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As Long as We Remember...

May 3, 2010

First a diagnosis, now the treatment

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Having written a warning column about the Republican Party’s challenges, it seemed time to turn to other subjects.


A recent editorial column by the writer-who’s-easy-to-ignore sparked some ideas for a vitriolic but truthful response pointing out his history of factual inaccuracies and fundamental inability to offer valid political prognostication, but doing so would grant him more credit than he’d ever deserve. His name rhymes with Dolts.


Instead, a friend who hosts a very interesting radio program suggested following up the GOP warning with a prescription for fixing the problem.


First, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve really been struggling with my lack of political “connection” of late. The decision to disaffiliate with the GOP has taken a toll, underscored by the hoopla in a string of recent email about the local central committee’s Lincoln-Reagan Dinner.


That event was always a source of enjoyment, an evening spent with friends and colleagues, reveling in party insider gossip and speculation. The last two years, it’s been tough following all of that from afar, from my own private political exile.


The pain still lingers from my portrayal by certain party insiders and officials as a turncoat for simply exercising my own judgment and voting according to conscience. Isn’t that what we elect people to do in the first place? Do partisan voters really cast ballots for their representatives in order to always have them vote according to predetermined party positions?


Depends which style suits you better, I guess.


Let’s examine the state senators who represent Frederick County in the Maryland General Assembly. District 4’s David Brinkley is a leader, a fiscal and social conservative, who in the past led his party’s caucus through tough budget fights. He has a reputation for thoughtful and deliberate conduct on the floor of the Senate, but can be as confrontational as the situation and opposition dictates. He can move easily through the process, and is welcomed into Senate President Mike Miller’s office, in spite of the fact that his vote is almost assuredly going the other way most times.


District 3’s Sen. Alex Mooney takes a different approach. He has chosen the path of legislative crusader, the lonely warrior bravely standing against the hoard of progressive barbarians as they rush across the plain of ideological battle on every single issue. Notwithstanding the fact that he loses every battle, he uses this imagery to convince his supporters that without him in Annapolis (and hopefully someday Washington), the liberals would destroy Maryland. He is proud to stand alone, or in a small group of others, with very little to show in the form of substantive legislative achievement or accomplishment.


So, where do you set your own high bar of political expectation? Are you a party voter, or a principle voter?


Here’s another analogy. Sheriff Chuck Jenkins is a man of principle. In fact, it would be appropriate to call him unwavering when it comes to a few key issues. He is determined to provide public safety service in Frederick County for the lowest possible investment of taxpayer resources.


Need proof? Over his term in office, Sheriff Jenkins has returned over $10 million to the county treasury. What other component of county government can make a similar claim?


On the question of using the resources of federal, state, and local government to deal with illegal immigration, Sheriff Jenkins stands second to none in his commitment to address this issue. Other elected officials and law enforcement agencies appear less inclined to take such a firm stand. The political risk is probably too high for them.


This same sheriff also served as the leader of the county Republican Party for a number of years. During his tenure (and since), Chuck Jenkins has been adamant about one thing. His personal commitment to the things he believes weighs more than loyalty to partisanship.


As long as those two systems are aligned, all is right with the world and politics. When they don’t, you can count on Sheriff Jenkins to come down on the side of his core beliefs, even at the risk of party loyalty. Just listen to him challenge Congressional Republicans on deficit spending and you’ll get my meaning.


Frederick City Mayor Randy McClement has proven that when difficult and unpopular choices have to made, a true leader boldly moves ahead with a plan to correct the errant course. Yes, I work for him, but it was that spirit of principle over politics that led me to volunteer for his campaign.


So, now to the medicine. Republicans need to be the idea guys. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has a non-profit foundation that spews forth innovative ideas like Old Faithful, and connects investment with innovation on a daily basis. He has focused considerable energy on healthcare and information technology, but there are dozens of other national Republican issue experts who rival him, but on different topics.


Rep. Paul Ryan (R., WI) is young, bright, and more concerned about his kid’s future than the future of the GOP. Virginia’s Rep. Eric Cantor is another, although his leadership role raising campaign funds for GOP congressmen causes him to err on the side of partisanship more frequently. Last week I mentioned Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who’s doing great things in a state that is as economically challenged as any other.


On the local level, we have people like David Brinkley, Randy McClement and Chuck Jenkins.


People like these, principled and committed Republicans, who view their primary role as doing the right thing first and the Republican thing second, don’t magically get swept into office. It takes well-informed voters who can spot the difference between a rhetoric-spewing re-election machine and a Republican candidate who understands the Constitution, the benefits of limited government, free enterprise, and the difference between party loyalty and protecting people’s real interests.


The Tea Party Movement is essentially about one thing: American voters understand the sad reality. Their interests have taken a back seat to the accumulation of political power by long-serving incumbents more focused on retaining their death-grip on their office than on how well they serve our best interests.


If the Republican Party still has a soul, it will be manifest through candidates for local, county, state and federal office who can demonstrate that they not only believe in the vision of our Founding Fathers, but they will conduct themselves accordingly once elected.


Failure to follow this course of treatment will lead to a political malignancy that will spread, and one that could ultimately prove fatal.


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