets screwed by the tax structure and spending allocations. And this got worse with the Warner-Chichester tax increases. Those wouldn’t have passed, but for the votes of NoVA’s Democrats in the General Assembly.

    True, the RINOs like Devolites-Davis helped pass the most recent fleecing by Richmond. Yet, the statement — but for Fairfax County’s Democrats voting for the tax and spending changes, Fairfax County would have had more money remaining in Fairfax County. Why won’t you hold them responsible? Even in 2004, there were more Democrats than Republicans in the Fairfax County delegation. Anyone who voted for the Warner-Chichester tax and spending increases voted to screw Fairfax County residents. If more Ds than Rs did so, why do you cast the blame on the Rs?


  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: RINOs … re: darth of fiscal conservatives

    hmmm.. seems like whenever the R’s try to purge RINOs .. the anointed replacements are “values” righties vice fiscal conservatives…

    Are we saying that a fiscally conservative Republican (sans a “values” agenda) cannot win in NoVa?

    If the answer is no.. then too bad.

    If the answer is yes – then who should be the blame for turning NoVa over to the Dems?

  9. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    Jim Bacon and Others –

    I would suggest to you that the bad
    guy for the GOP in Tuesday’s failed
    effort to retain the Senate is no
    other than conservative Paul Jost.

    He and his friends supported the
    defeat of former State Sen. Marty
    Williams because of his support of
    the 2007 transportation package.

    Their candidate then caused a major
    revolt amongst moderate voters who
    rejected her extreme views.

    The result the GOP lost a seat it
    should have retained.

    If they had kept that seat, they
    would have a 20/20 split with the
    Democrats in the Senate, thus they
    would have retained control of it
    given the GOP lt. gov. vote breaks
    ties in that chamber.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “”Northern Virginia was a big winner because so many senior Democrats represent the area and are in line for chairmanships and greater influence,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “The legislation and budget that will be passed in the next session will probably reflect this, perhaps in major ways in education and transportation.”

    but Rodger’s observation of Tidewater/HR combined with NoVa results may see changes in the RoVA/Nova(HR/TW) power structure.

    You have to wonder what the R strategists were thinking because the results are no a shift of voters to a unified statewide Dem message but rather a repudiation of a Statewide R message – immigration.

    The only thing promised by either party as a “if you elect me I’ll do this” – was immigration as far as I could tell.

    Did anyone else perceive a NoVa/HR/TW Dem message of “if you elect me I’ll do this message?

    With a significant deficit looming and the tax&spenders in charge.. of the Senate – reconciliation of competing HD/Senate budget bills could be even more prone to gridlock than before.

    JB alluded to party disfavor with Stewart – Chichesters replacement.

    Do the R’s consider Stewart a RINO?

  11. Groveton Avatar

    TMT –

    Look at the votes by precinct. The move from Rs to Ds seems pretty broad based – even in areas where the population is pretty stable.

    I see the election results as a generalized anti-incumbent movement. Since Republicans were often the incumbents they were often the targets of voter ire. A solid Republican platform might have helped win close races but there is no Republican platform anymore. So people like me stopped voting for Republicans and started voting mixed. Given that Republican doesn’t stand for anything why favor a Republican candidate? I don’t any more. I favor the challenger – regadless of party.

    Will the newly elected Ds do any better? Probably not. In fact, if the US economy overall and the NoVA economy in particular suffers these newly elected Ds may have wished they waited a cycle or two before running.

    Then, of course, there’s the inexplicable case of Jerry Connolly. If there are RINOs, I guess there is at least one DINO. Hard to see why he gets a free pass from the voters – year after year. Any thoughts?

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    The self-proclaimed RINO Jeannemarie Devolites Davis made a big deal out of “Guns and Gays.”

    She spent over a million dollars on negative TV and print advertising attacking Chap Peterson for being too favorable to gun rights.

    The Democrats got off that issue, because they know being anti-gun is not a winner. Apparently the Tom Davis machine is stuck in the past using an old Democratic playbook.

    Didn’t work for Democrats, doesn’t work for RINOs.

    Same with gays. Devolites and Davis attacked Chap Peterson for attending a church that actually believes homosexuality is a moral sin.

    Most people want to leave everyone alone, and they want to be left alone. Devolites Davis’s leftist position of advocating legislation to force churches and religious schools to hire gay staff just isn’t a winning position.

    Face it, RINO’s are out of step with the majority of voters.

    Republicans will take a moderately conservative evangelical church going interracially faithfully married Democrat like Chap Peterson any day over the tax raising, church bashing, gun rights bashing, unfaithful, whining RINO tag team of Tom and Jeannemarie Devolites Davis.

    Even the Washington Post’s endorsement couldn’t salvage this election for Tom Davis.

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    you anti-RINO folks are going to have to prove to me the DIFFERENCE between a RINO and a Dem such that the Dem gets the Conservative vote that could not countenance the RINO.

    This makes no sense to me.

    The RINO may be out of step with the Conservative R base but do you really think the RINO is out of step with the voters – who are leaning Dem anyhow?

    Do you really think someone to the right of a RINO.. is going to get more votes than a Dem in NoVa?

    I’m sure I must not understand just as Senator Warner does not.

    Please educate us both.

    where am I going wrong on my thinking?

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