Archive for January 14th, 2011

The Chairman, the Party, and the Candidates

After the election, Dick Wadhams sent out an email discussing the role of the party in vetting candidates for office.  Dick was roundly criticized for the mess that the Republican side of the governor’s race became, largely for his failure to properly “vet” candidates for that office.  He makes the point – rightly – that the people who are criticizing him for not vetting the candidates are the same ones who saw him as Bismarck in the last cycle, maneuvering everywhere, with any lack of maneuvering all the more evidence for his Machiavellian schemes.

The Party is not Dick Wadhams.  The party is everyone who shows up at caucus, assembly, convention, or primary.  The reason we have a caucus and a primary is exactly to vet the candidates, to see their strengths and weaknesses, to ask hard questions, to see how they’ll react to a long campaign, and to learn more about them.  The party chairman should tell a candidate for statewide office that a bankruptcy can’t be hidden and will be terminal.  Most would also look unkindly at a chairman substituting his judgment for that of the candidate or the party.

Neither should the party elders substitute their judgment for that of the party.  I largely blame them for the mess of a nomination process.  No amount of vetting could have uncovered the “plagiarism” by Scott McInnis.  That was deliberately leaked, for personal reasons by people inside the party, at a time when it could do the most damage.  And McInnis’s ham-handed handling of the charge kept him from recovering from it.

Had Josh Penry still been in the race, even for a few months, even with all his flaws, had the party elders simply sat back and waited to see how things played out, rather than trying to pick the nominee before the caucuses, it might have been a different story.  Because ultimately, the embarrassment didn’t come from McInnis not being vetted, but from Maes not being vetted.  Few who used him as a protest vote wanted him to win the nomination.  McInnis never felt threatened enough to do any digging.  But in a race between McInnis and Penry, each would have needed some of Maes’s votes, and at least one would have made sure that the party knew who this guy was.

A couple of months ago, in the wake of the election, I heard a senior party member, a former officeholder, tell a group of activists that he hoped that the presidential nomination would be settled by the South Carolina primary.  Coloradoans would have little say in the process aside from what checks they could write before, say, November of this year.  Having learned nothing from the governor’s race, this fellow was prepared to repeat his errors nationally.

In retrospect, it’s clear that the party’s nomination process for governor was broken, and that it had considerable outside help in getting that way.  Whether that was Dick’s fault or not depends on what you consider to be the proper role of the party chairman.  Dick reads his job description largely as that of a mechanic; largely non-ideological, although you want him to be on your side.

The party chairman is no longer the guy with the biggest cigar in the smoke-filled room.  Changes in campaign finance laws mean that the party machine plays little if any role in branding the party.  That comes from the candidates.  And the candidates meet directly with the party bosses, the ones who’ll fund their campaigns, rather than going through the party hierarchy to get there.

The genius of The Blueprint isn’t just that they throw a lot of money at key races.  It’s that they coordinate their limited resources as a team, so they are, by and large, not working at cross-purposes, spending money to defeat each other, or duplicating effort.  The outside groups, the Tea Parties, the affiliated groups, the business lobbies, the taxpayer watchdogs, and the groups with specific policy agendas all need to be cajoled into working together to defeat Democrats.

Leadership of that team needs to come from somewhere, and if the party chairman can’t do it – and Pat Waak has shown that he needn’t – then someone outside the party hierarchy needs to play that role.


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Governor Hickenlooper (and boy, that need to be in the editor clipboard) has signalled a desire to be more “pro-business.”   There’s a reason for that:

It’s already bad enough that the US has the highest corporate tax rates in the industrialized world.  We also know that jobs tend to flow from blue states to red ones, and Colorado has a lot of red states surrounding it.

Kim Strassel has a fine piece in today’s Wall Street Journal about how the red-state governors of Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio are already taking advantage of Illinois’s addiction to self-destructive behavior by luring businesses away.  There are some limits; it’s 

unlikely that Gary, Indiana, a joke since Meredith Wilson’s time, will be able to replicate Chicago’s freight infrastructure.  But there’s no good reason why businesses can’t relocate to Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, Santa Fe, or Texas.  (Cheyenne, you say?  Well, yes.  It made news last year when a large computer server farm, dedicated to some environmental purpose or another, relocated there to get away from Colorado’s high electricity rates.)  Minnesota also isn’t so far away, and the new Republican majority up there may be enough to override Governor Dayton’s apparent intent to fumble this opportunity for his state.

Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and Texas all rank higher on the Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate Rankings (  Nevada could be a nice stop for Californians looking to defect.  The aforementioned Minnesota ranks 43rd, another reason they could be looking to improve.

And remember that “business-friendly” doesn’t necessarily mean “market-friendly,” or “growth-friendly.” Success at nurturing large businesses could come at the expense of small ones, which may or may not be more mobile.  The hunger to lure larger defectors from California could mean subsidies at the expense of the rest of us.

Mayor Hickenlooper has already succeeded in driving business out of Denver to the surrounding cities, through software taxes, the head tax, and regulatory snarl.  He’ll face similar pressures from his base to repeat that performance as governor.  Let’s hope he realizes that other states will be willing to capitalize on that error.

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Reflections on Speech and Speeches

Enabled by the excuse of being temporarily dislocated, I also decided to wait until the dust had settled on the Arizona shootings to comment on them, and on the political reaction to them.  It seemed to me better to wait, rather than jump in with all sorts of assumptions of the kind that have justly earned so many commentators on the left the disdain of most Americans.  Now, with things having settled down, I can safely put pen to pixel.

I’m pleased that Obama gave the speech he did, rather than the one we were afraid he would.  The audience’s behavior was atrocious, the fact that public officials rather than religious figures quoted the Bible was regrettable, and the administration bears responsibility for the program.  But all that doesn’t tell us anything new.

Obama’s speech itself did rise to the occasion, and I’ll refer people to Ross Kaminsky’s analysis here.  All of that said, there’s no particular reason to believe that it was sincere.  After all, it’s easy to call off the game when your side it getting creamed, and that’s largely what happened here.  If the President could score a few harmless points off people who’ll support him anyway, and by doing so, appear to move to the center on a matter of optics rather than policy, it was little more than a smart political move.  He gets some points for abandoning a shrill attack machine in its tracks.  Let’s not forget that he helped create that machine, and that it had apparently thrown a rod and was leaking oil all over the road.

Among the worst offenders was our own Representative Diana DeGette, who used an appearance on KOA on Monday afternoon to try to link the shooting to ObamaCare.  She argued that Speaker Boehner had taken a large step, doing the right thing by lowering the temperature of the political debate, by putting off the ObamaCare repeal vote.  The vote was, according to her, “controversial,” “not going anywhere,” and, “intended to appease the Republican base.”  This comment just about encapsulates DeGette’s unworthiness to represent us in Congress.

The vote, in fact, isn’t all that controversial -60% of voters consistently support repeal.  Which means that the Senate’s vote to keep ObamaCare in place, or more likely, its vote to kill repeal in committee and prevent a floor vote at all, is the real base-pandering going on here.  If we stipulate – for the purposes of discussion – that it’s a symbolic vote, then it ought not be controversial at all.  Controversy is what happens when you actually seek to pass a wildly unpopular bill into law, and what you seek to avoid by doing so at midnight on a Saturday.

The same interview saw DeGette claim that despite protests at her home, her church, her office (I’ve lived near DeGette for 13 years and can’t remember any newsworthy protests at her house), she bravely soldiers on, meeting with voters as before.  That, at least, is undoubtedly true, as her only town hall appearance during the health care debate was by telephone.

We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that, essentially, there was nothing at stake here for the President and his party.  They continued to bull ahead pushing the health care overhaul despite its obvious unpopularity because the prize – nationalizing health care – was worth an election defeat, even a shellacking.  Here, they were launching a major PR offensive to score what would, in military terms, be a minor objective in a long campaign.  They may love censors and hate guns, but the FCC will or won’t try to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine anyway, and even the state where the attacks took place seems uninterested in revising its Vermont-style concealed carry.

But the campaign against self-protection and for “civility” by the Left isn’t over, it’s just looking for a better fight to pick, and the President signalled that, as well.  If a supposed lack of civility by the right didn’t cause or encourage this attack, then the attack, by definition, can’t provide us any lessons in the importance of civility.  And restraining my speech in response is an offense against society, not a protection of it.  If Arizona law would have permitted the family to keep an obviously unstable man off the streets, then restraining my right to carry a weapon on that basis is likewise an offense against society, not a protection of it.  (And if Arizona law didn’t permit that, then it ought have.)

We may allow the President his moment of appearing Presidential.  We ought not allow that to obscure the very real, very menacing agenda his party still holds.

UPDATE: I have been informed that Representative DeGette did indeed hold at least one live, in person, townhal during the health care debate.  It was called at the last minute, and timed to coincide with a large anti-ObamaCare rally at the state capitol.  Holding a townhall on the most contentious issue of your tenure at a time when you know that most of those hostile to your position will be otherwise occupied is hardly the most courageous stand for a member of Congressional leadership to take.


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