October 30, 2011
To be perfectly honest, I am so unimpressed with the current field of Republican presidential candidates that I have a hard time generating much enthusiasm for the 2012 campaign. If you take their rhetoric at face value, the differences among them are frighteningly small. No matter what the problem is, the only solution they can offer is "Cut taxes!" Or maybe, "Cut government regulations!" Well, that's the sorry legacy left by President George W. Bush to the Party of Lincoln. A year ago, I was cautiously optimistic that the populist fervor manifested in the Tea Party movement would begin to cool and be replaced by a more mature and pragmatic attitude about the necessities of governing a republic that is in deep financial and constitutional peril. Instead what we witnessed as the debt ceiling showdown climaxed in July and August was another round of daredevil brinksmanship, accompanied by stale, dogmatic rhetoric that was virtually guaranteed to turn off anyone with half a brain.
As an example of what I have been thinking lately, David Frum recently wrote "Why I am a Republican" at frumforum.com. The title is a little misleading, however, because he takes strong exception to the GOP remedies for the current economic crisis. But even though he is "dismayed that my party is wrong on the most urgent issue of the day," ... there are many issues "on which I trust the GOP more than I trust the party of Barack Obama." That comes pretty close to how I feel. To me, it's obvious that Obama has been a disaster as president, but I acknowledge that the economic problems were not created by him -- he just made things worse. The noisy, low-brow contingent within the Republican Party will no doubt berate Frum for being a "RINO," but I expect that in time, more Republican leaders will pay more attention to his words than to all the two-bit right-wing shills and hucksters.
In a similar vein, Sen. Lamar Alexander recently announced that he is giving up his third-ranking position in the Senate Republican leadership, so that he can negotiate more freely with Democratic leaders. See Yahoo News. Many people forget that the U.S. Senate was once considered "the greatest deliberative body on Earth," and its customs and procedures were geared toward personal comity and bipartisan compromise. Not any more. It has become almost as partisan as the House of Representatives, and that is very damaging to our government.
With that as a rather blunt backdrop, I recently attended a Republican campaign rally in Verona, here in Virginia. It was billed as a "Family Picnic," sponsored by Congressman Bob Goodlatte. Turnout wasn't nearly as high as the last time I went to that event (October 2009), mainly because of the non-competitive races for state government offices here in the Valley. (In addition, there were high winds that blew paper plates and napkins all over the place, rather unpleasant; I helped clean up the mess afterwards.)
Several members of the House of Delegates were present, as well as local Republican candidates, including the incumbent Augusta County Treasurer Rick Homes, Commissioner of Revenue Jean Shrewsbury, Supervisor Jeremy Shifflett, and Supervisor candidates Dr. Larry Roller, Jim Warren, and Michael Shull. Some of them are facing independent candidates who are actually former Republicans. It's a complicated situation that will require explanation in depth...
The big attraction at this event was the appearance of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and I had a chance to chat with him briefly after the event was over. A recent cartoon in the News Leader hinted that Cuccinelli is going to run for governor, challenging the presumed GOP candidate Bill Bolling in the primary election. I've become a big fan of Cuccinelli over the past couple years, but I think he would be better off staying where he is until he has gained more experience.