Did Ken Cuccinelli Really Win Repeatedly in a "Deep Blue," "Liberal" District?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

You've probably heard the argument for Ken Cuccinelli's electability statewide, that he's proven he can win in "deep blue," "liberal" Fairfax County. For instance, this Tea Party site claims that Cuccinelli "has been repeatedly elected in the Deep Blue county of Fairfax, Virginia." And this right wing site says Cuccinelli hails "from the very blue county of Fairfax." This conservative site argues that Cuccinelli is electable because he is "from Fairfax County, the epicenter of Virginia's liberal population." And Cuccinell himself repeatedly claims that"he keeps winning 'in the tough part of Virginia, in Northern Virginia, without sacrificing my principles.'" (Note: just yesterday, Cuccinelli said "he's won three state Senate elections in a Fairfax County district 'in the most liberal part of Virginia'") Finally, Waldo Jaquith, who is normally absolutely accurate (and astute) in his analysis of Virginia politics, claims that Cuccinelli "represented Fairfax in the General Assembly for two terms."The problem is, none of these are accurate. A few points.
1. Ken Cuccinelli did not - repeat, NOT! - represent "Fairfax County." Keep in mind that Fairfax County is Virginia's largest jurisdiction, with around 1.1 million people (1/7th of Virginia's entire population). Fairfax County is so big that it's represented by 9 state senators (in part or whole) and 17 delegates (ditto). Ken Cuccinelli was one of those 9 state senators for about 7 years, from when he was first elected in a special election in 2002, through his election as Virginia Attorney General in 2009. Again, Cuccinelli never even came close to representing all of Fairfax County, just 37 precincts out of 223 total precincts, or around 17%.
2. Cuccinelli's district, the 37th, was not - repeat, NOT! - a particularly "blue" or "liberal" district, certainly not when Cuccinelli first ran there! In fact, just a year before Cuccinelli was first elected from that district in 2002, guess who carried the 37th in the 2001 Virginia governor's race, Democrat Mark Warner or Republican Mark Earley? Nope, it wasn't the Democrat, even as Warner was winning the state by nearly 100,000 votes. Instead, Republican Mark Earley won the 37th, albeit by a small (1.2 percentage point) margin. Hmmmm.
3. In 2004, Republican Tom Davis demolished Democrat Ken Longmyer by around 26 points in the 37th State Senate district precincts of the 11th congressional district. Oh, and Republican Frank Wolf annihilated Democrat James Socas in the 37th State Senate district precincts of the 10th congressional district. Yeah, real "deep blue" and "liberal" - not!
4. As the district trended from light red to purplish, Cuccinelli's victory margin declined, from 10 points in 2002, to just 6 points in 2003, and to less than 1 point (101 votes over Janet Oleszek, who as much as I love her, would probably admit she's not the strongest political candidate in the world!) in 2007. In other words, we won't be calling him "Landslide Ken" anytime soon for his narrow wins in the "purple" 37th State Senate district.
5. Cuccinelli was replaced in the State Senate by moderate Democrat (and former Republican) Dave Marsden, a former appointee of Republican Governor Jim Gilmore. Marsden narrowly won a special election (in January 2010), 51%-49%, in this supposedly "liberal"/"blue" district. Yeah right!
In conclusion, Cuccinelli certainly never represented Fairfax, and its 1.1 million people, as a whole, but instead a small fraction (around 17%) in one of the county's most "purple," or even "red," areas. By no stretch of the imagination was the 37th State Senate district "the epicenter of Virginia's liberal population," as Cuccinelli fallaciously claims - not now, and CERTAINLY not in 2002 or 2003 when Cuccinelli was first elected. In other words, Cuccinelli's lying, and to the extent the media's also claiming that Cuccinelli won in a "very blue"/"liberal" part of Virginia, they're simply perpetuating the lie. Stop doing that!

Mark Obenshain Stakes Out the Cuccinelli Legacy

by Dan Sullivan

130223 Obenshain Virginia BeachState Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26th) is proud to be on board with his former seatmate, Ken Cuccinelli. Carrying on a tradition of pursuing a personal social agenda rather than the people's business is his objective. Something old, something new, something borrowed could make Virginia's next Attorney General blue.Politicians take license with the truth. They all do. Generally they pick an audience that is receptive and unwitting. Take George Romney's son and the 47% remark. So it really is as much a comment about Obenshain's disregard for the truth as it is a revelation about whom he appeals that he warmed up Virginia Beach Republicans with an adaptation of story told years ago by Paul Trible about his 5 ½ year old daughter. Obenshain's embellished version cast his own then 5 year old daughter, but moved the punch line venue to a children's sermon at his church. Nothing like "crafting" a story to embed the common experience of religious affiliation with your audience. Let them assume whatever they will.

"You're my friends. I share that embarrassing moment with you with the knowledge that you will keep that to yourselves and not share it any further." - Mark Obenshain.
Obenshain effectively reads and connects with a receptive (nee gullible) crowd. He told this audience that he recognized some of them from his visits to the local Victory office. He knew, he said, that all of them did everything they possibly could to make sure they won that election back in the fall. But election day came and the morning after it felt like they'd gotten a kick in the gut. He rallied them by telling them that they'd all made a choice to get back in the saddle afterwards instead of packing it in. That, he claimed, was evidence they were ready to continue the fight across Virginia.

"I had to think about what I had been engaged in the past couple of years and the wisdom and the importance of it. And it did not take me long to figure out that running for Attorney General in Virginia is more important now than it ever has been."

Referring to the newly minted book, Obenshain averred that the Attorneys General of America have become what Ken Cuccinelli terms "the last line of defense." This was his launch pad for a campaign, not for Attorney General, but against an unrestrained implementation of a liberal agenda by President Obama. According to Obenshain, only the Attorneys General can do what Congress is powerless to do.
"I am proud of the fact that our Attorney General was the first Attorney General in America to stand up to file suit against health care."
It is not enough to take on health care. There is a reactionary target rich environment out there. No diatribe against protecting the future would be complete without reference to the war on coal and the EPA using the Clean Water Act to regulate water as a pollutant. And as a proof source, he pointed to the "liberal Democrat controlled" Board of Supervisors in Fairfax County turning to our conservative Republican Attorney General for help. And there was more.

"Where I live we have Mennonite dairy farmers. These people do not vote, they do not drive cars, they do not have electricity in their homes, but they run a mean dairy farm. And we've got the Environmental Protection Agency sending them enforcement letters...and using words that only bureaucrats love. They are sending these Mennonite dairy farmers enforcement letters telling them that their dairy cows are point source discharge units for methane...that require permitting in order for them to continue to operate dairy farms."
Obenshain believes the next fight will be over economic development and points to a threat to Virginia's right to work laws. Apparently President Obama and Senator Kaine are singularly focused on and hostile toward Virginia's labor laws.

"I've handled 250 to 300 constitutional cases during the course of my career. These are the great fights of our generation that are being fought right now by Attorneys General across America and I want in. That is why it did not take me long to determine that this course that I set myself upon to be the next Attorney General is more important now than it ever has been."
No good appeal to unreason would be complete without mentioning voter fraud. He cited the recent Quinnipiac poll that found 95% of Republicans favored requiring a photo ID at the polls. Since 2005 he's been championing voter ID legislation. This year's miracle passing of the new law he championed was, he claims, attributable to a video featuring the son of "a certain liberal Democratic Congressman."

"As important as Ken Cuccinelli and his role is as Attorney General, in being the last line of defense, I am not satisfied with that. I think that we have to be the front line in the effort to expand the realm of freedom here in the Commonwealth of Virginia."
Well, he is right about one thing: the choice of the next Virginia Attorney General is more important than ever. There is no reason to think Obenshain isn't sincere in his belief that he represents Virginia's mainstream political thought. It will serve him well in his effort to team up with the presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee at the convention. This may be a gift to all the Democratic nominees in the general election, moving the Republican ticket further away from mainstream political philosophy.  

Del. Toscano: Albemarle County Supervisor Dumler Should Step Down

I am very happy to see this - good for Del. Toscano, doing the right thing instead of the political thing, in this case. If you haven't been following this story, see here (1/31/13: "Albemarle County Supervisor Chris Dumler pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery in court Thursday morning.") and here (2/28: "Woman Involved in Dumler Sex Case Speaks Out"), and here ("Chris Dumler, Resign" Facebook page). Also see here for audio of Albemarle citizens speaking at a 2/25 board meeting about the Dumler case.
STATEMENT ON CHRISTOPHER DUMLERDuring the General Assembly session in Richmond, I have been monitoring the debate about whether Supervisor Christopher Dumler should step down in light of his guilty plea.  I am increasingly concerned that Mr. Dumler's continued service on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has become a distraction. I have met with him, and have discussed the circumstances of his case with a number of county leaders, and while I understand that it is his decision to make, it is my view that it is in his best interest and the best interest of the county for him to step down.   I know it is very hard for him to leave his post because he feels an obligation to many residents of Scottsville Magisterial District who elected him and who are concerned about losing a voice should he resign.   I, therefore, hope that, if he resigns, all efforts will be made to find a replacement who reflects the political views that Mr. Dumler has clearly articulated while on the Board.   The citizens of the Scottsville District and county residents deserve nothing less.
David J. Toscano
P.S. Also see Coy Barefoot's radio show for discussion of this issue.

Senators Saslaw, McEachin, Favola Review 2013 Legislative Session

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I just got off a conference call with Senators Dick Saslaw, Donald McEachin, and Barbara Favola, reviewing the 2013 Virginia General Assembly session. Here are a few highlights.*Sen. Saslaw noted that it can't be "immoral to take money from a government that's broke" for Medicaid expansion if it's ok to take money "from the same broke government" for "the sequester problem."
*On Paul Goldman's article in today's Washington Post, arguing that the transportation bill is unconstitutional on a number of counts (e.g., taxes must be uniform across the Commonwealth for the same class of items), Saslaw cited the Metro tax on Northern Virginia 32 years ago as "definitely a precedent," but in the end "we'll have to wait and see how that plays out."
*Saslaw argued that the regional packages are what really made the transportation bill attractive. Also, we at least "stopped the bleeding in the maintenance fund" for a while.
*On social issues, Saslaw felt that it was a "pretty good year" compared to what it could have been, especially compared to last year with the ultrasound bill. A lot of bad stuff was stopped this year.
*On Medicaid expansion, Saslaw argued that if Virginia doesn't take the money, Republicans will effectively "hang a $2.2 billion health care bill on the businesses and the people of's extremely anti-business, which is why the Chamber of Commerce, every major business group, the health care providers and insurers, everybody has been pushing for Medicaid expansion..." Thus, Republicans resisting Medicaid expansion are being "extremely anti-business," in Saslaw's view.
*Sen. Favola highlighted Democrats' stopping "several bills that would have attempted to actually prohibit group insurance plans from covering contraception, sterilization, or abortion-inducing drugs." Favola added that "most Virginians, I think, agree that contraception is here to stay, is actually a good thing from many levels, especially for the health of women and families...but these Republicans were trying to thwart the Affordable Care Act...we were able to stop them, so I think that's a big win."
*In general, Favola argued that Democrats "stood up for women, stood up for private relationships between a patient and her doctor...I just find it very interesting that the Republicans always always purport to be the party of...less intrusive government, but when it comes to women's health care, they're exactly the opposite."

*Sen. McEachin said Democrats did have some setbacks, as Republicans defeated "our version of the Virginia DREAM for LGBT Virginians...bans on high-capacity excuse absentee voting...with no evidence of any voter fraud, they were able to pass more restrictive ID laws to allow people to get to the polls."
*On the transportation plan, Sen. Saslaw said that if Gov. McDonnell makes any major changes, "they would be rejected by the Senate, and then he'd have to make the decision if he's going to veto the whole bill or not."
*On the hybrid fees, Sen. Saslaw strongly defended them, asking "why should people who are paying the gas tax subsidize the people who aren't paying as much gas tax to use the roads, they're both using the roads; now you've got hybrids coming out in full-size SUVs, full-size cars, these people are using the roads and they aren't paying the tax...I know that not everybody on this phone call agrees me, but that's the way it is." Hmmm.
*On the Medicaid committee being tilted towards the Republicans, Sen. Saslaw said that it matters a great deal who wins the governor's election, as "you can't do anything until 2014 anyway," and "the budget...[and therefore the] commission only lasts a year and a half." If Terry McAuliffe becomes governor, Saslaw argued, then all this "becomes moot because [McAuliffe] can go ahead and notify [the federal government that Virginia will] go ahead with the expansion."
*Sen. McEachin argued that the wording in the Medicaid deal "actually put on paper" was that "the Department SHALL go forward to seek the waivers and to seek the reforms, there's a fairly objective criterion what that means and what those items are, and when that happens, the commissionSHALL not MAY - it's not up to them - the commission SHALL [proceed] with the expansion of Medicaid." McEachin added that AG Cuccinelli's opinion, "dropped on us at the last minute...ironically...forced us to rewrite things a little bit...and it even got stronger for those of us who believe that Medicaid expansion is a good thing."
*Julian Walker of the Virginian-Pilot pressed the Senators that there still seems to be "wiggle room" for those on the Medicaid commission who might oppose expansion. Senator Saslaw acknowledged that there's "wiggle room," just as you'd find in almost any bill, but "you can't do anything until January 1, 2014 anyway, and by then you'll have the results of a gubernatorial election which could render this mostly moot."
*Sen. Favola noted that "Republican governor after Republican governor have decided to participate in this Medicaid expansion program, so at some point people are going to sit back and maybe look at things objectively and not politically...and the facts are becoming clearer and clearer [that Medicaid expansion makes sense]."
*On the politics of the transportation bill (e.g., almost every Republican candidate running for governor, LG or AG opposing it; every Democrat running for governor, LG or AG supporting it), Sen. Saslaw got animated, saying "I'd LOVE to make this a referendum on transportation, that every Republican candidate for statewide office was opposed to transportation...and they can't find one thing that they voted for, not one thing, they voted against every single plan - not one, not one, they didn't vote for a single one; they can't say well I was for this -- bull@#$@ -- they voted against every single plan, and they are opposed to any transportation improvements, that's the issue, and they proved it with their vote...they didn't want to do a thing!"
*Sen. McEachin added, sarcastically, that he "love[s] the opportunity to juxtapose [the Republican statewide candidates] against that radical left winger Bill Howell and that radical left winger Bob McDonnell."
*On voter ID requirements, Sen. McEachin said he doesn't know what Gov. McDonnell will do, but that "I would hope he would see that there's no sense in doing this, that there's no evidence of voter fraud," and that the next automatic step would be review by the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act.

Winners and Losers: Virginia Transportation/Medicaid Deal 2013

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This is not a comprehensive list of "winners" and "losers" from the historic transportation deal in Virginia this past week. It is also NOT a comprehensive "winners" and "losers" list for the entire General Assembly session, just for the transportation/Medicaid deal. Feel free to add your own "winners" and "losers" in the comments section. Thanks!Winners
1. Bob McDonnell: He's governor, so he gets the credit and the "legacy," accomplishing something (a major transportation funding bill) that has eluded numerous, previous governors. That's despite the fact that the final transportation package bears little resemblance to what McDonnell first proposed this year, LET ALONE what he said he'd do - and wouldn't do (e.g., raise taxes) - in the 2009 gubernatorial campaign. But will people remember the backstory? I doubt it.
2. Democratic State Senate leadership (Saslaw, McEachin, Howell, etc.): They played their hand well, ending up with a bill that kept a gas tax, might even end up increasing it depending on how things work out, that increased overall revenues, that added important regional taxation pieces, and that somehow (apparently) managed to push Bob McDonnell to agree to Medicaid expansion. And, basically, they held their caucus together, delivering most of the votes needed to pass the bill. Now, we'll see if this helps or hurts them politically when Senators face reelection in 2015, or prior to that if there are special elections.
3. Dulles Airport: Will get a Metro line right to its doorstep, which presumably makes anyone with a financial stake in the success of Dulles Airport very happy, as it's essentially a massive taxpayer subsidy aimed at making Dulles more competitive vis-a-vis its main competitors (National and BWI).
4. Dulles Toll Road commuters: Should benefit from this deal by seeing lower tolls than they would have without the deal.
5. Terry McAuliffe: He emerged on the winning side in this debate, while demonstrating that he's willing to make (what he'd argue) are reasonable, bipartisan compromises to move Virginia forward. That's pretty much how he's going to run his 2013 gubernatorial campaign, as far as I can tell, starkly contrasting himself with the extreme, ideologically "pure" Ken Cucinelli, who would choose to never get anything done while holding to his far-right-wing/Tea Party principles.
6. Bill Bolling: He showed pragmatism and an ability to compromise, once again highlighting a stark contrast in style - and increasingly in substance - with Ken Cuccinelli. The question is, will Bolling run for governor in 2013 as a pragmatic moderate in the mold of his political partner and ally, Bob McDonnell? If so, will he draw a significant number of votes from Republicans who find Ken Cuccinelli to be too extreme, and from independents who for whatever reason aren't comfortable with either Cuccinelli OR McAuliffe? We'll find out in a little over 2 weeks...
7. Developers, wealthy individuals, Chamber of Commerce members: They all should love this, as the taxes are mostly regressive (e.g., hitting lower income people disproportionately), yet the benefits from the new roads will disproportionately help businesses, developers, and other wealthy interests (and their representatives in the Chamber of Commerce, etc.).
lowkell :: Winners and Losers: Virginia Transportation/Medicaid Deal 2013
8. Bill Howell: Instead of just being an ALEC hack, he showed real leadership the past couple weeks, including his deep-sixing of the crazy re-redistricting plan that Republicans rammed through on Inauguration Day, and also his shepherding/browbeating of a historic transportation package through the House (albeit with a LOT of Democratic support!). The only question is, will there be blowback against Howell, but so far at least, I'm not seeing it (other than rumors that Republican House and particularly Senate members are "very angry" at Howell. Yawn.).
9. John FredericksThe John Fredericks Show was the place to be if you wanted to hear the latest and greatest, from the people who mattered in Virginia politics, the leading up to this historic vote. Also, Fredericks personally, although a staunch conservative, came out strongly in support of the transportation deal. Looks like a double win for John Fredericks on this one!
10. 400,000 Virginians...who will see their access to health care expanded thanks to Medicaid expansion. That's huge! (It's also pointed out to me that this will help rural Virginia, as "Medicaid expansion is very good for rural hospitals because they wont have to pay as much for indigent care" and is also "good for health care jobs"). {UPDATE: Of course, if this is the case, then this item would not be in the "winners" category, and a couple other items on this list would likely change as well. So, what's the real deal here? I've gotten completely conflicting stories, and it's frustrating!}
11. Obamacare/President Obama: Just added another Republican-led state to its list of states agreeing to Medicaid expansion. The wall of Republican opposition to "Obamacare" continues to crumble into dust and empty blustering... {Ditto to the previous Update}MIXED BAG
1. NOVA and Hampton Roads: Gained more power to raise revenues for regional transportation needs. That's good. On the other hand, NOVA and Hampton Roads are already "net donors" of money to the rest of the state, while serving as Virginia's economic engine and cash cow in many ways, yet now those two regions are forced to pay higher taxes in order to keep the engine going, while the rest of the state continues to benefit. Meh.
2. Washington Post editorial board: For years, they've been calling for higher gas taxes as the key to a sufficient, dedicated source of transportation funding in Virginia. What did they get in the end? A DECREASE in the gas tax. #FAIL! On the other hand, the Post editorial board also has been calling for a deal - ANY deal! - to "fix" transportation in Virginia. Well, they got something, at least, so I'm not putting them in the "losers" category. Still, the Post editorial board increasingly makes no sense, is internally illogical and inconsistent, and also is increasingly irrelevant.
3. Newspaper coverage: Really all over the place. For instance, the Moonie/Washington Times was practically AWOL on this huge debate, with minimal if any reporting, no scoops, pretty much a total #FAIL. With David Sherfinski promoted to the national desk, the Times appears to have abandoned Virginia coverage altogether. As for the Kaplan/Washington Post, they had some decent coverage, but also some egregious mistakes, such as mistakenly characterizing the partisan composition of the House-Senate conference, and also stating incorrectly that Bill Howell didn't get a "majority of the majority" to vote for this package. In fact, he did, albeit barely. The Roanoke Times Blue Ridge Caucus blog (Michael Sluss) did an excellent job, as did the Virginian-Pilot's Julian Walker. The Richmond Times-Dispatch? So-so, I'd say, but definitely not what should be expected of a paper based in Richmond...
1. Grover Norquist: Does anyone in Virginia care what Norquist thinks? Perhaps, but it wasn't evident from events of the past few days in the Virginia General Assembly. And that's great news, whatever else you think about this deal, as Norquist is one of the most corrosive, negative, nasty forces in America today.
2. The Tea Party: Clearly, Republicans' fear of the Tea Party at this point is far lower than it used to be, as a significant number of them bucked a force they probably wouldn't have dared to a couple years ago.
3. Conservative bloggers: Go to their blogs and watch as they call out the "RINO" "traitors," and generally throw a massive hissy fit. Personally, I'm enjoying it immensely, especially since they're opposing this deal for the TOTALLY wrong reasons (that it raises EVILEVILEVIL taxes! What. Ever.).  
4. Progressive bloggers: In the end, most progressive delegates and senators voted for this compromise, although the bill changed significantly and also roped in Medicaid expansion, which at least for THIS progressive blogger, led to a significant decrease in anti-deal intensity (at this point, I have a lot of mixed feelings about it).
5. Smart growth and environmental advocates: I'm not sure how badly they lost, as that will depend heavily on how the money from this transportation deal is spent (e.g., on new roads or on transit, primarily?). Still, these groups opposed the deal for the most part, yet it passed anyway. Sigh.
6. Hybrid and electric vehicle owners: They will pay an extra $50 a year, which is completely bass-ackwards public policy (we should be strongly encouraging people to drive fuel efficient vehicles, and strongly discouraging people from driving gas guzzlers) and also a kick in the teeth to people who are doing the right thing by purchasing fuel efficient vehicles!
7. Truckers, or anyone who drives a diesel-powered vehicle: For no good reason, they will pay a higher tax than SUV owners and others who use gasoline. That's ridiculous.
8. Ken Cuccinelli: On the one hand, this deal could anger - and could fire up - Cuccinelli's base to turn out in November. That is, if it all hasn't blown over by then, which is quite possible. Also, aren't those people, almost by definition, ALWAYS angry and "fired up?" On the other hand, this deal leaves Cuccinelli as the odd (in more ways than one!) man out, with Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling, and Bill Howell all on the other side of this historic deal. And Cuccinelli sets himself up for T-Mac to pound him as an obstructionist and someone who can't get anything done for Virginia, while he can.
9. Lower income Virginians: Will pay more of their incomes on not one but TWO regressive taxes - gasoline and sales. And what will they gain? A better transportation system, potentially, particularly if they live in NOVA or Hampton Roads. If they live in rural parts of the state, though, they probably won't gain much, at least not directly, while they lose on the sales tax.
10. Senator John Watkins (R): Total #FAIL on the redistricting fiasco, helped to (ironically) pave the way for the deals on transportation and Medicaid. Can we say "backfire?"  

Exclusive Interview: Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Jay Fisette as He Runs for Reelection

On Friday, I had the opportunity to interview Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Jay Fisette, who recently announced for reelection to another 4-year term. Fisette has served on the Board since 1998, including as chairman in 2001, 2005 and 2010. Among other accomplishments, Fisette points to his "2010 initiative to develop a Community Energy Plan...designed to ensure Arlington's sustainability and competitiveness for decades into the future;" his "Urban Agriculture initiative [along with Vice-Chair Walter Tejada] to further the community's health, equity and sustainability goals;" and his advocacy "for smart growth and the principles of New Urbanism, such as the importance of linking land use and transportation, providing robust transportation options and designing inviting public spaces."Anyway, I wanted to talk to Jay Fisette right now, given his announcement that he's running for reelection. Having voted for him since 1998, I wanted to see if there was any reason to change my mind this time around. After a great conversation, my clear answer to that question is "no, there's no reason not to strongly endorse Jay Fisette for another term in office."  To the contrary, our discussion reinforced many of the reasons why I like Jay personally, and why I think he's a great person to have on the County Board for another 4 years. Now, on with the interview.
1. We first ran through Jay Fisette's accomplishments on the Board since 1998. He highlighted his response to 9/11, when he was Board chair, as well as building emergency response and award-winning online government capabilities ("that was not the case before 2001"). He said smart growth is something he loves, and which is "fundamental to what Arlington does," with cycling being a special interest of his. He pointed to the Capital Bike Share system ("a far more practical alternative than many people realize"), noting that the system started here in Arlington, and that Arlington "will be doubling" the number of Bike Share stations in the county by next year. Finally, Fisette talked at length about energy and environment, including the Community Energy Plan noted above. Fisette called this plan "ambitious," "transformational" and "practical." He pointed out that Arlington is "one of the few" localities in the country with an energy element of its comprehensive plan, in addition to land use, transportation, open space, water management, etc. In Arlington's case, Fisette says that the plan was developed with a great deal of input from the private sector, with a great deal of "buy in" and consensus." It ended up with a "really ambitious plan" to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, even within the context of Dillon Rule constraints.
lowkell :: Exclusive Interview: Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Jay Fisette as He Runs for Reelection
2. I asked Fisette about DC Mayor Gray's vision/plan to make DC the "healthiest, greenest and most livable" city in the country, and whether Arlington County was aiming for something like that. According to Fisette, "that's what we've done, that's what our Community Energy Plan deals with energy source as the main source of greenhouse gases...that's the focus." Fisette argued that if you don't create an integrated, smart growth plan for development (transportation, land use, etc) - which Arlington HAS done - then you can "forget all this green building stuff, it doesn't matter." How the plan evolved was that increasingly, Fisette came to realize that "energy really was the focus and needed to be, energy is a framing honestly that some in the private sector can hear more easily than greenhouse gases."3. On the Virginia transportation deal that passed the State Senate yesterday, Fisette had some thoughts. For one, he argued that "what's missing out of this conversation in how the money will be used...we have to be sure that that regional money at a minimum is going through a regional body where decisions will be made there..." For another, Fisette said it's important to have sufficient time to "scour" this bill for exactly what's in it before being forced to vote on it, as this is extremely complex stuff. The bottom line is that this is NOT the bill Fisette would have put forward and that the Senate bill was far better (e.g., "it didn't raid the general fund"). Fisette said he doesn't think that with this bill, the price of gasoline will "change a bit," maybe a couple of pennies at most. The $100 fee on hybrids is something Fisette would definitely not support. Still, Fisette says he's "supportive of an effort to find a compromise," but it's "hard to say right now" (for one thing, he doesn't know all the details) whether this contradicts "enough of the key principles" (the #1 principle being the gas tax, which is why McDonnell's initial plan was "terrible"). Fisette is definitely not thrilled with the bill, but says he's "lukewarm supportive of the framework of the compromise that I've heard...I would change some key elements, but there's nothing in there right now that would rise to the level that would suggest that I would vote against it." Some of the bad things, like the hybrid fee, need to be worked on later. The "biggest outstanding question," Fisette believes, "is how you use the money in the end," and that "that would be the question with any governor." Fisette noted that local governments like Arlington County have "a lot of authority about what gets built where." Arlington, for instance, has a "long list of transit projects that need to be done," such as additional entrances at the Rosslyn and Ballston Metro stops, enhanced bus service, bike sharing, streetcars, "that's the beginning of the list and it goes on."
4. Specifically on the streetcar project, I asked Jay Fisette for his thoughts, including on the opposition to the project. Fisette said this was a "key element of the sector plan update that allowed for a redesign of Crystal City, some additional density, all contingent upon an enhanced transit system which includes a streetcar ...similarly [for Columbia Pike]...there was a re-envisioning of Columbia Pike...that was a serious, many meetings of the community in getting down and coming to agreement on the vision of what, 50 years from now, we wanted the Pike to look like." According to Fisette, many people from Columbia Pike and throughout the county have participated in this process since 1998, and "part of that discussion was what is the transportation/transit system that has to be integrated with that land use plan to make it work, to sustain it...You don't add density to the future if you don't have a transportation system that allows it to work...has to be integrated and it has to be sufficient to sustain that density and not congest the roads and reduce the quality of life." For Columbia Pike, "we looked at the range of options...[and] we know that the capacity for transit along Columbia Pike to carry that number of people today, from 16,000 a day to 30,000 a day, you cannot do with buses; you also know that a Bus Rapid Transit is not possible, is infeasible on Columbia Pike, because you require by definition...a dedicated lane." In addition, the densities along Columbia Pike are "far higher than most places that would be using a BRT, so when you look at the bunching up of vehicles that would result over the years with the increase in traffic, and we want to incentivize and induce people to take transit, the streetcar is the best alternative, and that was determined, honestly, seven years ago."
In the end, Fisette believes that Arlington County "looked at a range of alternatives," "the community participated," and the result was that two Boards (Arlington and Fairfax) plus "the broad base of the community...supported streetcar as the preferred alternative." Of course, Fisette argued, there are always going to be people who weren't part of the discussion over the years "for any number of reasons," but "it would be a very high bar for me to choose to go back and invalidate 5, 7 years of work and community process when people came to those meetings, aired their concerns, raised their issues, came to a decision...if we were to change the transit system from a streetcar to something less, I would feel the requirement to change the land use begin [all over] again."  Where is opposition to the streetcar coming from? To some extent, Fisette believes that opponents are thinking about it as an "old technology," but "the streetcar of 1920 is NOT the streetcar of 2013; it is a very different and much more environmentally efficient, smooth, higher capacity, sleek, contemporary vehicle." The result is that more people will choose to ride the streetcar than a bus, and the "economic development spinoff and investment that will follow a fixed rail system generally is proven to be higher." For instance, Fisette notes, the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor success story would not have happened if it had been bus, or even an enhanced bus system, not Metro. Fortunately, we didn't "short shrift the future" then, and we shouldn't do that now.
Fisette believes that another possible source of opposition to the streetcar is coming from people who look at federal-level "sequestration and dysfunction...largely resulting from Republican extremism" as a "backdrop," and "that carries over to how you view what your options are, what your resource levels are, it creates some uncertainty," and "some people are reacting to that backdrop of uncertainty in the broader economy, applying it and questioning our own fiscal, economic sustainability and asking whether this is an investment we need to make." Fisette's response is that Arlington has an "incredibly sound fiscal system and budget - triple Triple A rating...can't say it enough that we're able to borrow money at the lowest possible interest rates on the planet, and that we have a plan that's within our limits." In addition, the money for the streetcar is coming from a "dedicated transportation fund...cannot be used for operating costs...schools...human services" so "if we chose not to do the streetcar, we would have to use that money for another transportation project...but you could not use it for other community needs." [I noted that now is probably the best time ever for our country to invest in our infrastructure, and Fisette agreed]
5. I asked Fisette about the tremendous projected growth in population (+1.7 million) the region expects over the next few decades, and what his vision for Arlington is in this context? Fisette noted that Stewart Schwartz [of the Coalition for Smarter Growth] has a philosophy that's "very consistent with Arlington's philosophy; we are in fact his poster child." According to Fisette, you "obviously can't be putting 1.7 million people in Arlington, so they're going to go throughout the region," but the principle is that "the more you can enhance the core of the region, and the more you can identify mixed-use activity centers, the better." According to Fisette, Tysons Corner is being fixed with this concept in mind - put a lot of housing there, because right now it's a 9:1 ratio between commuters and people who live there. It's also important, Fisette argues, for the region to work together and not be "constantly fighting one another for [new businesses, jobs, etc.]." Arlington has "plans in place for development, and there is capacity that's unmet...we have room for growth...but we're really careful to designate logical places along transit ensure that it're not going to see us, or me, encroaching on the single-family neighborhoods." For now, Fisette says we have the two Metro corridors plus the Columbia Pike corridor (where, by the way, heavy rail originally was considered and rejected). He also says Arlington is a hybrid of "urban" and "village," "but we are a city..we're called a county but we really should be called the City of all standards in this country...we are more of a city."
6. On sequestration, Jay Fisette feels that Arlington County is well diversified, ergo is in a good position to weather it. "When I look around me...I know how desirable this is because of the location, the transportation, the great schools, all the rest...we're going to have our ups and downs, but remember in the last 5 years, we've  avoided most of the downs while the rest of the country was in turmoil; we've never gone above 4%'s been steady as you go." And the tax rate goes up and down to find the right balance, depending on the economic climate.
7. Goals for Jay Fisette's next term include a strong belief in government, in investment, and in sustainability, but also in a hatred of waste. So he'll be "committed to insuring [Arlington's] fiscal integrity and the appropriate investment...making those decisions to balance all those needs." In addition, Fisette is focused on his energy and environmental work, "revisit the issue of [electric vehicle] taxicab certificates" and on finalizing the energy plan/greenhouse gas reduction strategy and "continue to implement." Finally, Fisette talked a bit about his initiative to try and persuade people to use fewer single-use, disposable beverage bottles. He noted that tap water is clean and actually "more regulated than the bottled water," and also that "80% of [those bottles] end up in a landfill or the ocean."
P.S. I almost forgot to mention, Fisette noted that Arlington has the highest percentage of 20-34 year olds of any jurisdiction in the Washington, DC area.  PerRemy, I joked "and they all wear brown flip flops."

BREAKING: Virginia Senate Passes Transportation Deal 25-15

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I'm watching the debate on the Virginia transportation compromise now. Numerous Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, have stood up and talked about how it isn't a perfect bill but it's the "only solution we could come up with," and that it will help the Commonwealth move forward. In his speech, Senate Democratic leader Dick Saslaw said that the keys to his support are the overall revenue increases and the "regional packages," which are "desperately needed" in NOVA and Hampton Roads. Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) argued that the bill is "not perfect," but that we shouldn't "let the perfect be the enemy of the good," and that "this is a good plan," with a "dedicated source of revenue," with a "real infusion of dollars" to transit, including Metro to Dulles (and that "this is a big deal"). Favola added that since money raised regionally will fund projects within the region. Sen. Donald McEachin emphasized the need for "compromise," said he agreed with Senators Ebbin and Petersen, but that no better bill is possible today and this will help the transportation situation in Virginia, so he'll be supporting it.In announcing his opposition, Senator Chap Petersen stated that the bill was internally contradictory, overly complex (for no good reason), that it wasn't fair for his constituents to pay higher taxes simply because they live in northern Virginia, and that we should NOT divide up Virginia into areas with higher and lower tax rates. However, Senator Petersen noted that he's highly likely to be in the minority, and (half jokingly?) noted that if this vote means he's digging his political grave, then at least "something good will have come out of it." Senator Adam Ebbinsaid it "wasn't an easy decision," but in the end it's "bad economics and bad transportation policy," a "bitter pill." Why are we, for instance, penalizing people who own clean energy cars instead of incentivizing them? That makes no sense, in Ebbin's view (and of course he's right!). Why are we not raising the gas tax to fund transportation? "This bill hurts the people who can least afford it...Virginians should not be forced to pay a higher tax for the clothes on their backs than at the gas pumps...I'll be voting no."
Bottom line: I'm told that the Senate WILL pass the bill in a few minutes.
Regarding Medicaid, see here for Julian Walker's reporting that "Key legislative leaders said this afternoon they have a legal way around the constitutional questions raised about Medicaid expansion by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli." appears they may have nailed down a deal to expand Medicaid in the overall context of cutting the transportation deal. Ahh..."sausage making," isn't it grand? Yeah, definitely don't want to watch it, but that's how government often works.
UPDATEHere's a photo of the vote tally. Note that the only three Democrats who voted no were Senators Petersen, Marsh and Ebbin. Republicans voting no were Black, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, Newman, Obenshain, Reeves, Smith, Stanley, Stuart and Vogel.

BREAKING: Virginia House Passes Transportation Compromise, 60-40

Friday, February 22, 2013

(NOTE TO SENATE DEMOCRATS: Before you guys leave town, you need to make 100% sure that you get Bob McDonnell's agreement, in WRITING (and also publicly), to expand Medicaid. End of story. - promoted by lowkell)

Just a few minutes ago, the Virginia House of Delegates passed, by a 60-40 vote margin, the transportation compromise reached earlier this week (and that we've discussed intensively here at Blue Virginia). Personally, I would have voted against this bill unless two parts were fixed and/or strengthened: 1) the $100 fee on hybrid vehicles is utterly absurd, totally bass-ackwards as the expression goes; and 2) I would want much stronger assurances that any new transportation revenues would be spent on environmentally friendly, smart growth, sustainable transportation solutions and not on more sprawl-inducing highway boondoggles from hell. In addition, House Democrats needed to use this bill for leverage on Medicaid expansion. I'm disappointed they didn't do that, really don't understand why they didn't play hardball, and am 100% certain Republicans would have done just that if the shoe had been on the other foot. Sigh... {UPDATE: Is a a "deal in the works" on Medicaid after all? Let's hope!}Anyway, now on to the State Senate, where I'm hoping (but not holding my breath) that the issues noted above will be addressed.
P.S. It turns out that Republicans could only muster 34 of the 51 votes they needed to pass this bill. In other words, Democrats gave then 25 of their 32 votes to pass this bill, without getting anything in return on Medicaid, the $100 hybrid fee, or whatever. I'm baffled; what am missing here?!?
UPDATE: Here are the "yeas" and "nays".

Yea: Albo; Hodges; Marshall, D.W.; Scott, J.M.; BaCoteHope; May; Sherwood; Brink; Iaquinto; McClellan; Sickles; BulovaIngramMcQuinnSpruill;Cosgrove; JamesMerricks; Stolle; Cox, M.K.; Jones; Minchew; TorianDance; KeamMorrisToscanoDudenhefer; Kilgore; O'Bannon; TylerEdmunds; Knight; Orrock; Villanueva; Filler-Corn; Kory; Plum; Ware, O.Greason; KrupickaPoindexter; Watson; Head; LeMunyon; Purkey; WattsHelsel; Lewis;Putney; Yancey; Herring; Lopez; Rust; Yost; HesterLoupassi; Scott, E.T.; Mr. SpeakerNay: Anderson; Fariss; Lingamfelter; Ransone; Bell, Richard P.; Farrell; Marshall, R.G.; Robinson; Bell, Robert B.; Garrett; Massie; Rush; Byron; Gilbert; Miller; SurovellCarr; Habeeb; Morefield; Tata; Cline; Howell, A.T.Morrissey; WardCole; Hugo; O'Quinn; Ware, R.L.; Comstock; JoannouPeace; Webert; Cox, J.A.; JohnsonPogge; Wilt; Crockett-Stark; Landes; Ramadan; Wright
UPDATE 3:12 pm: I'm hearing definitively that a deal on Medicaid expansion most certainly WAS an integral part of why many House Dems voted for the transportation deal. Now, the key is to make sure that deal is locked in, that McDonnell doesn't renege or backtrack, and that the Senate make that absolutely clear before they agree to vote for this legislation!

My 5-Sentence Review of Ken Cuccinelli's Book, "The Last Line of Defense"

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thank goodness I didn't actually waste any of my money purchasing Ken Cuccinelli's book, "The Last Line of Defense," as it is utterly unreadable, droning drivel. Unless, of course, you enjoy listening to a deeply weird, quite possibly deranged/tinfoil-hat-wearing, far-right-wing dude rant for page after interminable page about how the Evil Government is eating up all our "liberty pie" (seriously, Cuccinelli calls it that!), turning the America we know and love into a commie/socialist hellhole, dishonoring the Constitution of our Infallible Founders, blah blah blah.Other than that, the book is boring, dry, poorly written, puerile, repetitive, unoriginal, tendentious, and a sure cure for insomnia if there ever was one. If someday you happen to find yourself stranded on a desert island with nobody to talk to and nothing to read, out of your mind with boredom and desperate for ANY form of intellectual stimulation, and if this book just so happens to wash ashore, I implore you to throw it right back into the ocean and resume talking to "Wilson" or whatever you've named your volleyball friend. It's that bad.

BREAKING: Speaker Howell Says He Definitely has 51 Votes in House for Transportation Deal

I've been listening live to the John Fredericks Show (note: see John Fredericks' view of the transportation deal here - in short, he strongly supports it), where Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell (R) just stated unequivocally that he has 51 votes in the 100-seat House for the transportation deal announced yesterday. Howell further stated that he's more than willing to defend himself against right-wing attacks on the deal, which raises taxes significantly, because Richmond is not Washington, DC; here in Virginia, we compromise to get things done according to Howell. Speaking of the right wing, on the John Fredericks Show a few miniutes ago, Howell slammed GOP LG candidate Pete Snyder's proposal to slash Virginia government spending across the board in order to pay for transportation as "draconian," "naive," and "unrealistic." Finally, Howell noted that Sen. Janet Howell (D), who he emphasized is a liberal, is on board with the transportation compromise, clearly implying passage by the State Senate. Stay tuned for more, but it looks increasingly like this thing's a done deal.P.S. I'm starting to think that this transportation deal, despite its MANY flaws, might be worth it just to see the Republican Party tell the teahadists (e.g., Grover Norquist, Pete Snyder) to go f*** themselves. LOL
UPDATE 8:42 am: Sen. Ralph Northam says "we're in good shape" on the transportation plan, "we've hit crunch time in Virginia," "for the economy of Virginia...both sides of the aisle have come together for's a package that will move Virginia forward...I'm real excited about it...supportive of this package." Northam says he's "a little bit disappointed" in the $100 fee on hybrid vehicles, but understands the argument on the other side. Hmmmm. On the regional aspects of the bill, Northam says the "reality" is that Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads need the extra revenue, "projects that need to be done," this is a "step in the right direction." Northam says there are some in the Democratic caucus who have concerns, but he believes there will be "bipartisan support" in the Senate for this bill.
Whoa, on the John Fredericks Show, they just called Aneesh Chopra a "far left-wing candidate." Seriously?!? Wow. Hahahaha, Sen. Northam just (jokingly?) said he'd be happy to pick up John Fredericks and drive him to the polls to vote in the Democratic Primary on June 11. Having interviewed both Chopra and Northam, also having looked at their records, I'm not seeing any serious policy or ideological differences between them, let alone that one's the "moderate" candidate and the other's "far left." Either I'm totally missing something here (doubtful in this case), or the John Fredericks folks are messing with us, or something else is going on here...
UPDATE 10:54 am: I'm hearing that Howell might not really have those 51 votes, that he could just be b.s.'ing and/or trying to reduce Democrats' leverage vis-a-vis Medicaid expansion. Personally, my advice to House Dems is simple - for once you actually may have some leverage, as Howell wants and needs votes from your caucus. Use that leverage to push for Medicaid expansion, and don't take no for an answer!
UPDATE 11:01 amGreater Greater Washington weighs in and is not happy with this plan. Also, see Del. Surovell's analysis of the plan.

BREAKING: Godawful Transportation Deal Cut; Democrats Need to Reject It

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Virginia's House and Senate conferees have reached a transportation deal, and....THEY CAN'T POSSIBLY BE FREAKIN' SERIOUS! Here are thehighlights pathetic lowlights:
-- Replace the current 17.5 cents per gallon tax on gasoline with a 3.5 percent wholesale tax paid by distributors and a 6 percent wholesale tax on diesel fuel;
-- Increase the 5 percent retail sales and use tax paid on most purchases to 5.3 percent;
-- Apply a $100 annual fee on alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrids;
-- Increase the current 3 percent sales tax paid on the purchase of motor vehicles to 4 percent;
-- Increase the amount of general fund money diverted to fund transportation from .50 percent to .675 percent, raising roughly $200 million when fully phased in;
-- Use a substantial portion of any future sales tax proceeds generated from Internet purchases if Congress passes the Marketplace Equity Act, or, if the act fails, replace the revenue it would generate for transportation, education and localities through an additional 1.6 percent tax applied to the wholesale gas tax.
So, this is awful on almost every level.*Reducing the gas tax is beyond brain-dead, for revenue reasons, fairness reasons (it's a user fee, which means only the people who USE gasoline pay the fee), environmental reasons (the LAST thing we want to be doing right now is lowering the price of carbon-based fuels), etc. And no, a 3.5% wholesale tax on gasoline doesn't come close to compensating for cutting the gas tax.
*The $100 fee on hybrid vehicles is also completely unacceptable; why on earth would Virginia be moving to penalize some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road? Who wrote this bill, the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist and ExxonMobil? WTF?!?  By the way, this would make Virginia the first state in the nation to put a special fee on hybrid vehicles. Right now, only Washington State taxes a handful of electric vehicles, but not hybrids or plug-in hybrids.
*Diverting money from the general fund is a terrible idea. That means we're going to be taking money away from education, health care, etc. to compensate for cutting the gas tax. Brilliant!
*Increasing the sales tax to pay for transportation is the opposite of a user fee, also is highly regressive, also makes no sense whatsoever. Why are we cutting one tax while increasing another one? What is this absurd shell game Republicans are playing?!?
Bottom line: this is terrible policy, and I believe also terrible politics - cynical, assuming voters are imbeciles, too clever by half, you name it. Senate Democrats need to reject this bill.
P.S. The Marketplace Equity Act may never pass, so it's ridiculous to include it in the plan.
P.P.S. Estimates are that Virginia needs $100 billion for transportation over 20 years, this bill raises $3.8 billion over 5 years. That will barely cover the maintenance shortfall. Big whoop in terms of revenue...
P.P.P.S. Beyond the specifics, this deal is awful more broadly because there's absolutely no vision here of where we want Virginia to be going as a state, in terms of transportation. That means that we revert to the default, which is more sprawl, which is THE ABSOLUTE LAST THING we should be doing. Instead, we need a fully integrated approach to land use and transportation, focused on smart growth and environmentally sustainable development patterns. Where is any of that in this plan? Nowhere to be found...ugh.

Video: Sen. Herring Denounces Virginia GOP's Relentless "War on Voters"

Monday, February 18, 2013

According to Sen. Mark Herring, "just as the 2012 General Assembly session became know for the 'war on women,' the 2013 General Assembly session could easily be known as the 'war on voters.'" So true. Sen. Herring adds that the long lines at polls this past November were "unacceptable," yet Republicans' response was to submit legislation to "make it harder and harder for people who disagree with them to vote." Instead, Sen. Herring argues, we need to be making it as easy as possible for Virginians to exercise their right to vote. Thanks to Sen. Herring for standing up against the Republicans' blatant, anti-democratic (small "d") efforts. I look forward to next January, when Attorney General Herring can stand up for all Virginians.

Virginia GOP War on Cyclists Continues

The Virginia Republican war on cyclists continues. First, it was Sen. Chap Petersen's attempt to protect cyclists from car "dooring." Now, it's bill SB 1060(patroned by Sen. Bryce Reeves), that would have banned tailgating bicycles. This bill passed the Senate by an overwhelming, 30-9 vote (Republicans Carrico, Garrett, Marsh, Martin, Obenshain, Ruff, Stanley, Stuart, Watkins voted no), but was killed in the House of Delegates on a 55-42 vote, with almost all the "no" votes being Republicans (actually, I don't consider Johnny Joannou to be a Democrat, so that only leaves Joseph P. Johnson, Jr.; other than that, it was all Republicans).

Photos, Videos: Forward on Climate, Stop the Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline Rally

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Here are some photos (click to "embiggen") from today's "Forward on Climate," anti-Keystone Pipeline rally near the Washington Monument. Despite the cold, there were upwards of 35,000 [UPDATE: I'm hearing there may have been as many as 50,000 there] people from all over the country, and speakers such as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Van Jones (NRDC Trustee and President of Rebuild the Dream), Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, President Bill McKibben (see his Daily Kos diary here), Tom Steyer (Investor and founder of the Center for the Next Generation), Chief Jacqueline Thomas (Immediate past Chief of the Saik'uz First Nation in British Columbia and co-founder Yinka Dene Alliance), The Rev. Lennox Yearwood (Hip Hop Caucus President and CEO), Maria T. Cardona (Latinovations Founder, Dewey Square Group Principal), and more. Also see the Forward on Climate press release.
lowkell :: Photos, Videos: Forward on Climate, Stop the Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline Rally

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Gerson, Wehner Utterly Lost on "How to Save the Republican Party"

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Start off with flawed - or totally wrong - premises, and it's highly unlikely that you're going to end up with the correct conclusions. Sadly (for Republicans, anyway), that's exactly what Dubya's former chief speechwriter Michael Gerson and Republican politico Peter Wehner manage to do in their new Commentary piece, "How to Save the Republican Party". There's so much muddle-headed "thinking" here, it's hard to know where to start. Here are just a few big ones.1. Gerson and Wehner argue that Republicans aren't really beholden to "millionaires and billionaires," aren't really"out of touch with ordinary Americans," and aren't really "engaged in class warfare on behalf of the upper class." But of course, as we all know, they very much are all of those things. Thus, we have Republican elected officials voting time and again to protect the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. We have Republicans lavishing corporate welfare on powerful corporations, yet opposing a small increase in the (pathetically low) minimum wage. We have Republicans dividing America into a nation of "makers" and "takers," in which everyone who receives Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, individual welfare (note: corporate welfare is fine and dandy!), food stamps, etc. are "takers," while everyone else, a la Ayn Rand/Atlas Shrugged, are the put-upon "makers," who are more than ready to "shrug" off the burdensome 99% of the population.
Bottom line: the Republican Party today is the the party of Corporate Welfare, Crony Capitalism, Big Business, and Reverse Robin Hood Class Warfare (steal from the 99% to give to the top 1%). They receive enormous campaign contributions from all those (wealthy/powerful) folks, are lobbied relentlessly by them, share their values and interests, and have zero desire to break from them. Which is why Gerson and Wehner's recommendations - e.g., to become "visible and persistent critics of corporate welfare," to promote social mobility, to be more like Teddy Roosevelt (a great Progressive) - are completely implausible and laughable. In reality, the Republican Party's goal is anything but "equality of opportunity." Instead, it's to do everything it can to keep their entrenched, wealthy and powerful cronies and campaign contributors fat and happy. Why would this change? Sure, losing elections should be a motivation, but I'll be shocked if that alone trumps the crony capitalists' economic self interest in maintaining their Reverse Robin Hood gravy train.
lowkell :: Gerson, Wehner Utterly Lost on "How to Save the Republican Party"
2. It's hilarious to hear these two establishment Republicans using language that, if a Democrat (especially the "Kenyan" "socialist" in the White House) said it, would be considered "communism" or whatever. Yet here we are with Gerson and Wehner waxing rhapsodic about the benefits of the "common good," "community or social solidarity," "the obligations and attachments we have to each other," and "the Catholic doctrines of subsidiarity and solidarity with the poor."Wait a minute, isn't all that exactly what Barack Obama and the Democratic Party already stand for? And isn't all that constantly demonized by the Republican Party, not to mention the Rand Pauls, Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys, Ted Cruzes, Tea Partiers, "we built that!" folks, etc? Finally, isn't it government of/by/for the people which is there to look out for the common good, and to provide a check and balance (along with organized labor) against the unbridled greed of the the private sector? Well, yeah, obviously. So what do Gerson and Wehner have to offer, exactly? "[W]ays to protect the charitable sector from federal aggression?" Huh? The federal government's at war with charities? Who knew? How about "a concerted effort to encourage civic and cultural assimilation of immigrants?" You mean, the same immigrants the the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 said should "self deport?" Gotcha.
3. Gerson and Wehner argue that "the GOP can engage vital social issues forthrightly but in a manner that is aspirational rather than alienating." What does that mean exactly? Are Republicans going to stop trying to shut down abortion clinics, stop forcing women to have invasive ultrasound procedures, stop waging war against contraception and Planned Parenthood, stop voting against laws to provide equal protection for LGBT citizens, stop opposing even such a no-brainer bill as the Violence Against Women Act? Who cares about the Republicans' "manner," when it's their substance that's all wrong on "vital social issues?" And the fact is, as long as the Grumpy Old Party is beholden to the Pat Robertson religious (far) right, none of this is going to change. Again, though, just as with the GOP being in bed with the rich and powerful, how do Gerson and Wehner propose the Republican Party tell Robertson et al. to take a long hike off a short pier? Got me.
4. Finally, while I agree with Gerson and Wehner that "Republicans need to harness their policy views to the findings of science," there are a few big - possibly insurmountable - obstacles to overcome before they do. On climate science, for instance, if Republicans were to really accept what 97% of climate scientists know, that human emissions of greenhouse gases (largely from the combustion of fossil fuels) are rapidly and dangerously changing the climate, then the implications would be to get off of carbon-based fuels ASAP. Yet the GOP is funded, as well as controlled, to a large degree by those very fossil fuel interests, and the last thing the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil, etc. want to see is a rapid transition to a clean energy economy. If Republicans try to move in that direction, they'll be snapped back fast and HARD by their paymasters. How do Gerson and Wehner propose to get around this problem? They don't say, because obviously they have no clue. And, by the way, even Gerson and Wehner can't bring themselves to stop lying about what would be needed to stop climate change (e.g, put a price on carbon!). They also can't help themselves but to lie about the conservative basis of ideas like a carbon tax (thereby correcting a clear and enormous market failure), or the conservative Republican idea of "cap and trade." Instead, Gerson and Wehner kill all their credibility by demonizing these conservative, Republican ideas as "Al Gore's policy agenda," or as "top-down approach of unwieldy government bureaucracies offering huge subsidies to favored companies such as Solyndra" (that's quite a mouthful...of bile and bull****).
The bottom line is this: even when leading Republican "thinkers" (using the word loosely) like Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner take a stab at thinking through a reboot of the Republican Party, they fail miserably, because they ultimately can't manage to look at things objectively, clearly, and with courage. In the end, what the Republican Party needs to do is clear: return to its roots as a serious, right-of-center (yet also broadly Progressive - not a synonym for "liberal" by the way - in the Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Bob LaFollette, Dwight Eisenhower, John Chaffee, Lowell Weicker, Jacob Javits, Nelson Rockefeller, etc. tradition) party. It also needs to ditch the Pat Robertson right, become a secular party that "believes" in science again, get with modernity, and stop trying to take America "back" to a time when wealthy white men had all the rights, and everyone else was pretty much powerless. Then, we'll see what happens. Until then, the GOP - and its "thinkers" like Gerson and Wehner - will remain lost in the political wilderness, increasingly out of touch with a population that simply doesn't think like them anymore, and whose economic interests are in stark conflict with the Robber Baron Republicans. Until that day comes, if it ever does, the job of everyone else in the country is simply to beat these guys (and yes, they're mostly guys), until hopefully they wake up and finally get a clue. Personally, I'm not holding my breath.
UPDATE: Whoops, forgot to mention, they are also completely off base when they write, "Barack Obama has put in place an agenda of unreconstructed progressivism that is at war, not only with Reaganism, but also with Clintonism." That's just laughable on every level. The signature accomplishment, "Obamacare," was modeled after "Romneycare" and the 1993 Republican alternative to "Hillarycare." Not single payer. Not Medicare for all. Not even a public option. Instead, Obamacare keeps in place and even reinforces the for-profit healthcare model. Soooo progressive! LOL
Other than that, the "stimulus" was heavily (foolishly!) weighted towards tax cuts, and also far too small, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has pointed out repeatedly. On foreign policy, Obama's been pounding Al Qaeda with drones and special forces. He's had an "all of the above" energy strategy, which many environmentalists oppose. I could go on and on, but the point is: Gerson and Wehner are utterly delusional if they believe that Barack Obama has been pushing "an agenda of unreconstructed progressivism."

Video: Ken Cuccinelli Surrounded by Security at Book Signing in Tysons Corner

I just got back from Ken Cuccinelli's book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Tysons Corner (and no, I wouldn't buy one of his books if it was the last book on earth, I was stranded on a desert island, and I was absolutely desperate for something - anything! - to read). There was a long line of people waiting to get their book signed, including several members of the anti-Cuccinelli group Cooch Watch 2013. What I found perhaps most interesting was how anxious Cuccinelli obviously was to keep the public from asking him questions in a freewheeling fashion (e.g., as in a normal book reading/Q&A session). Also, I was surprised how much security there was (note that it was already pretty secure being deep inside a large shopping mall, with no direct access from the street, and with no ability for anyone to protest right outside the store), including people standing to Cuccinelli's left and right. I asked one of them if he was with the campaign, he said "no sir." I asked him if he was with the book store, he said "no sir." And that was that. Who the heck knows, but they made it VERY clear that they wanted nobody getting anywhere near Cuccinelli, unless they had bought a book and were willing to proceed, one at a time (under watchful eyes of security) to have the book signed. Hmmmm. P.S. Also, see the "flip" for a photo of the "Cooch Watch" folks at the event by Gail Gordon Donegan. As Gail colorfully describes the scene: "Waiting in line with tea partiers is strange. The men look sociopathic and the women look broken. They all have haunted eyes." I simply can't understand how anyone in their right (as in "sane," not politically "right") mind could support this extremist, theocratic, anti-LGBT, anti-women, science denying sockpuppet of the Koch brothers. Of course, this is the mindset we're dealing with. Ugh. P.P.S. Gail Gordon Donegan adds, "Cooch deflected my friend's questions about Medicare and Social Security, and he wouldn't even entertain my questions about abortion and the First Amendment. So, there you have it. He stayed about one hour."

Jeannemarie Davis Throws 70-Year-Old Staffer Under Bus; Bashes Ben Tribbett as "Obama apologist"

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

This interview would be hilarious if it weren't so pathetic. Actually, on second thought, it IS hilarious, on several levels. First, here's a transcript of Jeannemarie Davis' comments, starting a bit after 13:00. Also, you might want to skim the NLS article that triggered this ("JMDD VOTE BUYING SCHEME EXPOSED"). Now, take it away Jeannemarie Davis!
Once again, it was just, you know, like I said, Savannah...she's 70 years old, she doesn't write her email well, she absolutely garbled what she was intending to write. Once again, we did not ask her to send any emails out and to reach out to the College Republicans through an email, that was just something she just decided to do on her own volition and unfortunately did it very poorly. As I said, she feels very badly about this. And I also want to add that Ben Tribbett, the person who decided to go viral on this, he's a liberal left-wing Obama apologist, and he worked for my Democrat [sic] opponent who ran against me back in 2007. So, I know Tribbett well, I know what his agenda is. Curiously, he used to work for Pete Snyder. But I think this just speaks volumes to why we have conventions instead of primaries; the party chooses to have conventions to keep liberals out of our nominating process, and why we would allow Ben Tribbett, who is a well-known, left-wing Obama apologist, to have any influence over our convention, I have no idea...this is just a poor older woman who made a very bad mistake, and to throw her under the bus like this is just a terrible thing to do...she just sent out an email that she shouldn't have sent out, that she didn't even reread before she sent out to make sure her message didn't come across differently from what her intent was.
Hahahaha. OK, a few thoughts. 1. Ben Tribbett may be "well-known" and "left-wing," but anyone who has ever read his blog knows that he's anything but an "Obama apologist." To the (stark!) contrary, Ben was a huge Hillary Clinton supporter during the rough-and-tumble 2007-2008 Democratic primaries. To this day, Ben remains a huge Hillary fan, but an "Obama apologist?" That's just utterly laughable. 2. You've gotta love the way that liberal Republican ("RINO") Jeannemarie Davis has mastered the lingo of the Tea Party and the far right in general, with all their juvenile verbal tics like using "Democrat" (as opposed to proper English: "Democratic") as an adjective, like pretending that Barack Obama is left wing (more like worst Socialist EVER! LOL), etc. It's just particularly amusing coming out of the mouth of someone who used to pride herself on being a liberal-moderate Republican. Whatever. Obviously, she'll say whatever she has to say, pretend to be whatever she has to be, in order to try and win the GOP nomination. Which she won't, of course - pretty much zero chance of that happening at a convention dominated by right-wing activists. 3. I've gotta say, I did enjoy Jeannemarie Davis' clever attempt to tie her rival, Frank "Big Lie" Luntz protege Pete Snyder, to this supposed "left-wing Obama apologist" Ben Tribbett. True, Ben used to work at Snyder's New Media Strategies, but if we really want to start examining where everyone has ever worked, this could get real interesting real fast. On the other hand, I hope whatever Davis is trying to do to Snyder succeeds, as he'd make a horrendous Lieutenant Governor and should certainly not be elected to anything, ever (plus, from a Republican point of view, he was a total #FAIL heading up "Virginia Victory 2012"). 4. I find it highly ironic that Jeannemarie Davis criticizes Ben Tribbett for throwing this "poor older woman" under the bus, when Davis herself repeatedly and viciously...throws her (now former) staffer under the bus! For starters, Davis informs us that this "poor older woman" has now "tendered her resignation [from the Davis campaign] and she's no longer working with the campaign." Speaking of throwing someone under the bus - nice going Jeannemarie Davis! In addition, if you read the transcript and/or listen to the interview, you may notice Jeannemarie Davis repeatedly bashing this "poor older woman" for being sloppy, a bad writer, irresponsible, etc, etc. And, of course, for this entire incident being the "poor older woman"'s fault, not Jeannemarie Davis'. Nice, huh? 5. If Jeannemarie Davis really believes that Virginia Republicans switched their nominating process from a primary to a convention to keep liberals from somehow influencing who their nominee will be, she's either an ignoramus or a paranoid wackjob (or both). In reality, of course, liberals don't generally waste their time voting in Republican primaries, certainly not in numbers that would make any difference. More to the point, everyone knows that the reason the 2013 Virginia GOP nominating process was changed was because of a coup by Ken Cuccinelli and his supporters, who wanted to force out Bill Bolling. It worked, by the way, but it had nothing to do with whatever Jeannemarie Davis is blathering about. 6. Finally, I find it hilarious that Jeannemarie suddenly hates Ben Tribbett, given that she and her husband were quite friendly with Ben prior to 2007 (when Ben played a big role in helping Chap Petersen tossing Jeannemarie Davis out of the State Senate - thank goodness!). I mean, I understand how after an experience like that, Tom and Jeannemarie Davis would be bitter, angry, and terrified of Ben Tribbett, but it's just hilarious how over the top she goes in this interview to bash her old friend. Ah, politics...gotta love it huh?

Video: Virginia Del. Todd Gilbert (R): Anti-LGBT Discrimination "really doesn't exist"

If you hadn't heard, SB701 - a bill that would have protected lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state employees in Virginia - was tabled in the House subcommittee last night. Here's some video demonstrating the type of mentality that leads to a no-brainer bill like this being voted down, as opposed to being passed unanimously as it should be. Sadly, it's the unbelievable ignorance of people like Virginia Del. Todd Gilbert (R-15th) - as exhibited in this video; see transcript of Gilbert's remarks below - that result in the kind of travesty we saw last year, with Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland being rejected simply because of his sexual orientation (note that Del. Gilbert refused to vote for Thorne-Begland's nomination last year). And no, although judicial nominees would not have been affected by this bill, Thorne-Begland's example demonstrates in a glaring way that discrimination is alive and well in Virginia, and in public employment.
I’ve heard this bill several years in a row. Among all the people who spoke, there was not a single example of one that was discriminated against in public employment. I challenge those in the room to bring forth an example. I was told the following year that there would be a line out the door of people with examples of having been discriminated against in public employment. There was not a single example anyone that felt that except that abstract fear that we’ve heard testified here today. I heard the gentlewoman today say that Virginia Commonwealth - VCU is this oppressive and intolerant environment. I dare say that’s probably not true. The examples we’ve heard from today have actually reaffirmed that people are interested in coming to Virginia and engaging in careers here and are thriving in the process of engaging in those careers. I think the many people that testify in their roles in higher education demonstrate that there is no problem this bill solves and once again, we’ve heard from many people about this specter of oppression that really doesn’t exist because we don’t have a single example of anyone who has been discriminated against for this reason.