Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Conservatives Don't Just Check Off Boxes

Last night I had some fun at Rob Hurt's expense by noting his week attempt to defend his record as "conservative." Hurt made a halfhearted attempt to reference a few Republican-leaning special interest groups and quickly glossed over a few meaningless policy positions. He is "proud" of his record that includes opposing taxes and repealing taxes, but also voting for the two largest tax increases in Virginia's history. One step forward, two steps back.

But let's analyze Hurt's statement a bit more seriously. I believe it shows a deep flaw with Rob Hurt as a candidate due to his failure to understand that being a conservative is more than checking off boxes. Rob Hurt may think he understands politics. He's been in the General Assembly for a while and he understands a little bit about the game. Blue team versus red team. Democrats versus Republicans. While Virginia doesn't have party registration, Rob Hurt has made his partisan identity public by running as a Republican. If Virginia had party registration you can be sure he'd check off the box to call himself a Republican. Rob Hurt is a Republican because he is a Republican. It's just a fact. He has checked that box off. That's all there is to being a member of a party. Just check the box.

That doesn't make Rob Hurt a conservative.

Being a conservative is more than checking off a few boxes. The problem with liberalism is that it has become little more than special interest politics. Check off the box for being "pro-choice." Check off the box for being "pro-affirmative action." Pick up some union endorsements. Pander to the environmentalists. The liberal movement in America is defined by an overall governing ideology of "I want something from the government." Most of the groups within the Democrat Party agree on little day to day. Auto workers in Detroit don't have much in common with environmentalists in San Francisco. But they do have one thing in common. They want something from the government. And to get what they want they will raise your taxes.

Rob Hurt has spent too much time in the General Assembly playing the game of blue team versus red team. He just thinks that there are two sides full of different special interest groups that want something. At the end of the day there isn't enough to go around so special interest groups fall into alliances to fight out who gets the loot the government has collected from the taxpayers. But in this view of government there is no meaningful difference between the two sides. That's the game Rob Hurt seems to be playing. Just check off the boxes of the special interest groups that support the red team.

Such a vision of government gets to the core of why Rob Hurt voted for the two largest tax increases in Virginia's history. He's "proud" to have voted for balanced budgets. "Proud" to have voted for additional revenue so that the special interests could have more money to split up amongst themselves. That's the approach of the liberals in the Democrat Party. Budget deficits? Not enough government revenue to pay for all of the programs? The simple liberal solution is just to raise taxes. Bring in more revenue. Problem solved. That's how the Democrats do it. That's how Mark Warner "solved" the budget crisis in Virginia.

I am happy that there is a widespread grassroots movement concerned about the direction of our country. One of the issues that is motivating this grassroots revolution is the deficit and our growing national debt. But Bill Clinton was worried about that too. So are many liberals in Congress. They are worried about it because it means they won't have enough money to pay for all of their stuff. The problem isn't the deficit. That's the symptom. The real problem is government spending too much money. Real conservatives get this. They understand there has to be more than just the fight over how to divide the loot. We need to take steps to reduce the amount of loot in the hands of politicians and make sure more is kept by the taxpayer. Rob Hurt may be able to check off the boxes for the red team's special interest groups, but he's shown a consistent inability to understand what it means to be a conservative.

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