Republicans Still Don’t Quite Get It: Conservative Principles Are Not Enough

“Although some [Republican Party leaders] feel the GOP has veered too far to the right, leading to two straight losses for the governor’s race, most … here urged the part to stay the course,” reported Tyler Whitley, a reporter, summing up prevailing sentiment at the Advance, the GOP’s annual retreat at the Homestead.

“When we allow our differences with the Democrats to become blurred in the eyes of the voters, we risk losing,” stated Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Hanover, and lieutenant governor-elect.

“We must stand up for conservative principles,” echoed Del. Robert F. McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, and attorney general-elect.

Ignore the counsel of “the elite demanding that we abandon our positions, thinking that is the way to electoral sucess,” stated Kate Obenshain Griffin, GOP chairwoman.

That’s all fine and good. Conservative Republican principles of limited government, fiscal conservatism and free markets are wonderful. Those are the principles that animate my writing. But abstract principles are not enough. Abstract principles, by themselves, do not solve problems. Opposing tax increases — a meritorious goal — doesn’t solve traffic congestion, educate our children or build a better health care system.

Republicans need to show how their principles translate into bettering peoples’ lives in tangible ways that voters can understand. I have seen a number of good ideas emanate from the ranks of Republican legislators, but they haven’t gotten much attention. Most of them are technical and wonkish, not designed to capture the imagination of voters. And I realize that the job is difficult when (a) the other party controls the executive branch of government, and (b) a significant wing of the GOP is so brain dead that it can conceive of no alternative to raising taxes and pouring more revenue into Business As Usual programs and policies.

Democrats in Virginia have established themselves as the party of technocrats, the party of good government. They don’t challenge the system — they try to make it run better. To a majority of Virginians voting for governor, that’s preferable to the airing spouting of airy nostrums and the politics of symbolism. Until Republicans can effectively translate their principles into programs for action on the issues that Virginians repeatedly say that matter, they will continue to be denied the governorship.

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12 responses to “Republicans Still Don’t Quite Get It: Conservative Principles Are Not Enough”

  1. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Jim, I agree with your analysis and its implications.

    Imagine if, during the campaign, Jerry Kilgore had promised to hold a series of town hall meetings on transportation. No one would have taken him seriously. Republicans are not associated with wonkfests or hearing contrary opinions. They rarely use the phrase that Gov. Warner has used to such good effect, “I worked with Republicans and Democrats . . .” If that doesn’t change, they will continue to be denied the governorship.

  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Well said Jim Bacon. You have to have a real plan. You have to have something good to beat something bad. Nothing never beats something.

    Also, as I tried to point in my last column in the Rebellion you need elected leaders, identifiable by name, locally and working across the Commonwealth – like a Speaker, a majority leader, a majority whip, a Lt Gov, an Attorney General, a US Congressman or Senator to champion our something against their something.

  3. Shaun Kenney Avatar
    Shaun Kenney

    TABOR and the Freedom and Prosperity Agenda were great starts down that road.

    Of course, the real problem when you start proposing solutions to education (school choice?), transportation (devolving VDOT funds to localities, private firms competing with the government), or health care (an system LBJ created and a relic at best), you get labeled as a lunatic.

    Might I suggest the following: that some of the things goverment is doing today, government should not be doing?

    We might all want solutions for education, transportation, and health care. But prostrating ourselves before the bureaucratic pantheon isn’t going to get the job done.

    The solution really is abstract, if people had the courage to turn back to self-reliance and away from the nanny state.

    MY US$0.02 anyhow.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Republicans may talk the talk, but they fail to walk the walk.

    Limited Government

    -How is the Patriot Act a form of limited Govn’t?

    -How is No Child Left Behind a form of limited Govn’t?

    -How is interfering in peoples personal lives when it comes to such things as abortion and the definition of marriage a form of limited govn’t?

    Fiscal Conservatism

    -How do you justify giving tax breaks while increasing spending placing every american citizen in debt to the tune of $150,000?

    -How is cutting the car tax and not replacing the revenue a form of fiscal conservatism?

    -How do you justify giving tax breaks to energy companies who are making money hand over fist?

    Free Markets

    -Why can’t my grandmother go to Canada to get cheaper prescription drugs?

    -Why do I have to travel 50 miles to go to the dentist because none close to me accept my insurance?

    How do these principles & policy decisions translate into bettering peoples’ lives?

  5. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon. I agree that some elected Republicans don’t walk the walk of limited government. In Virginia too many elected Republicans don’t even talk the talk, except in an election season.

    Here are some answers from a former American Government assitant professor. There will be a test.

    1.The Patriot Act is based on the Provide for the Common Defense in the Constitution. It goes too far in 1st and 4th amendment abuses. It should be red-lined extensively or just repealed.

    2. No Child Left Behind is an abuse of Federal power and should be repealed. Likewise, the Department of Education should be reduced to the IT department necessary to take care of the check writing computers for school loans – if the Feds want to keep that extra-Constitutional power.

    3. Abortion and marriage are defined as rules of right and wrong in every culture from the tiniest tribe to the greatest civilization and the rules are enforced. Since we are liberal democratic Republic the rules are not based on tradition, shaman/priest/imam, king, clan/tribe, etc, but by the legislature representing the majority will (what was the consensus culture until the 1960s). That is why marrying multiple partners, or having sex with children, family members, animals or in public etc are illegal Sexual behaviors and medical procedures (by exception) and a host of other behaviors like speech (cursing, yelling fire, blaspheming different dieties, criticizing the government, etc) are the responsibility of the legislatures of a culture living under the Rule of Law.

    4. Increasing spending is not limited government. Hold legislators and executives accountable in the state and federal government. Tax breaks are not the class envy you may feel, but tax justice until the Marxist progressive tax is reduced to the flat tax. Punishing successful people by taxing them more kills jobs (we will cover this in our econ class) for other people.

    5. Cutting the car tax from individuals puts money back in the economy and is good for Virginia. Funding the local car tax with general revenue reduces the money available to spend on other things like the newly authorized Dean (or Director?) of Homosexual, Bi-Trans- whatever other coupling and his/her/it office staff at U Va. An alternative would be to take a per cent of the income tax and give that to localities directly, no strings attached, and kill the property tax in toto.

    6. I don’t know what tax breaks Energy Corporations get. I would give them mountainous tax breaks for every measurable degree to which they reduce pollution. Corporate taxes are a sham that is passed on to the public. Reducing corporate taxes to get better corporate behavior (gasp, social engineering) that preserves what is best about Virginia is Constitutional – go back at look at the precedents in Roman law and English Common Law, as well as the Founder’s incentives to some corporations – like shipping.

    7. Is it illegal to go to Canada to buy prescription drugs? Don’t the socialists up there subsidize drugs? The government pays part of the price n’est ce pas? That should about cover the R&D and tort insurance costs built into the full price. Strengthen tort reform against greedy lawyers and watch the prices come down.

    8. You need to get a new dental plan, a new job, or to form a union to negotiate for a different dental plan. Or, better, Virginia should have vastly expanded life long health savings accounts. You could pay for yourself over a lifetime.

    The issues above are not principles, but they are policy decisions that sometimes violate and sometimes support principles of limited government. It isn’t the job of limited government, or big brother government, to make people’s lives better. It is the task of government to protect and serve in very limited ways to preserve your individual freedoms to allow you to make your life better. Or not.

  6. republitarian Avatar

    Will, I agree 100% with your assessment of republican leaders ignoring contrary opinions.

    It is a major problem in the Snenandoah Valley, particularly the 26th district.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    This post and the responses to it underscore the disconnect in the Party right now. Candidates run for office on a party label but, once elected, need to represent all their constituents whether Republican, Democrat or independent. Party activists want the elected officials to always talk and act in partisan tones. The general population wants the elected officials to act responsibly, civilly, and in a non-partisan manner, while still keeping to their principles. Those who follow the latter course are called RINO’s but have greater influence on policy and the operation of government. Depending on the electorate and the opposition, those who play to the party usually have short political careers and have very little long term impact on the system but they do make allot of noise and generate allot of press. For the short and long term we actually need both in the Party. The present effort to drive out the “governing” element of the Party is leading to disaster for the Party.

  8. Which is why there is a debate within the Republicans right now. Is it “stay the course” or shift to a more moderate NOVA republican approach. Seems to be stay the course at the moment.

  9. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon 9:21. If you think the backstabbing, tax and spend Republican legislators represent the governing element of the Party, then you must equate governing with the Democrats, like drinking with the drunks, as some kind of good thing. The budget surplus is only good for people who make their living from government spending and the politicians who get their campaign donations.

    It’s exceptionally amusing that RINOs would have greater influence on policy and operation of government. Name one policy or operation that is better, and how, because of some RINO influence separate and different from the liberal Dems.

    The responsible, civil manner to act while representing and serving (as opposed to caving, backtracking, abandoning, abusing the principles and rhetoric RINOs use in election campaigns) is partisan Republican. Or haven’t you been listening? The Republican partisan way to act is gentlemanly and ladylike. The RINOs called party activists what names? The RINOs are the Chicken Littles of 2004 – and that is the most accurate, civil, and responsible description for their whining about infrastructure, essential services, etc.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Republicans still don’t quite get it: Conservative priciples are killing them.

  11. Steve Nelson Avatar
    Steve Nelson

    The budget surplus is only good for people who make their living from government spending and the politicians who get their campaign donations.

    Actually no. A budget surplus is good for anyone that doesn’t want to pay higher taxes down the line to pay for interest accrued on a previous deficit.

  12. somepoorslob Avatar

    Wrong. Do you think Chichester & company are going to sit on that surplus with you and wait for a rainy day to spend it wisely?

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