Monthly Archives: March 2005

Quote of the Day

“Being at the bottom of the seniority scale and in the minority I’m not sure what she’d be capable of.”

–Del. Jeff Frederick (R-Prince William), commenting on Hilda Barg’s decision to oppose him in November. In the Republican primary two years ago,
Frederick, defeated Del. Jack Rollison, who was a member of the House for 17 years and chairman of its transportation committee. I guess seniority didn’t matter then.

Governor Poll

Kilgore 46%
Kaine 36%
Potts 6%
UnD 12%

Poll out today may not be great news for Tim Kaine, but it’s too early to pay much attention to these polls. Virginia is a Republican state. So right now, all people are reacting to is the D or R next to the name. (Yes, you can argue that’s all most people care about in the voting booth, but we’re talking here about the few who can sway an election.)

I’ve already heard rumblings that business people in Loudoun who recently heard Kilgore speak, left the place shell-shocked. He doesn’t play well on the stump. TV coverage will hurt him.

And when you look at the numbers in this poll, there are some concerns for Kilgore. Potts has 6% after a week of unrelenting bashing from his party. Imagine the bounce he’ll get when the party runs out of expletives. Self-described moderates like Kaine 43-37% with 7% for Potts.

Bad news is self-described independents give Potts 15% but they favor Kilgore over Kaine 41-33% and those “not sure” of their party (with the option of saying independent, what does “Not sure” mean — they can’t remember?) like Kilgore 64-10%. Hispanics like Kilgore 52-18%. Maybe the Dems need to remind them that Kilgore liked the bill to ban illegal immigrants from admission to state colleges.

Quote of the Day

“[The tax fight] is behind us.”
Speaker of the House Bill Howell

Yes, I suppose Howell would like it to be “behind us.” A case might be made that the Dems shouldn’t let that happen. But clearly some GOPers are happy to keep mouthing the same mantra. Del. Dick Black (R-Sterling) [Disclosure] is already trying to pin his opponent, Dave Poisson, as a tax and spend liberal. At the same time, Black wants to take credit for new highway money coming Loudoun’s way. I’m sure he’ll try to take credit for new school money and anything else he doesn’t deserve. But the Dems should be countering with “without the tax increase and the car-tax cap, there would have been no money last year and less this year.” If the tax hikes were so unpopular, why is Warner so popular?

I’m willing to bet the anti-tax crusade, both nationally and in Virginia, is running out of gas. So maybe let’s not put it behind us just yet.

What’s the Plan?

About two months ago I posted about the impending social security debate.

Anybody know what the Democrats’ position is on ensuring the long-term viability of social security? We know what Bush wants, though we need more details. And Congressman Bill Thomas has a few ideas, like making it gender-specific. But what do the Democrats want? That we can’t articulate it sums up the problem with da Dems. They have no position except to be opposed to Bush’s.

That post generated comments. To one of them I argued

While I acknowledge that Bush is unnecessarily yelling “fire” – and that getting our fiscal house in order is always a good idea — I think now would be a good time for Democrats to present a plan for the long-term viability of social security. For one, it presents Democrats as thinkers. Right now, Dems are all considered knee-jerk protectors of the status quo. They should be perceived as the party of ideas or they’ll never recapture power.

Now would be the time to talk about long-range changes to the SS system, including means testing. SS was meant as insurance against old-age poverty. [Original comment edited for clarity] Seniors with incomes over $100,000 not only receive SS payments but do so long after they’ve recouped what they put into the system. Maybe 100k isn’t the threshold, but I think if combined with the idea of increasing payments to those below the threshold, the Dems could present themselves as the party of the middle class. Such a move would be an increase in the progressiveness of the tax system.

Today, The Washington Post reports two veteran Democratic strategists are arguing the same thing.

The party’s situation was posed most provocatively by two veteran Democratic strategists, Stan Greenberg and James Carville. In a memo issued last week, the two wrote: “We ask progressives to consider, why have the Republicans not crashed and burned?”

“Why has the public not taken out their anger on the congressional Republicans and the president?” they added. “We think the answer lies with voters’ deeper feelings about the Democrats who appear to lack direction, conviction, values, advocacy or a larger public purpose.”

Whatever you think of Bush, you’ve got to give him credit for his willingness to touch the third rail of politics. Long-range, Social Security does have problems — problems that are better addressed today when we have more options and a longer political perspective.

Bush has already won one battle: He has convinced Americans, especially those who will be voting for another 40-50 years, that there is a problem.

In their analysis, Greenberg and Carville said Democrats have resisted saying there is a problem with Social Security, even though 63 percent of Americans in a recent National Public Radio poll said there was. “To say there is no problem simply puts Democrats out of the conversation for the great majority of the country that want political leaders to secure this very important government retirement program,” they wrote. “Voters are looking for reform, change and new ideas but Democrats seem stuck in concrete.”

The voters Carville and Greenberg are alluding to don’t go to the polls until 2006. Here in Virginia, the polls open this November.

Is there an analogy in the Commonwealth? What’s the biggest issue facing us? Most say it’s transportation. So what’s the Dems transportation plan?

If you look to the top of the ticket, Tim Kaine’s web site doesn’t offer many concrete ideas, expect that he’ll save money by insisting VDOT is more efficient. He’ll also lock up the transportation trust fund and push for better linkage between transportation plans and land use plans.

As we better link land use and transportation planning, we will spend our money more wisely. As one example, Richmond provides a significant property tax break to people who perform major renovations of existing buildings. This tax break encourages the continuous redevelopment and reuse of existing structures, which brings reinvestment into the core of already settled areas. By encouraging more activity near our job centers, we help slow down the need for sprawl and the need for expensive road development into the far suburbs. This smart policy choice encourages positive development, helps people live closer to work, provides good construction related and other jobs for our workforce and utilizes existing transportation infrastructure rather than creating a need for new roads. We have to find similar incentives to take advantage of existing road and public transportation networks.

(Smart growthers might argue that renovating old office buildings in downtowns doesn’t do much to attract people to live downtown and it certainly doesn’t bring the jobs to where the people are now living.)

Kaine also has said that gasoline taxes are not off the table. But still, I don’t think even after the man in the street reads Kaine’s position, he would be able to put it into a few words. How will Kaine address the transportation mess?

Fortunately, Jerry Kilgore has even less of a plan.

Jerry Kilgore is committed to looking at innovative and forward-looking initiatives that free up capacity on our existing network of roads by recognizing that transportation is a service that should be treated like other goods and services — allowing the private sector to meet the demands of consumers in an open and free marketplace.

Kilgore is supportive of using a budget surplus for one-time capital projects, such as building new roads and bridges; a constitutional amendment to put the “trust” back in the transportation trust fund; and effectively using public-private partnerships for the maintenance of existing roads and construction of new roads, as part of an overall transportation plan.

When are people going to get over the notion that the private sector can do it any better?

Maybe the task and expense of building a field organization, making speeches and courting the press leaves little time for campaigns to really think about the issues. But as Bush has proven with Social Security, a willingness to put forth some ideas and facts (even spurious ones) about an issue can help generate action.

And in fairness to Kaine, he’s not campaigning against any of Kilgore’s ideas, because Kilgore doesn’t have any. But the difference is Kilgore is a Republican in a red state. The minority needs to generate reasons for voters to switch parties.

Wonder when the Carvilles and Greenbergs of Virginia politics will write a memo lamenting the Virginia Democrats’ lack of “direction, conviction, values, advocacy or a larger public purpose”?

Huffin’ and A-Puffin’

Much was made of the anti-tax organizers’ plan to challenge Republicans in the Virginia Assembly who voted to increase taxes last year to invest in education and other pressing matters. Each was to get a challenger, but as reported today, only six have emerged.

Robin DeJarnette, executive director of VCAP, said the PAC does not expect to endorse any more candidates before the GOP primary

“We wanted to be realistic,” she said. “It would have been difficult to find 19 people.”

Gee, there was such an outcry that statewide, they could find six people willing to challenge them. Even they have their work cut out for them.

Jim Dillard is retiring, so he’s not being challenged; his endorsed successor is — who is running as a Democrat. The challenger, a one Michael Golden, lost to Dillard in the ’03 general election by more than 2 to 1. And the precincts in Dillard’s district gave John Kerry a majority in the ’04 election. There has been a steady conversion of the inner areas of Fairfax County to the Democrats. There’s no reason to think, Dillard’s former aide, David Marsden, will lose this race.

Gary Reese, representing northwest Fairfax and eastern Loudoun County, is known for his school advocacy on the Fairfax County school board. He represents an area that is savvy and passionate about good schools. I can’t imagine that Chris Craddock, a 25-year old school teacher who lost a school board race in ’03, can outpoll Reese, who is more of a “good government” tight-fisted conservative than a social regressive. Reese has an avuncular manner that soothes voters.

Chris Oprison wants to lower taxes, promote home schooling, ban abortion and find “real transportation solutions. He’s challenging Joe May, a quiet man who also is pursuing a long shot bid for lt. governor. Seems Oprison liked May until he voted for more taxes. But Oprison is a litigator. Now how could a good Republican vote for a trial lawyer?

Steve Chapman, 27, is the first primary challenger Harry Parrish has had in 24 years. Chapman was part of an anti-tax march on Parrish’s Manassas place of business. The march fizzled when it encountered an even larger group supporting Parrish. It will probably be a “time for a change” campaign that young challengers use against older office holders.

In two other races, Shaun Kenney, chairman of the Spotsylvania Republican Committee is challenging Bobby Orrock, and Mark Jarvis will challenge Edward Scott.

This feeble effort is likely to do harm to the anti-tax effort. For all its bluster, it seems Grover Norquist can’t blow this house down. If they lose all six races, maybe The Washington Post will stop calling James Parmelee every time somebody whispers the word “tax.” Others are suggesting that Grover Norquist is already on the decline.

Abortions Among Blacks

There’s a good Richmond Times Dispatch story by Tammie Smith about abortion in the black community. Black women have nearly three times the number of abortions as white women. The anti-abortion movement claims that it is trying to enlist the black community in its anti-abortion crusade.

Victoria Cobb, executive director of the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia, said many blacks, who identify as Democrats, view opposing abortion as a Republican issue. Those old political divisions may be changing, she said.

“We are seeing the beginning of the paradigm shift with the marriage issue. African-American pastors are leading the charge to defend marriage,” she said, pointing out the foundation’s association with a multicultural group of Tidewater-area pastors. “I think we will see more of this on issues like abortion,” she said.

“I think many African-American pastors are engaging on the issue of fatherlessness,” Cobb said. “They are also seeing that tied to abortion, and how incredibly destructive that is to the community.”

Engaging in the issue of fatherlessness is all well and good. But exactly how is that tied to abortion? Preventing black women from getting abortions isn’t going to make the absent fathers return. It would simply bring another child, who perhaps can’t be properly cared for, into the world.

The problem of more unwanted pregnancies among black women is tied to the problems of health care in this country. Contraception is not cheap.

“One out of every three black women is without health insurance,” [said Lorraine Cole, president and chief executive officer of the Black Women’s Health Imperative], when asked about the figures. “Without health insurance, many women do not get routine gynecological care or have limited access to prescription birth-control methods which are more reliable. Also, some women have difficulty negotiating condom usage, which is a male-controlled contraceptive method.

Cole said data show black women also have higher childbirth-related death rates and higher rates of reproductive cancers such as cervical and ovarian cancers — other issues that reflect a “reproductive health crisis,” she said.

“The statistics . . . also speak to the need for comprehensive sex education that includes discussion of the full range of contraceptive options,” Cole said.

“The abortion rate is directly proportional to the rate of unintended pregnancies among both black women and white women. So, it can be addressed largely by preventing unintended pregnancies through comprehensive sex education and access to reproductive health care.”

How many of the social regressives who oppose abortion also oppose government programs that help poor people get adequate health care because doing so might raise taxes? And what do they offer as alternatives to abortions?

[Day] Gardner of Black Americans for Life, said these women need to be told there is other help out there.

“There are a lot of people who will talk about adoption within the white community,” Gardner said.

“I think abortion is thought to be the answer in the black community. We know there are a lot of problems in poor and minority areas. . . . The poverty and the health problems are very real. No one is saying they aren’t. Yes, they have problems keeping these children. Churches will help. There are people who will help.”

And that would be who and what? Churches aren’t going to fulfill the need. Regressives love to say there are alternatives to abortion but rarely say what those alternatives are and who will pay for them.

Double Standard Censorship

Oh great, a president can lie about facts that lead us to war and the press puts the lie on the front page. But when a comic strip uses an alleged and almost admitted to but unproven fact, the paper censors it.

Blogging to Be Regulated?

Here’s a frightening development. The Federal Elections Commission is considering treating blogs as political operations to be regulated.

If a blog advocates for a candidate or links to her Web site, that could be considered a political contribution, the FEC contends, and bloggers would then have to calculate how much of a contribution that it. Once that limit is met, a blogger may then be prohibited from mentioning a candidate.

A judge’s ruling stated that “coordinated activity over the Internet would need to be regulated, as a minimum,” according to this story.

[B]loggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign’s Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate’s press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.

This FEC effort is an affront to free speech. Bloggers are not paid political operatives. And bloggers are not journalists. We’re more like the guy on a soap box in the town square. If we want to rant about our favorite candidate, that’s our right.

This effort to regulate blogs will, I fear, find willing sympathizers in the press. Let’s watch how the press approaches this story. Bloggers threaten journalists’ control of the agenda. It’s ironic, because while bloggers get credit for uncovering stories, they don’t become stories until the MSM run with it. Still, the press views bloggers as interlopers on their territory. While journalists might not cheer on the FEC, they will likely sit back and silently welcome FEC control.

Frederick Gets a Challenger

Jeff Frederick, the imminently immature and ignorant delegate from Prince William County, has a challenger. PW County Supervisor Hilda Barg plans to announce her Democratic candidacy next week. It appears the Governor is going to throw his weight behind her.

Warner said he expects to see much of Barg between now and the election in November.

“I expect to campaign with, and for, Hilda during this campaign,” Warner said.

Barg’s experience on the Board of County Supervisors, Warner said, helps her understand the problems facing the 52nd District.

“Hilda will be a strong voice in support of our work to strengthen education, improve transportation and create a better quality of life for people throughout Virginia,” Warner said.

It will be interesting to see who the governor and the Democratic party apparatus will get behind this fall. The Democrats seem to be willing only to contest races they think the numbers show they can win. If the Republican party had used that strategy it would still be the minority party. Republicans had a much larger vision. They were willing to challenge where they were thought to have little chance. But by building a message and an organization, they achieved dominance. Limited vision will only mean small victories.

If Warner wants to spend his last year in office productively, let’s hope he and the party go all out for Democrats willing to step up to the plate.

UPDATE: Democracy for Virginia has more on Frederick.