Friday, September 25, 2009

Doug Wilder Didn't Endorse, But I Will

Here's Doug Wilder's non-endorsement in the gubernatorial race:

This is not the time in our Commonwealth to talk about any kind of tax increase, especially those that are fundamentally regressive and will hit hardest those who are struggling.

Rather, it is the time to put our fiscal house in order, strengthening the Commonwealth for the future.

Now is the time to replenish the “Rainy Day” fund which has bailed several administrations out of deficits, but will be all but depleted for future administrations to have at their avail. It is a time to do everything possible to let the public know that we are serious about getting a handle on spending and controlling it better. Re-examine the efficiency and effectiveness reports, previously administratively commissioned, draw from them, and make this reform agenda further known to the public. It is a time to return to the funding of “necessities” rather than “niceties”.

In the end, Governor Wilder declined to endorse anyone. Is this a victory for McDonnell? I'm not entirely sure. Given that Wilder didn't endorse Deeds in 2005 the status quo would bee a non-endorsement in the race. A Deeds endorsement would be a victory for Deeds and a McDonnell endorsement a victory for McDonnell. The status quo of no endorsement is pretty much a defeat for both candidates. That's just the way it is.

But if Doug Wilder doesn't want to endorse allow me to fill in with my own endorsement.

I am, of course, backing Bob McDonnell for Governor. McDonnell is arguably the last best hope Republicans have for saving Virginia as the Conservative Commonwealth.

It's easy to forget that Virginia has had only five Republican Governors in our modern two-party state. The first, Lindwood Holton, was a liberal Republican anomaly created by the old politics of a conservative Democratic party dominating the Solid South. It wasn't until Mills Godwin and other old conservative Democrats left the GOP that the Virginia Republican Party started to develop as the more conservative of the two parties in Virginia. But Godwin was helped by the rabid populist Henry Howell driving centrists and moderates into the arms of the Republican Party. And to pinpoint Godwin as the start of the modern Republican Party in Virginia creates a dark legacy of establishing the party's modern origins in the roots of Massive Resistance. In the end Godwin, for all of his racial and social conservatism, was the first governor to take Virginia off of its established "pay as you go" approach. In 1976 he backed Ford over the more conservative Ronald Reagan. His successor, John Dalton, is a virtual nonentity in Virginia history.

So having written off the first set of Republican Governors we are forced to turn to the 1990s for the profile of the modern Republican Party in Virginia: George Allen and Jim Gilmore. The early 1990s saw the rise of a Republican Party in Virginia based on cracking the base of rural white Democrats still clinging to a state party despite the march of liberalism to dominate the national Democrat Party. Very quickly, once they saw just how liberal even fellow Southern Bill Clinton would be in office, they abandoned the Democrat Party in droves. Today, Republicans are facing a reverse problem as suburban voters in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads are unhappy with the national image of the Republican Party created by the fiscal mismanagement of George W. Bush. We've seen this story before as those same voters left the Virginia Republican Party for Mark Warner following the end of Jim Gilmore's governorship.

If we don't learn from the mistakes of George Allen Jim Gilmore we'll be doomed once again.

I am a big fan of George Allen and look forward to his return to politics. But he was shackled with a Democratic legislature that forced him to shift away from his tax-cutting agenda later in his term. In 1996 the Cato Institute noted:

Allen's 1996 budget was a complete capitulation to the big spenders in the legislature: the tax cut was abandoned, school spending was increased by nearly $1 billion, and his request for funding for school vouchers was dropped. The budget Allen signed into law increases spending by 6 percent at a time when most other states are cutting spending.

In 2000 the Cato Institute took a look at Governor Gilmore's record and warned:

But Gilmore's budget grade is one of the worst in the nation. The state budget has grown the fifth fastest in the nation: after accounting for increased local reimbursements as a result of the car tax, it rose almost 3 percent faster than population growth and inflation. State spending since 1998 has even grown 2 percent faster than personal income--Virginia has the sixth highest rate of income growth in the nation--during a period when most states have seen state spending shrink as a percentage of residents' wealth. Most of the increased spending was on grades K-12 and state universities, accounting altogether for about 25 percent of his $3 billion in proposed new spending for 20­02. Gilmore recently suggested that he may need to put a stop to the car tax repeal if revenue projections aren't met. Yet it is obvious that if spending hadn't ballooned during his term, plenty of money would be left for the car tax cut. His spending hikes could seriously jeopardize the fiscal legacy of Governor Gilmore.

The problem with Virginia's two defining Republican Governors is that neither seriously took on spending.

And so voters, feeling like they had elected Republicans who were spending in Democrats, had no reason not to support Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.
If we don't get a Republican Governor who can cut spending and keep taxes low, our party may well be doomed for another decade in Virginia. Private business growth will languish and our state's economy will grow even more dependent on the federal government. Those aren't the types of voters that will support a small government party at the nationally level. If Creigh Deeds wins we'll see more taxes on our businesses and less private sector growth. That alone is reason enough to support Bob McDonnell. He's our last best hope.

1 comment:

  1. What we need is a strong fiscally conservative governor who is willing to make difficult decisions. Creigh Deeds is not that person.