Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Grover Loses in the Old Dominion

Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, has been a thorn in the side of Republicans who happen to govern. His orgainzation oppose any and all tax increases and he goes after those who even think of raising a tax. Last in year in Virginia, several moderate Republicans broke with the party to support tax increases to fund some important projects. Norquist went after those legislators, finding far right candidates to challenge them. You would think that today I would be reporting that those six moderate Republicans all went down to defeat in yesterday's primaries.

And you would be wrong.

TheWashington Post reports that one of those six lost their primary. It was a stunning defeat in many ways. First, the anti-tax movement could only find seven people to challenge the 17 Republicans who broke ranks. Second, of the seven challengers only one brought down an incumbent. In another Washington Post story, it shows that while anti-tax PAC funded the challengers, centrist Republicans and business groups came together to form a rival PAC for the incumbents.

This second story had an interesting ending:

"The races are somewhat a test case of how viable this anti-tax movement can be," said Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University and co-editor of "The New Politics of the Old South: An Introduction to Southern Politics." "If we judge them by the criterion of winning primaries, we ultimately may judge them failures after tonight. If the criterion is their ability to foster debate and send a signal to incumbents, they might be considered successful."

I think there are a few lessons here. First, moderates have to be as organized as the far right and support centrist candidates. We need to see more moderate PACs out there that will support pragmatic Republicans. Second, we have to be good a crafting a message that reminds people of the need for good government services, like a well-running transportation system. While Republicans want to keep taxes low and reasonable, we have to wiegh that against making sure that we have an efficient government. Having low taxes but an ineffective government does no one any good.

I think the general public wants pragmatism over rigid ideology, but centrists have to be better at delivering that centrist, pragmatic message.

But last night we were reminded that moderate Republicanism is still showing some signs of life. Let's hope this is the first of several good stories.


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