â€œAfter carefully considering the whole situation, I stand with my backÂ toÂ the wall. And walking is better, than running awayâ€¦and crawling ainâ€™t no good at allâ€
Willie Nelsonâ€”Lyrics to â€œWalkingâ€ (1974)
While not known for his astute political analysis, with these lyrics Willie Nelson has managed to perfectly describe the conundrum myself and millions of other voters face in selecting a candidate to support for president amongst the Republican field.
For months now GOPers have been carefully considering the whole situation, and have yet to settle on anyone. With the voting only two weeks away a majority of those undecided now officially are standing with their backsÂ againstÂ the wall.
In this regard I am no differentâ€”laid here are the reasons I am currently walking, and not running, toward Newt Gingrich. Like any well thought out decision there are three main factors at playâ€”the mind, the gut, and the legitimate reservations. The following is an honest, pull-no-punches account of my thought process for each.
The reason why the polls have been a roller coaster in this cycle is fairly simpleâ€”you have a massive pool of Conservative voters and not one single, unquestionably consistent Conservative, who couldÂ certainly beat President Obama. My sense is that the field does have strong Conservatives, namely Bachmann and Santorum, but neither have been able to garner the support necessary to win the White Houseâ€”and Ron Paul will have to be addressed in full at some other time. As the polls suggest, the two with the best chance at unseating Obama are Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
This being the case, the exercise has come down to a question of who I feel is more Conservative between the two and who has the better chance of successfully vocalizing Conservative philosophy to the general electorate. On both counts my answer is Newt Gingrich. As we have seen in the Republican primary, the debates between President Obama and the Republican nominee are going to be viewed by a record amount of people and will largely be the deciding factor for Independents.
Perhaps no figure in modern political history has more of a gift for the debate stage than Newt Gingrich. Making this an even larger advantage is the mythic narrative that President Obama is some legendary debater. While last cycle he may have gotten the better of Hillary Clinton and John McCain overall, he never blew either off the stage (and managed to lose to both on multiple occasions).
Along with his debate prowess, there are two other things that make me comfortable with the idea of Newt as the nominee and as President. First is his deep understanding and respect for history. Whether it be American or world history, his decision making process would be solidly grounded in the actions and outcomes of past situations. I happen to think that had the filter of history been applied to many of the decisions made by our last two presidents, many of the undesirable results we have seen could have been avoided.
Second is the structure and proven results of the concept of a â€œContract with Americaâ€. The 1994 contract saw roughly 70% of its content become lawâ€”and that was with a Democrat in the White House. Any Republican taking a serious look at his â€œ21st Century Contract with Americaâ€ would likely agree that achieving even 50% of its content would result in our Country standing on immensely more solid ground than it is currently. Clearly there is no time now to go through the platform item by item, however, you can review it in detail or read a brief highlight of it here. It is only fair that serious Republicans inspect this document before discounting Mr. Gingrich.
The biggest source of apprehension I have toward Mitt Romney is his striking similarity to our 43rd president. George W. Bushâ€™s eight year application of a watered down â€œcompassionate Conservatismâ€ did a great deal of damage to the viability of the philosophy. I canâ€™t help but shake the feeling that when inevitably faced with unpredicted situations, a President Romney would not be guided through these times of crisis by Constitutional Conservatism. Instead I see him falling back on the identical political pragmatism that Mr. Bush turned to when the pressure was on.
While certainly not without its own risks, I also prefer Gingrichâ€™s personality to Romneyâ€™s in the area of foreign policy. My view is that in general, and especially with the Iranian nuclear situation, many of Americaâ€™s national security interests can be forwarded through an aggressive posture. Though it is a fine line to walk, putting a reasonable fear into rogue nations couldâ€”as proven by Reaganâ€”actually help us avoid potential conflicts. A Romney-foreign-policy approach would likely be strictly by the book (i.e. painfully cautious and deferential), and result in a more-of-the-same outcome. Though I see positives in both approaches, I feel our enemies would have a greater fear of (and hence a greater respect for) a President Gingrich.
At a time when a dramatic move toward the Right is a legitimate possibility, on nearly every issue Mitt Romney is far too timid for my taste. One perfect example is in the area of Federal income tax policy. The enthusiasm throughout the country for major tax reform has never been greater, yet in this climate the proposal offered from Romney is to keep the top rate at 35% and largely leave the current structure intact. Though it could use some tweaking, the Gingrich proposal is for an optional 15% flat tax, where each taxpayer could choose to use the old system or opt for the flat rate. This is emblematic of the level of change the former Speaker is willing to push forâ€”and the type of transformation Mitt Romney will never champion.
The fact that a voter would have reservations about their candidate is only natural. Having said that, the lengthy nature of his list points to why I am walking, and not running, toward Mr. Gingrich.
According to my television and mailbox, and no doubt yours too, not only should Gingrich be checked off our short listâ€”he should be arrested and checked in to Guantanamo Bay. These attacks are largely overblown rubbish, but there are three main factors I view as legitimate reasons for apprehension. Like Romney, Newtâ€™s career includes multiple examples of unsettling â€œpolitical flexibilityâ€, his past personal life has often been a mess, and a rather large number of his former Republican colleagues have been outspoken against him (noteworthy on this list for me is Tom Coburn, whom I respect greatly).
Quite honestly these things have made the decision a far more anguished one than it has been in the pastâ€”or that it ought to be I might add. If I insisted on taking solace it would be found in the fact that while both candidates I view as being able to win the nomination and defeat President Obama have strong negativesâ€”both would be an upgrade for the Country.
I personally want the Republican Party, and the Country, to move significantly to the Right. I want the 10th Amendment to be respected, the enumerated powers to be followed, and for personal responsibility to once again be required and not optional. I do not see Mitt Romney doing this to the extent I want. In my eyes Newt Gingrich is, as George Will says, the most Conservative candidate who can win.
Like it will for many voters, my decision largely came down to a risk vs. reward ratioâ€”and there is no doubt in my mind that Mitt Romney would be the safer choice. Given the circumstances, what America needs right now is a real and powerful constraint on Federal power. Of the nationally viable candidates, Gingrichâ€”and the 21st Century Contractâ€”comes the closest to my vision of a positive American futureâ€¦For this reason I am willing to roll the dice.
Photo courtesy of Dave Davidson, whose outstanding work can be seen at Prezography.com
â€œI have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedomâ€¦..And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.â€
– Barry Goldwater, Conscience of a Conservative
Perhaps more than any other politician of the twentieth century, Barry Goldwater captured the essence of the American spirit – ferocious independence. This spirit depends upon the Constitution for its life and energy. Without our Constitution, our nation is nothing more than another geographic location; nothing but more real estate.
The Goldwater wing of the Republican Party has been asleep for decades, as the economists espousing Keynesian and Chicago School theories on the benefits of inflation became trendy and the American political aristocracy banished the Constitution to the wilderness, to be replaced with a holy mission to spread democracy with armed drones and replace civil liberties with state-managed dependency – what Barack Obama once referred to as â€œpositive rights.â€
Our nation is bankrupt; the unemployment rate is falling, not because people are finding work but because people are giving up and staying at home. While we still import millions of barrels of oil every day, we now export refined gasoline. As the Federal Reserve printed money to inflate the tech bubble, the housing bubble, five military conflicts, the bailout, the wealth conflagration referred to as the Stimulus, and the Treasury bonds sold to raise the money to pay the interest on the bonds sold to pay the interest on the bonds that were sold by Lyndon Johnson. The M2 supply (the number of dollars floating around out there) has more than doubled in the last ten years; as a result each individual dollar is now worth less. By doing nothing more than holding Canadian currency, the Canadian people now have the purchasing power to essentially outbid us for our own gasoline. This is what inflation looks like.
Prior to 1964 no American politician had ever referenced inflation in a political advertisement, and then Barry Goldwater did it. As Lyndon Johnson proposed to pay for a war in Vietnam and the Great Society programs of increased social spending, Barry Goldwater condemned the entire charade as a swindle, a hoax, and a fraudulent promise of perfect prosperity – if we print enough money, we will all be rich.
As the 1960â€™s gave way to the 1970â€™s, the bills began to fall due, and the government realized that its promises exceeded itâ€™s abilities. With little more than a speech, Richard Nixon took us off of the gold standard. As it turned out, William McChesney Martin (then the Federal Reserve Chairman) had printed so much money to pay for Johnsonâ€™s war on poverty that the gold reserves were no longer adequate to back it up. Bye-bye gold standard.
Hello fiat currency. Since 2001, the Fed has expanded our money supply by upwards of $6 trillion dollars. They distributed it to the government – to pay for social programs that are necessary, not perhaps for our national strength, but for the reelection of our politicians, as well as to banks so that they could write mortgages to people who couldnâ€™t pay them back. Nobody cared if the mortgages went bad; the banks had sold them to Fannie Mae, created by the government in 1939 specifically to buy mortgages from banks. Then, in 2008, the Federal Reserve printed the money needed to buy to bonds the Treasury needed to sell in order to fund the bailout of Fannie Mae and the banks.
In his pamphlet â€œConscience of a Conservative,â€ Goldwater blasted what he called delusional dreams of the â€œJacobins and leftists.â€ We in the conservative movement are not supposed to be allowed the luxury of idle utopian dreams, be they making the world safe for democracy, or making our domestic economy so wealthy (through housing and stimulus) that we simply wouldnâ€™t need to save money, manufacture things, or export anything other that Treasury bonds. These goals are fantasies; they have led us to quagmires of humiliation, poverty, and degradation.
Will anyone dare to ask Barack Obama why, when the United States was consistently running trade deficits in excess of $40 billion per month, he believed our problem was a lack of demand? Will anyone ask why he simply assumed that if we paid people to buy new (foreign-made) cars, then our economy would improve? A trade deficit, by simple, logical definition, is the consumption of goods in excess of your ability to produce. Stimulus accomplished nothing more than the further impoverishment of the nation. Who will challenge Barack Obama on this issue?
Enter our Republican candidates, most of whom seem to think that we desperately need to print money to pay for a war with Iran. Is this really the best we can do? A choice between inflationary games to pay for socialism, and inflationary games to pay for a war that we cannot otherwise afford and could easily be prevented? Only one candidate warned of the inflationary bubble in housing as early as 2001. Only one candidate understands the fundamental problem of our economy – too much debt; too little production. Too much urgent government initiative; too little freedom.
â€œExtremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.â€ Barry Goldwater was roundly condemned as an extremist for these sentiments. We live in an age of bankruptcy, fear, and disappointment. Candidates of firm conviction, shrewd talents, or competent judgment are frequently passed over in favor of the candidates with the darkest nightmares, the most delusional promises, or the most artificial of Cheshire Cat grins, with their insistence that spending borrowed money will make us rich and powerful, and if you disagree then you are clearly a cynical malcontent, playing politics at a time when action is required; that is American politics in the 21st Century.
The Goldwater wing of the Republican Party – fanatical adherents to the Constitution, ferocious nationalists, resolute defenders of liberty and individual rights- has been asleep for decades. Without our Constitution, the United States of America is nothing more than real estate. The Goldwater wing of the Republican Party is awake now; and they demand to be taken into account. So far, only one candidate has.
Photo Courtesy of Dave Davidson, his fabulous work can be viewed at http://prezography.blogspot.com/
While not big news that Iowa Republicans donâ€™t wait with bated breath for the Des Moines Register to anoint a Republican candidate the cream of the presidential crop, in recent years their recommendations have barely risen above laughable fodder. Since we could all use some comic relief from this seemingly endless campaign season, letâ€™s take a look back at the Registerâ€™s recent forays into Presidential advocacy. What follows are two main reasons, among many others, why they should stick to merely reporting on the political pulse of Iowaâ€”instead of trying to alter it.
Reason #1 â€“ A Sketchy, Schizophrenic History
While nearly all the data on editorial board endorsements show that they have a miniscule impact, if any at all, well over 70% of newspapers insist on letting readers in on their intense, well researched, and agenda free vetting. Though a nightmare for the hard journalism side of the paper, the hubris of editors and the short term buzz created by endorsements proves, cycle after cycle, too intoxicating to deny. Clearly I have no problem with public expressions of political opinion. If a newspaper wants to engage in it in spite of the fact it is counter-intuitive to their charter, then they have every right. However, one does have to wonder if itâ€™s too much to expect for them to undertake the process with a minimal amount of intellectual honesty. Consider the following examples, all from the Des Moines Registerâ€™s editorial board since the year 2000.
â€¢ When contrasted against a Democrat, they have not deemed any Republican candidate fit for the White HouseÂ in the last three cyclesâ€”opting for Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, and Barack Obama in 2008.
â€¢ Of the Republican primary field in 2000 they chose, believe it or not, George W. Bush. Beyond the massive irony, whatâ€™s interesting is that they chose Bush over fellow competitor John McCain, describing McCain as â€œhaving a tendency toward petulance when the cameras were off, and a lone-wolf style of action that has left him without the support of colleagues who should be his biggest admirersâ€. Never mind that eight years later he was chosen by the editorial board as the best choice amongst Republicans in 2008â€”though of course he ultimately fell short of recommending.
â€¢ In 2004 The Register had sized up John Edwards and concluded that he would make the finest president amongst the group, giving him the nod over all other Democrats running. Somehow over the next four years, he had regressed so far in his ability to lead the Country that when he came back in 2008 they couldnâ€™t recommend him. Not only did they bump him from their top spot they slid him behind both Hillary Clinton and Obama, saying they â€œtoo seldom saw the â€˜positive, optimisticâ€™ campaign we found so appealing in 2004. His harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change.â€ Something tells me the editorial board doesnâ€™t have quite the same problem with the â€œharsh anti-corporate rhetoricâ€ being screamed by the Occupy Wall Street crowd today.
â€¢ Also in 2004, in what would prove to be perfect foreshadowing for their future love affair with Barack Obama, the paper, as mentioned above, endorsed John Edwards over the rest of the field. In doing so they wrote that after initially discounting Edwards because of his lack of experience, they changed their minds after hearing him eloquently speak about the needs of ordinary Americansâ€”you canâ€™t make this stuff up! Clearly their weakness/hunger for the fool proof combination of inspired speech giving and inexperience had not been quenched by the time 2008 rolled around. This leads us to the biggest piece of evidence that all the Register is accomplishing is insulting our intelligenceâ€¦
Reason #2- Â The 2008 Debacle
While the preceding examples were shady, The Registerâ€™s editorial board performance in 2008 showed beyond a reasonable doubt not only where their allegiance lay, but that the whole point of their endorsements are to furtherÂ an agenda. They ended up of course endorsing Barack Obama in the general election, but itâ€™s the way they got there that is so telling.
First, they chose Hillary over Obama on the Democrat side, while endorsing McCain over the rest of the field on the Republican side. I donâ€™t doubt that the selection of McCain was largely due to him being the most moderate Republican in the field (though strangely he was a disturbing â€˜petulant, lone-wolf actorâ€™ eight years earlier), but he also would have been a â€œsafeâ€ choice at the time because he was polling in single digits and in 5th place. Picking a Republican that would not go on to win the nomination, like McCain appeared to be at the time, would have kept them out of the undesirable situation they eventually found themselves inâ€”having to endorse their second Democratic pick over their first Republican choice (Obama over McCain).
Embarrassed and knowing they had to explain it away somehow, they managed to make themselves look even worse. They acknowledged the situation and explained their reasoning by claiming they had endorsed McCain because they felt he was a man of honorâ€”but as the campaign wore on he became opportunistic and less dignified. What they cited as the biggest reason of why McCain was out for them was his selection of Sarah Palin. They did this, I kid you not, on the grounds of her inexperience! So to recap…The inexperience of a VP candidate turned them off enough that they instead chose to support, for the actual presidency, a man who had served less thanÂ four years in the Senate.
A great way to sum up the whole disingenuous circus is that while selecting McCain in the primary they said, â€œnone can offer the tested leadership, in matters foreign and domestic, of Sen. John McCain of Arizona. McCain is most ready to lead America in a complex and dangerous world and to rebuild trust at home and abroad by inspiring confidence in his leadership.â€ Contrast that with this insight as to why Hilary Clinton was a wiser choice than Obama, â€œWhen Obama speaks before a crowd he can be more inspirational than Clinton. Yet, with his relative inexperience, itâ€™s hard to feel as confident he could accomplish the daunting agenda that lies ahead.â€…You have to give them credit there–that was some impressive foresight.
Former Des Moines Register opinion editor Richard Doak, who authored the 2004 Edwards endorsement, summed it up best in a later interview. Sharing his thoughts on the process he said, â€œThe primary purpose of editorialsÂ are to stimulate discussion in the community… and itâ€™s a vehicle through which the newspaper expresses its values.â€
Trust me Richard, Iowa Republicans are plenty aware of the Des Moines Registerâ€™s â€œvaluesâ€. Perhaps if they used any manner of consistency in the endorsement process, beyond of course the consistency of their Liberalism, maybe more Iowans would â€œvalueâ€ the paper enough to start buying it again.
If ever there is going to be a moment for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to create momentum and change the flat trajectory of his presidential runâ€”now is the time. One day after the release of a Fox News poll, which surprisingly showed him gaining substantial ground in the race, Gingrich took to the stage at the Principal building in Des Moines to unveil his newly minted â€œ21st Century Contract with Americaâ€.
Updated from the 1994 version, this new contract will serve as the backbone of his campaign and its acceptance or rejection will determine his fate one way or the other.
In the world of presidential politics such fate is largely decided by three thingsâ€”the style, the substance, and the politics. Here is a brief analysis of all three.
By any objective measure this event was a success for the former speaker. It displayed a candidate and a campaign that, at a minimum, is hitting its stride and indeed may be ready to become a major player in the race going forward.
Standing on a small stage at the bottom of a room that can be best described as a large movie theatre, Newt showcased many of the positive characteristics that have marked his long political career. He spoke for an hour without a teleprompter or notes and smoothly communicated his message to the audience while appearing very comfortable in his own skin.
The setting was remarkably similar to a college lecture hall and his experience as a professor no doubt factored into his comfort level. Much like his strong debate performances of late, this setting played to his strengths and the result was a candidate able to speak to a variety of issues in a succinct, relaxed, and presidential fashion.
After being presented the outline for his new â€œcontractâ€, one thing is certainly clearâ€”this is a campaign that will not lack grandeur.
Quickly letting the audience know how high he thinks the stakes are, he explained the reasoning behind the large scale of his vision by saying â€œcountries can die without adequate leadershipâ€.
By and large the 21st Century Contract with America is a sweeping document of declared intent. In most cases the solutions he outlines are intentionally vague as his plan is to slowly codify specifics as the campaign progresses. Following a â€œnational conversionâ€, the aim is to have the contract fully fleshed out by September 27th of next year.
His solutions are largely modern day Conservative Republican fare (not a bad thing), whose main thrusts are to inject simplicity and choice into the dealings that we as citizens have with government. Any American serious about vetting the Republican candidates needs to read through the document on their own (availiable here), but here is an overview on a few major issues.
His first order of business would be to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a free market set of solutions to bring the cost of insurance down. The overall structure of our health care system would basically remain in place while insurance policies would be made portable, able to be purchased across state lines, and able to be optionally blended with personal health savings accounts (even in Medicare and Medicaid). These things along with tort reform and digitalizing medical records would attempt to radically decrease premiums without the use of mandates.
He would work to strengthen Social Security while keeping it at the Federal level and push for a voluntary option for young people to put a portion of their contributions into a Social Security savings account. The owner of this account could then choose to take this money and retire (or not retire) at any age they wished.
Perhaps the most interesting areas of this document come under the headings of taxes and immigration.
His business tax proposals are to reduce the corporate tax to 12.5%, abolish all capital gains and estate taxes, and allow 100% write offs in one year for all new equipment purchases. Personal income taxes would be handled by offering a choice to each citizen to either pay under the current system or file with a newly offered one page option. The one page would consist of taking your income, subtracting a standard deduction, taking a deduction for charitable giving and home ownership (if applicable), and multiplying that number by a single set percentage (which is left unspecified).
The headline on his immigration initiative is that there would be a deadline date for securing the border by January 1st, 2014 (â€œsecureâ€ is left undefined). Though it is not stated the inclusion of a firm date strongly suggests that following â€œsecuringâ€ the border would be some form of amnesty. While a few years ago this idea would have been a non-starter for a large block of Republicans, currently the reality seems to have set in that this type of a trade-off is the only way to deal with this problem and finally move forward.
Skeptics of the recent Gingrich campaign surge could doubt that he has the fiery sizzle to overcome his slow start and existing baggageâ€” and be justified.Â Meanwhile critics of his 21st Century Contract with America could attack the plan for being a little light on specifics (especially since Newt is not prone to lack of minutia)â€”and attack they may.Â That being said, going forward this campaign has many more advantages to exploit than disadvantages to fear.
Here are six factors that point to his candidacy not only continuing to build on its current momentum, but that also have the potential to thrust him into the top three in a short amount of time.
#1) His mastery of the debate format, the reason that he has recently gained ground, will be an ever-growing advantage moving forward.Â As the number of candidates on stage dwindles he will be allotted more and more time and will be more easily compared to the less capable candidates.
#2) Republicans are likely to recognize that a supremely informed, smooth, and skilled debater will neutralize Obamaâ€™s biggest advantage (smooth flowery rhetoric).
#3) Now that he has a specific doctrine to anchor his campaign the focus will shift there and drift away from the personal issues that previously have been sucking up oxygen and damaging his campaign.
#4) A close examination of his policy proposals reveals that he has a large number of Tea Party friendly stances and would garner their support, while not being too linked to them to hurt him in a general election.Â In 2012 Republican politics this is what you call â€œthe sweet spotâ€.
#5) The concepts of personal choice, competition, deadlines, fresh ideas, and lower taxes that are found throughout his platform will all appeal to true political independentsâ€”namely those that voted for Obama last time thinking thatâ€™s what they would be getting.
#6)Â As the race gets closer and more real, Republicans have a track record of deciding on the grounds of experience and perceived wherewithal to winâ€¦McCain anyone?Â Consider thisâ€” itâ€™s easy to make the argument that he is as capable, if not more so, than Mitt Romney, while itâ€™s hard to argue that he is not more Conservative.
The bottom line politically is that Newt stacks up well to the rest of the field in many categories while largely lapping them in depth and substance.Â As the race wears on he, oddly enough, finds himself with many advantages to gain from and plenty of time to do itâ€¦and he certainly doesnâ€™t have to worry about peaking too soon!
In terms of the release of the new contract and the impact it will have on his campaign the analysis is fairly simple.Â The concept of a contract with the American people was a great idea and a brilliant political vehicle in 1994â€¦and it still is in 2011.
Photo Courtesy of Prezography.com
Three weeks removed from ending the third longest legislative session in Iowa history, I had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with District 35â€™s representative in the Iowa Senateâ€”Republican Jack Whitver. The main focus of our conversation was the results of the 172 day session and the political clouds already forming on the horizon for next yearâ€™s Senatorial get together.
In the interest of adding perspective, here is a brief overview of Senator Whitverâ€™s political and business careers: He joined the Iowa Senate this year by virtue of winning a special election to fill the seat of Larry Noble, first beating five other Republicans in a truncated primary and then defeating Democrat John Calhoun (63%-36%). The district covers most of the northern half of Polk County including the Des Moines suburbs of Ankeny and Johnston, as well as Grimes, Polk City, Alleman, and Elkhart.
He is a former wide receiver for the Iowa State Cyclones and, in addition to being in the Senate, owns a three-location athletic training business called Acceleration Iowa, was the Offensive Coordinator for the Iowa Barnstormers last season, and is a law student at Drake University (no this is not a misprintâ€¦ this is all in the same year).
Â The Interview
At a glance it would be easy to say that the 2011 Iowa legislative session was a disappointment, as it saw high ranking agenda items from both political parties ultimately produce no legislation. As usual, however, the real story lies a few layers beneath the surface and, especially from a Conservative Republican viewpoint, is found by looking at and answering the question of why these things didnâ€™t get done.
Without a doubt, commercial and residential property tax relief was one of the few issues to truly burn white-hot during the session. All three legislative players had a plan on the table prescribing varying levels of aggressiveness in lowering Iowanâ€™s taxes. The Governorâ€™s plan was the most robust, followed by a more temperate approach from House Republicans, while the Senate Democratsâ€™ plan was far tamer than the other two.
Reflecting just how high profile and high priority this issue was, Sen. Whitver regards his â€œnoâ€ vote as the most important one he cast in the session.
â€œI think the vote I am most proud of, and probably the toughest one I took, was on property taxes. That is something I campaigned on and something that needs to be done to help small businesses. The Senate Democrats brought forth a plan that I felt was not a good plan. It wasnâ€™t nearly strong enough to do anything and was a long way away from what the House Republicans and the Governor were proposing. So itâ€™s easy to sit down there and say â€˜Well, itâ€™s on property taxes so I am just going to vote yes and pass it.â€™ I was one of four Republicans that voted no, because I felt it wasnâ€™t good enough, and I donâ€™t want to put my name on a bill, even if it has the right title, if it wasnâ€™t good enough. Because once you pass property tax reform, and itâ€™s not a good bill, then it would be off the table next year, and the year after. So you donâ€™t want to pass it for the sake of passing it.â€
Beyond it being too small, he also saw the Democrat plan as a vehicle to allow local towns and counties to avoid tightening their belts and reducing their property taxes. â€œItâ€™s basically taking our State income tax and our State sales tax and giving it to businesses in the form of a tax creditâ€”as opposed to actually lowering taxes. I wasnâ€™t a big fan of that tax shift.â€
Sharing his philosophy of not settling on this issue, and certainly providing some welcome company, was Governor Branstad.
â€œTo me the Governor showed a lot of confidence and leadership on this issue. Most governors, especially ones that donâ€™t have the experience and the confidence he has would say, â€˜Well, I said I wanted a property tax bill and Iâ€™ll take what I can get.â€™ Instead he said, â€˜You know what, itâ€™s not the one I want. Weâ€™ll come back and either do it in a special session or next year, but Iâ€™m not just going to try and save face and take whatever I can get.â€™ So I was happy about that.â€
Mental Health Reform
Another issue that remained unresolved by the session was reforming the stateâ€™s mental health care system, otherwise known as SF 525. To the casual observer this amounted to a mere failureâ€”true in the sense that no reform got passed but, once again, a look at why this was the case unearths undeniable evidence that a strong Conservative presence is asserting itself at the State House.
More than any other issue, this bill split the Senate Republican caucus, with ten voting in favor, nine voting against, and five not voting at all. The eventual fate ofÂ the billÂ was thatÂ itÂ was assigned to a committee for further study. When asked about this divide in the Party and the debate in general, Sen. Whitver laid out the issue like this:
â€œPart of it is a rural-urban divide. There is a lot of agreement that redesigning the mental health care system needs to be done. The difference is, do we want the state to take control of it, or can we let the counties keep control. Being from Polk County, we offer a lot of services that maybe Adams County does not, because they have 4,000 people. If they want to design a system where every county has to offer the same services they are not going to take every county down to Adams County levels, they are going to bring all other counties up to Polk County levels. And at the end of the day it just looks like something thatâ€™s going to greatly expand the cost and scope of government, and I think a lot of us werenâ€™t comfortable with that.â€
The insight that this answer provides into the thought process of at least a sizeable chunk of Senate Republicans should bolster the resolve of Conservatives state-wide. It is hard to imagine a more positive indicator that Iowa Republicans are serious about actually achieving a smaller governmentâ€”and not just talking about it.
Realize, especially on an emotionally sensitive topic like this one, what the specific logic they approached this issue with provesâ€”they get it. They are viewing all things through a prism of justified skepticism, asking themselves, â€œDoes this bill have the potential to explode into an over costly, ever expanding leviathan?â€ This type of foresight, had it been displayed by the Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson administrations, could have sparred us much of the pain we are currently feeling at the Federal level.
The Reality of the Minority
In short, the reality of the minority is that you are forced to judge success differently. A look at the 293 votes Sen. Whitver cast reveals a splintered wasteland of votes cast in vain. As the roll calls of losing 26-24, 24-23, 26-21 began to pile up during the session, one has to wonder if the Senator would rather have been back running 5 yard drag routes into 240-pound Big 12 linebackersâ€¦minus his pads.
Making matters worse for this particular minority was being under the thumb of Senate Majority leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs), who is renowned for both his liberalism and his penchant for using parliamentary maneuvers to avoid votes on hot-button issues. It didnâ€™t take long for Sen. Whitver to experience this approach, â€œThe first thing I saw when I got there was him changing the rules to not allow a majority of the Senators to bring up a bill.â€ When asked his thoughts on these tactics he joined the near unanimous chorus of Republican anger towards Gronstal, saying, â€œThe ones that I really had a problem with were the ones that had the votes to pass. On same sex marriage, I think we had the votes to bring it up with a majority, and then to get it passed.â€
Despite these circumstances, Sen. Whitver deploys a perspective that allows him to take it all in stride:
â€œYeah itâ€™s frustrating in the short term, but I have taken a longer view about being in the Senate. Itâ€™s a four year term and if I was just looking at the next election I could say, â€˜Ok, Iâ€™ll vote for that property tax bill,â€™ but Iâ€™m going to look at the big picture. A lot of those 26-24 votes draw a line in the sand and say, â€˜This is what Democrats want and this is what Republicans want, and this is our agenda going forward.â€™ So yeah, it is frustrating to go in there every day and vote no and see something pass, but in the long term I think we are setting up our agenda and what we are trying to accomplish pretty nicely.â€
In a political minority, this is what success looks like.
In a state that President Obama carried by 9.5 points, and without a majority in both chambers, fully implementing a Conservative agenda was simply not realistic. In this scenario much of your work is done around the edges and in ensuring bad bills donâ€™t pass. Sen. Whitver summed up the inroads the Party made, and how he sees the political landscape going forward, the following way:
â€œI think we accomplished three major things, though bills didnâ€™t necessarily get passed out of it. The Democrats admitted that we needed commercial property tax relief and were passing bills talking about it. They admitted we needed the late term abortion bill, they didnâ€™t pass the bill we wanted, but they were on record saying that we need to do something about it, and they agreed we need to limit spending. So three of our major priorities, they agreed with. We didnâ€™t get the exact bills we wanted, but I think that shows that our message is the right message.â€
Not only is it the right message, more importantly, a look inside the reasoning behind the votes shows it is a genuine message backed by principal and strong will.
The real story for Conservative Iowans is found in uncovering the reason why more bills failed to pass on major issues. In the case of tax reform, â€œnot good enoughâ€ was the why. In the case of SF 525, apprehension to expansive government and cautious foresight were the why.
I think that all concerned Republicans would agree that if the fight is waged on the principals of lower taxes and smaller government, we will gladly take a drawâ€¦for now.
Part 2 of this interview will publish Monday August 8th.Â Among the issues it will cover are: the battles looming once the next session is gavaled in, the state of public education in Iowa, the politics of Medicaid, and Iowaâ€™s illegal immigration problem.
Click Here To Read Part 2