Cuccinelli, Campaign for Liberty, and shifting GOP party politics

I have written a bunch about the role of Ron Paul supporters in the party and the impact that John McCain's military supporters may have. Yesterday, I went to the convention of the Republican Party of Virginia. The only seriously contested race was for the nomination for Attorney General. State Senator Ken Cuccinnelli, the candidate of grassroots conservatives, was the most likely winner, given who normally attends a state party convention. And indeed he won.

However, many people were shocked that he won on the first ballot over John Brownlee, former US Attorney, and Dave Foster, a Republican who sits on the Arlington County School Board. When I drove down to Richmond for the convention, I certainly did not expect that result either.

But when I got to the convention floor on Saturday, it was clear what was going on. The Virginia chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus had endorsed Cuccinelli. They were out in force. From eyeballing, people identified with either the Republican Liberty Caucus or the Campaign for Liberty seemed to be about 10-15% of the convention. They pushed Cuccinelli over the top. I think that this marks a pattern for the future of the GOP in smaller caucuses and conventions.

During the 2008 Republican Presidential primary, Paul supporters were highly organized and were able to effectively impact events smaller events like lower-profile caucuses. They got close to taking over state parties like Missouri, Nevada, and Idaho. Many more state parties were concerned with how to manage the situation. Ultimately, however, Ron Paul supporters did what you are supposed to do in politics. They brought new people to the process and organized them.

The question remained whether these outsiders would stay organized and be integrated into the GOP in some form.

This weekend in Richmond, they did. They found legitimate reasons to support the candidate whose supporters would probably constitute a near majority of a Virginia GOP convention anyways.  Tom Tinker from the Campaign for Liberty used strong language:

I had the privielege of attending the VA Republican Convention this past weekend.  Though I am usually wary of Republicans and their so-called "conservatism", I left the convention with a new hope for the restoration of Constitutional principles in my home state of Virginia.  Bob McDonnell and Bill Bolling, the two nominees for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, are good candidates, and though wishy-washy when it comes to their conservatism, are far better than anyone the Democrats could put up.  But the candidate for Virginia Attorny General, Ken Cuccinelli, restored my hope in the GOP, and should give all Virginians a hope for bringing our state back to Constitutional roots, both state and national.  I will support him 100% these next few months, and I encourage you to do so.

A lot of people in Washington argue whether libertarians and social conservatives can be in the same party. Operationally, the activists were. And together they carried the day and shaped the GOP. Whether they represent a broader range of voters, we shall see. But the activists did execute this coalition. And RLC/CfL/Ron Paul supporters are likely to continue to hold an important swing role in party contests like this.

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By Soren Dayton, ago

Video of Black Panther: “You are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker.”

Yesterday, the Washington Times wrote about Departmnet of Justice dropping charges against Black Panthers and Democratic operatives for voter intimidation. Michelle Malkin tracked down the complaint filed by Bartle Bull. Bull — and Malkin flagged — that one of the Black Panthers told him “you are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker”.

Well, it turns out that there is video of it:

H/T Election Journal.

By Soren Dayton, ago

Here comes the cavalry: McCain’s military legacy for the party

A fundamental part of political campaigns is that they mobilize constituencies and groups. Presidential campaigns are particularly interesting because they bring like-minded people into networks across the country. The level of awareness is huge, so the size of the networks are huge. Much has been made of the Barry Goldwater organization which, until very recently, has been literally the core of the conservative movement. Much has also been made of the left-over organization of the Pat Robertson campaign, which became the Christian Coalition.

John McCain’s campaign may be found to have had a lasting impact that will be comparable to Goldwater's and Robertson's in the network of veterans, military families, and their allies, who came together around McCain and propelled his campaign, especially in the darkest times in the second half of 2007. At any McCain rally, you would encounter vets of all ages who had gotten involved in politics because of him. These guys are often conservative, but not quite as ideological as Republican activists, just as McCain was. Frankly, it was with this base of new people that allowed McCain to bypass state and county parties that despised him.

While McCain did not become President, a new group of activists have been brought into Republican politics. They know how to work together.  They trust each other. They recognize their local and national leaders through 2 years of emails. And they have taken sides, already, in a number of state-level intra-party fights.

Let's mix this with something Patrick had suggested: one consequence of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be that we will have candidates for Congress, just as the Dems have been doing. My additional point is that there is a national organized and mobilized network that these candidates will have natural affinities with, regardless of ideology. This network may help propel these guys through primaries. 

Let's look at where people are already happening.

In Idaho, Vaughn Ward, who was McCain state director in Nevada and has done some tours in Iraq, is running for Congress against Democrat Walt Minnick, who managed to defeat Republican Bill Sali in one of the most Republican districts in the country. In 2008, Sali almost lost a Republican primary to another Iraq vet, Matt Salisbury, even though Salisbury raised only 5-digits of money, while Sali was an incumbent.

In Colorado, there are several candidates running. In CO-04, you have Diggs Brown, a Fort Collins City Council member and ... Green Beret.  Brown is on active duty, but has been around the district on a book tour. There is a draft movement. I have heard rumors of a couple of more, including at the Senate level.

In Illinois, Adam Kinzinger is running against Debbie Halverson. All indications on the ground are that he has been incredibly savvy early on, locking up key political and party support, in addition to donors. I have heard DC operatives express astonishment at how effective he has been early on. 

In KS-3 there is John Rysavy. In OH-15 there is Steve Stivers. In GA-12, there is Wayne Mosley. And there are many more in the recruitment pipeline.

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By Soren Dayton, ago

Rule 11: Why Steele has no say on Crist

There were a series of questions about whether the RNC would endorse Arlen Specter. Michael Steele has been asked about endorsing Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. And now people are getting their underwear in a knot about Charlie Crist.

I hate to be super pedantic, but the RNC does not make the endorsement decision. A state's delegation to the Republican National Committee control that process. And Sharon Day, RNC Secretary and Florida Republican National Committeewoman, has refused to support an RNC endorsement:

Sharon Day, of Fort Lauderdale, who holds the post of national Republican committeewoman from Florida, refused Greer's request to sign a letter authorizing the national Republican Party to help Crist in the primary.

Party rules say the party must stay neutral in primaries unless all three members of the national committee from a state sign a letter authorizing the party to take sides. Greer, also a national committee member, and Paul Senft of Bartow, Florida's national committeeman, have both signed the letter.

This is the so-called "Rule 11". 

Can we not play gotcha politics with Michael Steele and his endorsement of various candidates? The guy's hands are tied.


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By Soren Dayton, ago

MN-SEN: The merits of the Coleman appeal

Edward Foley, a professor of election law at Moritz School of Law at Ohio State University, reviews Norm Coleman’s appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court in the Senate race there. One of the things that struck me about this recount is that the issues are so enormously complex. No one was able to describe the problems in a concise enough form to really wrap my brain around it. Foley’s analysis confirms my instinct, noting in particular all the complicated state issues, and notes that  this complexity raises broader legitimacy questions for whatever happens. Furthermore, these state problems mean that there is a good chance that the Minnesota Supreme Court could remand the case to a lower court before any of the federal courts are even considered.

Anyways, the problems:

These state law issues, regrettably, are not straightforward. Indeed, as I’ve mulled them over since Coleman filed his brief last Thursday, at times I’ve found them mind-numbingly complex, and I’m someone who specializes in election law and has followed this vote-counting dispute from the beginning (meaning since Election Day, last November 4). It worries me that legal questions concerning the resolution of disputed important elections can be so complicated, since I consider it an important value in a democracy that the rules for resolving these disputes be publicly accessible and understandable. But the situation is what it is, and thus all I can do as a specialist in this field is to lay out the issues as best as I can, clarifying or illuminating them when possible.

This complexity is particularly problematic in the context of Minnesota Secretary of State’s claim, “…recounts are for really the loser to understand and see and then believe that they in fact did not win the election and for their supporters to come to the same conclusion.”

After the jump, we talk through some of the sample problems that occur in counting absentee ballots.

Consider one question: what was the process for counting absentee ballots, do they need to be properly witnessed, and how could the counters check? It turns out that there are two methods for counting the ballots: by precinct poll workers and by a county absentee boards. Partisan challengers are allowed at the precinct but not at the county boards, which lead to different ways of challenging them later in the process.  And precinct workers have no way of checking the validity of witness registrations, while county boards do.

This is just one problem. Foley raises concerns about process:

What should one make of all this uncertainty over the state-law issues in this appeal? I’ve only considered the first of the nine scenarios identified by Coleman, and it seems more than complicated enough. Perhaps the issues will seem clearer after Franken’s brief and Coleman’s reply.  But I’m not betting that complete clarity will reign in time for oral argument.   And, of course, there are still the federal constitutional questions, even after all the state law issues are resolved (as well as other, non-Bell, issues of procedural bar, which might preclude reaching some of these issues on the merits).

One begins to wonder if practical considerations should overtake rigorous legal analysis in the minds of the Minnesota Supreme Court justices. According to opinion polls, the public is clamoring for this disputed election to be resolved. A remand to the trial court might spark a public outcry.

But, he points out that you can’t short-circuit a legal process once started:

Still, Minnesota law undeniably permitted this appeal. Because it did, the Minnesota Supreme Court should adjudicate the appeal according to law, not politics. Therefore, as difficult and complicated as both the state and federal law issues in the appeal may be, the court’s justices must grapple with those issues as best they can using the impartial methods of judicial inquiry.  The justices must follow the law wherever it leads them, even if that place is an uncomfortable one politically.

This is going to be a mess, and it’ll be long.

By Soren Dayton, ago

Why fusionism makes sense

A lot of people ask whether fusionism -- libertarians and social conservatives joined in a political movement -- makes sense. It does, and there's a behavioral/sociological basis to it that Michael Gerson alludes to in his review of Robert Putnam's new book:

At a recent conference of journalists organized by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Putnam outlined the conclusions of "American Grace," based on research still being sifted and refined. Against the expectations of hard-core secularists, Putnam asserts, "religious Americans are nicer, happier and better citizens." They are more generous with their time and money, not only in giving to religious causes but to secular ones. They join more voluntary associations, attend more public meetings, even let people cut in line in front of them more readily. Religious Americans are three to four times more socially engaged than the unaffiliated. Ned Flanders is a better neighbor.

It doesn't stop there. Religious poeple live longer. Married people live longer too and make more money. I am not arguing causality, but co-occurence, which is all you need in a lot of political contexts.

Basically, religious people, on average, live lives more compatible with a libertarian economy message and system than others. Note the directionality on this. If a libertarian views their economic message (that is, they are what Europeans call "right-liberals", versus "left-liberals" who focus on social freedoms), then their most fertile ground for builing coalitions is with church-goers.

Thus fusionism.

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By Soren Dayton, ago

AR GOP State Rep. Dan Greenberg has a better transparency idea

This is a follow-up to my last post. There are some ideas for transparency that seem much more reasonable to me. For example ...

Arkansan Republican legislator Dan Greenberg wants to make criminal background checks of government officials accessible to the public for a fee. His rationale:

To state the obvious, public officials occupy a unique position of power and trust. I do not think that a criminal record is in all cases a disqualifier for public service, but I do think it is something that the public is entitled to know. Some criminals are repeat offenders, and I suspect that the everyday person thinks that having open criminal records is good public policy. So when I first filed a bill that would make the criminal records of government officials public, I figured most people would think it's a good idea. And maybe it is: but most state legislators think differently.

But the Attorney General, the top law enforcement official in the state, thought it was a terrible idea:

Our Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (not to be confused with Steve Clark) also spoke against the bill; he said he thought the bill was too extensive — that letting the public do background checks on every "state legislator, Justice of the Peace and dogcatcher in Arkansas" granted too much access by too many people. We don't actually have elections for dogcatcher in Arkansas, but it was interesting to see him say publicly what I suspect some elected officials thought privately.

He even thought that he should "protect the privacy" of criminals. Even those who work for the government:

The bill finally made it out of committee but didn't fare so well on the floor. Attorney General McDaniel sent a letter to all legislators arguing that we should "protect the privacy" of criminals' public records. That didn't make much sense to me, but apparently it was more persuasive to others. When the vote was taken, government secrecy won and Freedom of Information lost; the bill failed 33-56.

I think that it would be great to know things like how many felons the Governor appointed. And how many felons work for the Attorney General. Doesn't that seem more relevant than what lobbyists people met?

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By Soren Dayton, ago

Who is to blame for corruption? Holding government officials accountable

I am a big fan of a transparency agenda, but I wonder who is supposed to be held responsible for violations. My view of transparency is that we use it to force light on the bad actors. But the bad actors are the government officials, elected or otherwise, not the lobbyists. They are the ones who violate the the public trust. And, furthermore, if they are getting bribed, they should be accountable for that.

A couple of recent posts on the subject seem to miss this point.

In a series of posts at the Sunlight Foundation's blog, Paul Blumenthal and John Wonderlich discuss the limitations on lobbying in the stimulus and bailout bills. Paul summarizes part of John's post with:

The justification being given by the administration for these rules is that they do not want the stimulus funding process to be mucked up by lobbyists seeking bits and pieces of the $700+ billion bill for unworthy projects. However, as John notes, we are seeing unregistered influencers go to lobby for stimulus funds. We are also seeing this happen in other large pots of money. Take for example the $700+ billion bailout handled by the Treasury Department:

If something gets "mucked up" by someone ... aren't government officials doing the mucking? In Congress, lobbyists don't write bills, Congressmen do. In the executive branch, either politcal appointees or civil servants write legislation. It seems to me that the incidence of accountability has to rest on the government official. Right? I mean, if someone is passing out the goodies inappropriately ... they are.

For an executive branch official, lobbying mostly means educating the official and making an argument. Perhaps grassroots pressure is brought on, but that is ultimately the problem of the politicals. If there is a quid pro quo, whether an expensive gift, cash, or whatever, it is a crime and should be dealt with, very harshly and expeditiously, through the criminal system.

For Congress, there are political contributions also and political pressure from interest groups. That's why we disclose contributions, and that's why all the contributions should be disclosed immediately and for all contribution levels, especially online contributions. And interest groups apply pressure. That's what they are there for. The unions are doing that on card-check. The business groups are fighting it.

IPDI's Julie Germany writes up GWU professor Jonathan Turley (no conservative) on this point. Turley offers a much more pointed set of reforms:

Turley’s suggests that we:

  • Put 75% of the responsibility of the current political crisis on the members of Congress.

  • Go back to core principles of what we are trying to achieve in order to fix the system. Go back to Madison’s idea of democracy. Force the factions that divide us into the open. Create systems that prevent back room dealing and special deals that are hidden from the public. Part of the solution is to reform Congress, instead of trying to reform lobbyists.  

  • Force Congress to get rid of the things that cause temptation. Get rid of all gifts, other than symbolic gifts donated to the office they serve. Get rid of earmarks. Require total disclosure of all family members who work for lobbyists.

  • Address the fact that the system is too detached from its constituents and that incumbents have all the power. This city loves the fact that Congress doesn’t change, but it’s killing this country. This includes allowing other parties to rise in the political system, changing the electoral college, and reforming the way primaries are held.  

The best summary is "reform Congress"  not "reform lobbyists". Let us make Members accountable for their decisions. After all, that's who we vote for. That is who bears the brunt of the criticism. Or should.

If someone does something wrong, we should have the information to wrap it around their necks and hang them in the public's eye. We should be able to help their electorates destroy their careers. Ultimately, I don't see what lobbyists really have to do with that.

When progressives get angry on Congress for doing things they don't like, like David Sirota and the cramdown legislation, Sirota cites a BusinessWeek piece about lobbyists targetting moderate Dems:

Industry lobbyists are organizing home state bankers to pressure moderate Democrats they hope will be receptive to limiting the kinds of loans eligible for cramdown. One target: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana.

What did these lobbyists do that was so bad? Have a bunch of constituents (bankers) call him and meet with him? Did they explain the logic of this (insane) legislation and how it hurt them? Did Bayh ultimately buy that logic? If so, what is wrong with that?

Or is he alleging that Bayh took bribes, either through contributions or gifts or whatever? If so, what are they?

Or are these lefties just whining because Bayh ultimately thought it was a bad idea, and they couldn't muster arguments that were good enough? In that case, their problem is that they should be electing "Better Democrats", that is people who share their ideas.  Some of them get that idea.

But again, what does that have to do with lobbyists?

And isn't a transparency agenda -- like Obama's -- that focuses on lobbyists, not government officials, basically intellectually bankrupt?

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By Soren Dayton, ago

DNC Chair and Obama lose two council seats in their backyard

[UPDATE, Moe Lane] Permit me to introduce the two new GOP council members for Alexandria:

frankfannon1 hughesa
Frank Fannon Alicia Hughes


Jim Geraghty over at National Review has the basic facts. Democrats lost two seats on the Alexandria, Virginia city council:

Boy, how long has it been since I’ve been able to report good news on an election night for Republicans? With results from 26 out of 26 precincts, and absentees included, Republican Frank Fannon and GOP-endorsed independent Alicia Hughes appear to have won seats on the Alexandria City Council. The Democrats will still control a majority of four out of six seats, but this is a couple rippes of red in a deep blue community in a purple state - the best news for local Republicans in a long time.

But the implications are bigger. Barack Obama won this county 72-27. Senator Mark Warner is from Alexandria. Democratic National Committee Chair Tim Kaine is the Governor of Virginia.

Barack Obama lost today. The Democratic National Committee lost today.

By Soren Dayton, ago

What will 2010 be about?

Sometimes, election years get focused on certain races to tell the story of the cycle. It is too early to tell what the stories of the next cycle will be, but here are two possibilities.

In Pennsylvania, recently re-minted Democrat Arlen Specter has said that he is not shifting his position on card-check, aka the Employee Forced (nee Free) Choice Act. SEIU and AFL-CIO are already pressuring Specter to cave by, among other things, encouraging Rep. Joe Sestak to run against him, in a race in which card-check would be a central debate.

Ironically, the 200,000 people that became Democrats, making Specter's GOP primary impossible, are likely Specter voters in a Democratic primary. As the Democrats have become more affluent, moderate tolerant, and less labor-dependent, the power of organized labor may not be so large.

What if the Democratic primary became a referendum on card-check for Democrats?  How important -- really -- is card check to Democrats? With Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Rahm Emanuel, etc., all weighing in on the anti-card-check side. Wouldn't that be funny. Wouldn't a Specter/card-check victory be a decisive defeat for the unions? This race could become nationalized in much the way that the Lieberman race was in 2006.

Similarly, I can see a fight in New Hampshire over gay marriage in the general. The legislature has passed easily reconcilable bills that legalize gay marriage legislatively. It is likely that the governor will neither sign nor veto them, bringing the law into effect.

But New Hampshire is different than Massachussets and Iowa, where gay marriage has been created by judicial fiat and seems unlikely to be reconsidered due to the ballot initiative processes. It is also different than neighboring Vermont, which just legalized gay marriage by legislative action. This is a dead issue in Vermont.

But you could imagine a battle in the general election in New Hampshire over gay marriage. Democrats had not controlled the state legislature since 1874, and some of these seats could swing back. After all, in 2006, we lost, as Time put it,  "91 state legislature seats, six of [our] 16 state senate seats and both [our] congressional seats". And gay marriage would undoubtedly play a role in a number of swing seats around the state and be a nationalized campaign. Money would flood in from around the country for both sides.

My gut is that gay marriage will not be a compelling issue in New Hampshire, but this will be the only serious opportunity for pro-traditional marriage forces to defend their position at the ballot box. They probably cannot afford to pass it up.

Aside from all the questions about the ability of the GOP to comeback and the future of the redistricting process, 2010 could be quite fascinating.

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By Soren Dayton, ago