A thoughtful treatise

A Western Maryland blogger and TEA Party activist raises some good questions about Bob Ehrlich (h/t Blue Ridge Forum).

While the TEA Party movement locally may be slowly fading away as a vehicle of protest (no July 4th TEA Party was scheduled in Salisbury this year and attendance at April’s event was disappointingly low) there’s still that simmering resentment at party politics in general and the GOP in particular.

It’s expressed in an undercurrent of backlash among certain conservative voters against Bob Ehrlich and Eric Wargotz, who are perceived by them as the “establishment” Republican candidates. Instead, they’re gravitating toward upstart Brian Murphy in the GOP primary for governor as Murphy doesn’t seem to be ashamed of having conservative views. The same goes for Jim Rutledge (and perhaps one or two others on a lesser scale) for the U.S. Senate nod.

The problem for Republicans is that they have a group who’s been proven willing to fight for goals they believe in, but may be put off by the more centrist candidates. Many TEA Partiers (including myself) draw their inspiration from Ronald Reagan, who was thought by the conventional wisdom and many in blueblood country club Republican circles to be unelectable. They had their way in 1976 and their choice (President Ford) lost the election.

But then 1980 came along and their candidate (George H.W. Bush) lost the nomination to Reagan, who as we know blew out President Carter in the election. When Bush was elected in 1988 on Reagan’s coattails, he caved to the centrists – “read my lips,” anyone? – and lost to Bill Clinton. That happened in part because H. Ross Perot, who was more appealing to conservatives, ran on the Reform Party ticket. (Hey, I voted for him in 1992 as well. But I talked my ex-spouse out of voting for Clinton into voting for him so it was a wash.)

I know many of you see this as ancient history, but there are a lot of people around my age who fondly remember the Reagan years and wonder what happened to that America. I know I do.

Right now, as far as our economy goes, we are in a situation not unlike the situation 28 years ago in which Reagan found himself – high unemployment and a stagnant economy. But with Reagan we were on the upswing from the dismal Carter years and beginning about 1983 we began a roaring era of prosperity. I wouldn’t bet on that given the current administration and their economic prescriptions.

So people are pretty upset – mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. But the perception has been cleverly placed in people’s minds that the GOP was to blame for the current economic situation. Perhaps they’re right, but it wasn’t conservative economic policies which put us into this malaise – instead it was catering to centrists and liberals who thought only government could dig us out of the hole.

And TEA Party participants believe this as well, so a centrist Republican may say all the right things but not everyone will buy what they’re selling. Once the ballot is set, I’ll be the guy asking the questions.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

4 thoughts on “A thoughtful treatise”

  1. Michael,

    The establishment GOP may not be “to blame”, they certainly are “responsible”.

    Glass Steagall was repealed by a Republican congress.

    Fannie and Freddie could have been reined in any time from 1994 to 2006, and they weren’t.

    Many of us saw the “liar’s loan” problem as early as 2003, and said so (to the elected establishment) and were blown off.

    Many of us saw the silliness of Alan Greenspan even earlier, and said so (to the elected establishment) and were blow off.

    The civilian employment by the Federal Government grew more under “compassionate conservative” George Bush than it did under any president since Nixon.

    Few Republican governors (including Bobby Ehrlich) were willing to shut down state government hiring in a significant way. (Note: leaving open positions unfilled is not cutting positions, as the positions are still funded in the budget).

    The IRS now has a bigger budget (and more investigators) than either the FBI or the CIA. What does that say about the growth of government power vs the governed as opposed to the role the government sees in protecting the governed.

    John McCain. Lindsay Graham. Chuck Grassley. Susan Collins. Olympia Snowe. Jim Leach. Need I name more Republicans who have done more to campaign, legislate, and argue against a restrained Federal government in the daily lives of our citizens?

    Michael Steele.

    If the Republican Party wants to get serious about establish a national conservative majority, it has to start with a self-applied enema. Next, it needs to effectively argue against the growth of government to be followed-up by a rollback to the states of power.

    Until then, the Republican Party deserves the suspicion of true conservatives. As Ronald Reagan said of the Soviets, “trust, but verify”.

  2. The problem with the conservative criticism of Ehrlich goes back to the issue of making the perfect the enemy of the good. Is Ehrlich a perfect conservative? Of course not, but he’s the best we are going to do in a statewide race in Maryland. Even Ehrlich’s brand of lukewarm conservatism was too much for voters in 2006. He may be too far to the right this year, too. Maryland is not a conservative state. The only Republicans who will be elected to statewide office in the near future are moderate conservatives.

    The questions conservatives need to be asking themselves is not whether Ehrlich agrees with them 100% of the time. It’s whether Ehrlich would be better than O’Malley. The answer is clearly “yes” to that question.

    Pining for a perfect candidate and ignoring the political realities isn’t a path for victory or for accomplishing anything in the policy arena. It’s a path down the road of the Libertarian Party. Libertarian candidates are pretty ideologically pure. They are also unelectable, so what good are they?

  3. But the good candidate also explains why conservatism will be beneficial.

    Obviously there are places like Takoma Park where anything right of communist isn’t going to have a chance and they’ll be a hotbed of support for any Green Party candidate, but for most of Maryland they’re leftwing either because they have a vested interest (government workers) or they listen to what the Sun and Washington Post is telling them about the state of the state under O’Malley. Those are the places in the I-95 corridor where conservatism has a chance if they keep it fiscal-minded and avoid social issues.

    MOM is definitely beatable, and the Murphy campaign is based on the premise that O’Malley already knows how to beat Ehrlich. The question that probably won’t be answered because the power brokers in the MDGOP have all but shut the door on a fairly contested primary is whether Brian Murphy can beat O’Malley.

  4. @Marc,

    You raise a good point, but I think you don’t address the key argument that many conservatives have against Ehrlich.

    There is no doubt in many conservatives minds that Ehrlich would be better than O’Malley. Hell, I can think of any number of Democrats that would be better than O’Malley. There is a lame cow in my front yard right now that would be better than O’Malley.

    Where I stand (and I don’t want to claim to speak for ALL conservatives, they can make the argument themselves) is that if ANY candidate wants my vote, they need to speak to ME about my concerns. Not literally, of course. I don’t expect Bob to show up at my house.

    But I would like to see candidates running as Republicans do more than go “I’ll be better than that guy”. I’d like to see them make a strong, forceful argument about why their philosophy on governing is BETTER. And, I’d like for them to make the argument about how that philosophy would apply, both generally and specifically.

    I work for the University of Maryland as a contractual employee. And I have to interface with several other state agencies on a regular basis. I can tell you this: Maryland State Government needs a massive and painful enema. Not just cutting employees. But a total philosophical shift. Only that will cure our budget issues, increase the quality of “services” delivered, and allow Maryland to be competitive as a business center that is no so dependent on Soddom on the Potomac.

    I don’t hear many “establishment” Republicans in this state making an argument that would address that.

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