Saturday, June 13, 2009

Can Virginia Afford Four Years of Bob McDonnell?

One of the Conservative blogs I find worthwhile and interesting, Bearing Drift, has a blog post up entitled, “McDonnell v. Deeds in Perspective.”

Here is the essence of Bearing Drift’s take on the election before us:
There will be many issues that will be discussed, the economy, abortion, taxes, energy, and others. The issue that really gets to the heart of this election is simple. Will our Commonwealth be sovereign?

The underlying issue is whether or not Virginia will continue to lose sovereignty to the federal government. The recent controversy over accepting certain stimulus funds, is a perfect example. Governor Kaine has, in many ways, sacrificed Virginia’s sovereignty.

Now, I thought the “Recent Unpleasantness” answered the essential, broad question of state sovereignty, but perhaps not. In any event, while Virginia’s Bearing Drift Conservatives may subscribe to this view that state sovereignty is the signature issue of this election, I suspect that Mr. McDonnell does not. I went back and looked a few polls taken during the 2008 election regarding issues that voters cared about, and I have to tell you, state sovereignty did not make an appearance on any of them. I’m guessing Mr. McDonnell, if nothing else an intelligent fellow, noticed this as well. And indeed, based on the campaign he has run so far, it seems Mr. McDonnell wants to get elected, not make a point in the Republican Debating Society.

But to the extent that this sort of superficial and weak analysis reveals the ideological underpinnings of Mr. McDonnell’s policy choices, then it is fair to ask, as Creigh has done, whether Virginia can afford four years of Mr. McDonnell as Governor.

Nothing personal or negative. Here is why.

If serious Conservatives, including Mr. McDonnell do in fact think like this, then it is indicative of the fundamental problem that infects their movement today, namely, an inability to develop a set of affirmative policies based on their ideology that can gain the support of the electorate. It isn’t their fault, entirely. For one thing, the ideology itself is simplistic and, in this day and age, historically irrelevant, at least insofar as developing concrete policies is concerned. In an era of strained state budgets, tax cuts are not appealing; in a time of greater demand for state services, spending cuts are not desirable. In an era of high unemployment, a family cannot shelter or feed themselves with the knowledge that some degree of state sovereignty has been maintained.

If I may borrow from Bearing Drift, the recent controversy over accepting certain stimulus funds is a perfect example. There is, I am sure, a great intellectual, Constitutional and moral debate to be waged over whether those funds came with too many strings attached that impermissibly trampled on an early 19th Century view of state’s rights and individual liberties , but here on Earth, in the United States of America, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in 2009, when tens of thousands of people are hungry, unemployed, homeless and just plain worried about what the future has in store for them and their children, turning down the money was just, what’s the expression I’m looking for here – oh, right, no need to get too technical -- bat-shit crazy.

So, if Mr. McDonnell just made a bad one-off call here on the stimulus funds, it’s one thing. But if it was his adherence to an ideology of protecting state sovereignty, as Bearing Drift asserts, that led him to make this BSC decision, meaning that we can expect four years of BSC decisions, then Mr. McDonnell should make that clear.

That way, we can make an informed decision of whether we can afford four years of him as Governor.

UPDATE: Lowell at Blue Virgnia noticed this post as well.


  1. Very nice. Thanks for the analysis and humor. I think there will be a tension this year for Bob McDonnell to manage. Can he appear reasonable to the middle ground voters while keeping the BSC (Yes, I rather like that) portion of his coalition both happy AND out of the spotlight?

    And will dogwhistle phrases like "state sovereignty" still work, or will they turn off Virginia's undecided electorate (who are largely pretty well educated) who can see through them?

  2. This op-ed in today's New York Times

    makes a good case for why the GOP's woes may last for another cycle or two, at least.

    The empty rhetoric of the GOP's glory days will have little appeal to today's voters, especially younger voters who didn't live through those days and are unable to get nostalgiac for them. Even among older voters, the tough economic times will make them resistant to wishful thinking that all we need is a sunny optimistic hero.

    The most interesting part of the article for me are the comments of the young right-leaning pundit and Gov. Daniels of Indiana (who, now that he's stated his aspirations for higher office are over is, I guess, free to say less than laudatory things about Reagan).

    It's hard for me to imagine that calls for humility and moderation are going to rally voters to the GOP anytime soon, especially when the GOP base is pushing the exact opposite rhetoric of fire-breathing exhortations of "sovereignty forever!"

    Until the leaders of the GOP are forced to listen to the anguish of the followers of the GOP who will become increasingly less patient with losing election after election, they'll be stuck in the wilderness.

    What's sound does a cry of "Sovereignty!" make when there is no one around to hear it?