Day By Day

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pennsylvania Politics -- Behind the Republican Revolt

From the WSJ:

Mike Folmer, one of those upstart Republicans who upset the applecart in the recent State primaries, explains just what is behind the revolt.

Many, including some of those incumbents who lost, are crediting (or blaming) the huge pay raise of July 2005, which approved increases of up to 54% for elected officials and was passed under the cover of darkness by a Republican-controlled Legislature at the behest of a liberal Democratic governor, Ed Rendell. Some take a more philosophical approach, attributing the dramatic political shift to a general disdain for Harrisburg; others think it was due to a need for the people to take back control of the government from ineffective politicians.

My personal experiences working the campaign trail this past spring made it apparent to me that the political upheaval was due to a coalescing of two fundamental perspectives held by the rank-and-file: Government needed to be reformed; and the state Republican Party needed to be reformed, too.

Conservatives had long been chafing at the fact that an ostensibly conservative Legislature had linked arms with Mr. Rendell to raise income taxes, push up state spending to record levels, and expand both corporate- and social-welfare spending without any apparent means of accountability--while a comprehensive property tax reform package continued to stall in the Legislature.

These people at the grassroots no longer viewed the state Legislature as a servant of the people but as an exclusive club for political insiders. They fumed as the legislators voted to increase their own pensions by 50%, in addition to excessive daily allowances just to show up for work, and at the practice of allowing members to take expensive junkets to resort locations.

It was as if the Republican Party leadership in the state capitol had forgotten everything they'd been taught by Ronald Reagan--that the core values of the Republican Party were lower taxes, less spending and limited government.

Then came the notorious pay raise, and the camel's back was broken.

Read it here.

I keep hearing similar things from Republicans in other States and I suspect that immigration, like the Pennsylvania pay raise, is less a galvanizing issue than a symbol of a party leadership that is radically out of touch with its constituency. Bush and Rove set about the task of remaking the Republican party according to the principles of "compassionate conservatism." The problem is that a whole lot of Republicans don't want to be remade.

As a national and international leader Bush is a visionary reformer with a staggering record of accomplishments. As a party chief, though, he is very much out of touch with his base, and that threatens to undo all he has achieved in other spheres.

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