Monday, September 28, 2009
Point: Liberal Sister
For the better part of my life, I felt that my home state of Virginia wasn't very important on a national scale, politically speaking. In Presidential and Senatorial Elections Virginia has been historically counted on to vote for the Conservative candidates; we have a long history of electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate and from 1968 to 2008 Virginia's electorates went to the Republican candidate for President. These are interesting statistics, considering that in over 100 years, Virginians have only elected 5 Republican Governors, and only 8 Republican Governors total since the Democratic and Republican parties adopted their present identities.
Despite Virginians' tendency to like Democrats to run their state (but not their country), Barack Obama won Virginia's electoral votes in the 2008 Presidential Election - the first Democratic candidate to do so since Lyndon Johnson. Of course that was a huge story on the national scale, but that wasn't the only big story to come out of the Commonwealth during that election. Former Governor Mark Warner was elected to join Senator Jim Webb in the U.S. Senate, giving Virginia two sitting Democratic Senators for the first time since A. Willis Robertson (1946-1966) and Harry F. Byrd (1933-1965). Suddenly Virginia could no longer be counted on to lean to the right, and it seems to have stirred both the Conservative and Liberal bases.
With the 2009 Gubernatorial Elections fast approaching, Virginians find themselves in a position rarely experienced - not only are we anxious to see the outcome, but it would seem that the Democratic and Republican parties as a whole are keeping their eyes on the contest, as it may have broader implications as to the ever-shifting pendulum of political ideology. With that in mind, let's explore the candidates: Creigh Deeds (D) and Bob McDonnell (R). If you look at the basics of their core issues, they're incredibly similar. Both want to stimulate the Virginia economy, to bring new jobs to the state, to seek out energy alternatives to create more jobs and lessen the environmental impact, to promote government efficiency, to improve veterans' services, to enact harsher penalties for violent criminals, and to lower health care costs for Virginians. Of course it's the methods that differ for Deeds and McDonnell, but even some Conservatives like Creigh Deeds because, as so many Democratic Governors before him, he is slightly more moderate than Liberal.
Of course not all Conservatives are fans of Deeds. If you watch any of the anti-Deeds ads running on TV right now, you'll learn that Creigh Deeds wants to raise taxes and increase spending. These attacks are nothing new - all political contests in this country mention tax-and-spend mentality. Bob McDonnell, the self-proclaimed "Friend of the Taxpayer" (according to his web site), is no fan of raising taxes. In fact, if you visit his web site, Bob McDonnell has a pretty lengthy section about taxes - and by lengthy I mean a 2 minute, 11 second video clip of him discussing taxes, a record of how he voted as a member of the House of Delegates and, strangely enough, information about programs he supported as Attorney General. (Side note: no one should care what an Attorney General thinks about taxes, unless he is dealing with the legality of those taxes.) All this is pretty impressive, considering that on Creigh Deed's web site, there is not a single piece of information about his views on taxation. There is a quick mention of how he would like to "build on the Warner-Kaine legacy of fiscal responsibility", however. For some, that might be enough information - McDonnell is willing to talk about his tax plan, while Deeds is not. And that very well may be true. So why am I not on board with McDonnell?
Simple: the dreaded thesis. The Washington Post was the first to break this story, scouring the Regent University library to find McDonnell's Master's thesis. You've no doubt heard about it by now - how he said government policy should favor married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators", how he found a 1972 Supreme Court decision (Eisenstadt v. Baird) to legalize the use of contraception by unmarried couples (that was actually a Supreme Court case??) to be "illogical", and how he wrote that feminists and working women were "detrimental" to the family. Of course since the thesis has been uncovered, McDonnell has gone on to say that his opinions in 1989 no longer reflect the way he feels today, but I find that suspicious. I have hated beans since 1979, and I will continue to hate them for the rest of my life. I am fairly certain that I will not wake up in the future and decide that I no longer hate them. Of course that's a minor comparison, but I think you get the idea.
If McDonnell was so strongly opposed to birth control measures, cohabitants, homosexuals, fornicators, feminists, and working women that he based portions of his 93-page Master's thesis on explaining their faults, how can any one of us believe that, 20 years later, he magically changed his mind about any of these topics? Obviously, we cannot believe that he has changed - in fact, his legislative career would indicate otherwise. How will he further the 15-point action plan laid out in his thesis if he is elected Governor?
According to an editorial in U.S. News & World Report by Doug Heye, this thesis nonsense is exactly that: nonsense. He accuses The Washington Post of manufacturing a scandal, as he says they did to former Governor George Allen during his 2006 Senate bid. I may be willing to concede the point that Allen's usage of the word "macaca", while ignorant and stupid, was most likely not ill-intended. However, there is an enormous difference between a guy saying the wrong thing in the heat of the moment versus a guy spending months constructing a graduate-level thesis to explain whom he dislikes and why, and how he alone is going to save the world.
For me, this is a no-brainer: Even though Creigh Deeds has been accused of secretly wanting to raise taxes, he's got my vote. I'd rather vote for a candidate who wanted me to pay higher taxes than for a candidate who thinks I have no business in the workplace to begin with.
Counterpoint: Conservative Brother
Okay, there's certainly nothing like being asked to express a contrary view and being put in a position of having to do so AFTER such topics as abortion and women in the workplace have been raised. You've certainly been good about not putting any land mines in my path!
This will be one of the many elections where I vote on issues that are of particular importance to me. With a wife and children, I'm considering positions on taxes, education, infrastructure (so that I can get to my job to earn the salary out of which money will be taken to pay the taxes that support public education and infrastructure - a vicious cycle!) and on social issues in which I feel I have a right to comment. I have positions on many things which fall in the realm of personal moral and religious choices - abortion and the death penalty among them - but as a man I don't think it is necessary for me to tell my daughters or wife what they should be doing or when they can be doing it, whether it is getting a job or making a life-changing decision about having a child. I don't think any man, regardless of his views, should tell a woman what to do; sadly, this is a debate that won't be going away any time soon.
You can also call me a dreamer or an optimist, but I do believe in a person's capacity for change. George Allen aside (side bar: He had already served as a governor and one term in the Senate, and should have known better than to shoot off his mouth - never mind the fact that he knew there was a camera in the room and even looked directly at it when he made his remark. Hey Senator, I bet you know what YouTube is now, don't you! End side bar.), I can't condone what McDonnell said in his thesis - but I can't say that he may not have changed. I only need to look at myself to note that ideas do change, especially since some of my views have shifted over the years; capital punishment is one area in which my views are not at all the same as they were 20 or even 10 years ago.
I'm sure that many of my Democrat friends would disagree with me here, and throw around "A tiger can't change its stripes," "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," or even "A Bob McDonnell opinion of 20 years ago can't be changed." Truth be told, had McDonnell not even mentioned this thesis in an interview, it wouldn't be an issue (I throw that out not to try and justify things, but rather to show that George Allen is by no means the only Virginia politician to have experienced a "D'oh!" moment). And I agree to a point with U.S. News about the way the Post has carried the story - the same way that Fox has hammered the whole ACORN situation and Keith Olbermann uses his platform on MSNBC to hit the worst person in (his) world every day. It's how the media in general makes its bread and butter: it tries its hardest to sway public opinion and win elections for the candidate they in whom they are most in love (look no further than the way networks fell over themselves to bask in the Obama glow).
All of this to say that my vote is based on what will directly impact me and my family AND on what I feel I have a right to discuss. On that point, I'll roll back to your comment on McDonnell's two-minute video on taxes; at least he can expound on his views on taxes. As I recall, Creigh Deeds changed his view and gave no answer on the issue of taxes several times in a few minutes. Senator, saying that you won't raise taxes and then saying you'll find new ways to raise revenue for the transportation trust fund isn't the same thing - especially since gas taxes are how the trust fund is kept solvent!
So I'll be voting for McDonnell - not because I condone what he said in his thesis but because I think people can change and because he has done a helluva lot better job giving answers on fiscal responsibility and planning than his opponent.