Posts Tagged right-wing

Of Rainbows and Unicorns


Once upon a time in the woods of Penn the benevolent overseer of the land wished to bestow upon his subjects many favors.  Believing in the superior wisdom of his court, he set out to do away with the evil forces that allowed some to rise above others.  To do so he needed more treasure, so he pledged to take from the rich and give to the poor.  But alas, he soon found there were not enough rich to supply the bounty he promised, so he began taking even from the hard working peasants.

And a great sadness descended upon the land.  The benevolent overseer stroked his beard and decreed his populace suffered from a lack of self-esteem.  If only his subjects would think more highly of themselves they would gladly offer up more taxes to the kingdom.  But, upon finding they too would have to render unto the overseer part of their own meager fortune, a great restlessness occurred among the masses.

Seeing this, the knights of the legislature sprang into action and vowed to lead the people to the land of lower taxes and less government.  They promised easier access to wine and liquor to restore the kingdom’s sagging spirits.   And they vowed the government would get out of the way and let people work hard and keep more of their shekels for their own families.

Thus did a great battle take shape over the destiny of his kingdom.

“I will lead you to the land of glittering rainbows and prancing unicorns,” claimed the benevolent overseer.

“We love you!” shouted the scribes and town criers.

“We can’t afford it!” wailed the wage earners.

“We will come to your rescue!” pledged the knights of the legislature.

And the fight commenced.

Governor Tom Wolf has put his first budget on the table. It is a complete redesign of the state’s tax paradigm, with the end result being a $4.6 billion increase in state spending.  He calls his budget progressive and a fresh start for Pennsylvania.  Republicans who control both houses of the General Assembly call it “dead on arrival.”  Many adjectives have been used by the media to describe the spending plan.  I like the term “fairy tale.”

It is a fairy tale because Governor Wolf’s proposals completely ignore the reality of the political situation in Harrisburg.  Even with complete control of the governor’s office and the legislature Republicans were unable to come to grips with pension reform, liquor privatization, and a systemic budget deficit.  As a result of last November’s election, the General Assembly has become more Republican and more conservative and the Governor’s office has been transformed into a virtual Left wing think tank.

For reasons too numerous to detail here, Pennsylvania state government is one that makes change incrementally.  Bold, sweeping action of any type on any issue happens rarely and then only when there is some level of agreement between factions of the two political parties.  Currently, Democrats are a unified and unbending block, and the capitulation wing of the Republican caucus has been rendered impotent by the sheer number of more conservative members elected in recent election cycles.

As if this were not enough of a prescription for gridlock, the Governor has opted to double down on his so-called progressive agenda. The only possible outcome is an extended period of confrontation.   This will happen because neither side will be able to back down without paying a hefty political price.  The governor is beholden to labor unions and will block Republican efforts to address budgetary cost drivers like public employee pensions.  Across the aisle, Republicans enjoy their current large majorities because of conservative legislators sent to Harrisburg to cut spending and prevent tax hikes.

By making his opening bid confrontation rather than compromise Governor Wolf has created a climate in which acrimony and gridlock will flourish.  That is unless one or both sides abandons the constituencies which elected them to office.  That could happen; if you believe in fairy tales.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address islhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

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A Ruined Black Tie Affair


My favorite Garth Brooks song, about having friends in low places, has a great lyric where he sings “I showed up in boots and ruined your black tie affair.”  That refrain could be sung by Pennsylvania’s newest state senator, Scott Wagner, who just months into his term, has called for the ouster of the reigning Senate Republican leader.

There is no doubt that Senate Majority Leader Domenic Pileggi is out of step with both his caucus and with his party.  The most frequently asked question I get is: Why have Republicans – with control of the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature – failed to enact reforms near and dear to the heart of the party’s grassroots?  The blame in large measure rests squarely on the shoulders of Pileggi and a handful of other southeastern Republican senators whose loyalty lies not with their party or voters, but rather with the labor unions who financially support their campaigns.

Senator Wagner had the temerity to challenge Pileggi directly on this issue.  In a strongly worded letter saying he supports a change in leadership Wagner told Pileggi: “I suspect many of your actions can be explained by the company you keep . . . It has become crystal clear to me that you will not allow any piece of legislation onto the floor for a vote that would in any way be opposed by the public or private sector unions.”

Reaction from the Senate leadership team tellingly focused on concerns that: “Public disagreements within our caucus are not the norm; we always hope such differences can be resolved in a collegial manner.”

I guess he ruined their black tie affair.

Interestingly, among the “accomplishments” of Senator Pileggi cited by his fellow leaders was passage of the Transportation Infrastructure Plan, essentially a massive gas tax hike that is enormously unpopular among fiscal conservatives.  No mention, of course, was made of pension reform or liquor privatization – key legislative goals of Governor Tom Corbett and of House Republicans respectively.

Conservatives know that resolving matters in a “collegial manner” only means the clubby status quo of the Senate remains intact.  The past four years have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that such business as usual cannot and will not yield reform.  The same situation existed across the capitol rotunda in the state House during the speakership of John Perzel, who – before being sent off to prison – ran that chamber in a manner contrary to both the principles of his party and the will of most members of his own caucus.

History is now repeating itself.  Electoral trends across the state have resulted in Republican representation in both the Senate and in the House shift from the formerly Republican southeastern Philadelphia suburbs to central and especially western Pennsylvania where voters have elected more Republicans and more conservative Republicans.  Pileggi, of Delaware County, is on the wrong side of the trend line.

The question now becomes when will enough Republican senators realize that they are enabling the labor union agenda by allowing Senator Pileggi to remain as Majority Leader?  It is not enough, back in their districts, to use the excuse that leadership won’t bring issues to a vote.  Every senator has the power to shed the black tie, put on their boots and change leadership so it more accurately reflects the principles of the Republican Party’s grassroots.
Wagner, meanwhile, has nothing to lose.  Pileggi & company pulled every trick in the book to prevent him from being elected to the Senate in the first place.  In an embarrassing defeat for Pileggi, Wagner beat the leader’s hand-picked candidate in a special election by waging a write-in campaign – the first write-in victory for a state Senate candidate in the history of the commonwealth.

Putting a cherry on top of the sundae, Wagner recently gave the Senate Republican report at the Fall meeting of the Republican State Committee.  Such reports typically lull members to sleep, but Wagner animated the crowd with a fiery speech denouncing labor unions and those who have blocked the GOP’s reform agenda – specifically pinning the blame on southeastern senators.

He received numerous and thunderous ovations.

Wagner is not speaking for just the conservative wing of the party, he is speaking for all Republicans who are angry that they have worked for decades to gain control in Harrisburg, and have seen critical reforms derailed by elected officials of their own party.  And those reforms have not failed because of the governor or the state House, but because of the Senate.  Senator Wagner has correctly identified the “number one obstacle.”

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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The Pendulum Swings


When history looks back at the just completed term of the Supreme Court of the United States it will view it as the end point of the pendulum swing toward an imperial presidency and the beginning of a return toward a government more respectful of constitutional rights.

In an amazing set of landmark decisions handed down by the high court during the last week of its term the justices have placed limits on executive power, upheld the constitutional prerogatives of congress, reaffirmed the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, validated religious freedom, and protected Americans from forced association.

It is an enduring tribute to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers that the government they established during the Constitutional convention of 1787 and the subsequent addition of the Bill of Rights devised a system of government that, however tenuous, works to this day.  In this case, a president found that although he has a pen and a phone, the constitution is a more powerful instrument.  And, even when a feckless and inept congressional leadership allowed itself to be run over roughshod by an autocratic administration, the third branch of government – in this case the judiciary – stepped forward to reassert the primacy of the constitution.

Individually the court decisions covered a wide range of issues with each case posing a threat to constitutional rights. The common thread was in every instance the court did what the founders envisioned it doing and protected the liberties granted to us by our Creator and spelled out in our nation’s governing document.

While most of the cases were decided by narrow 5-4 majorities, a cause for concern moving forward, the Justices did unanimously rule against the President’s usurpation of congressional confirmation powers by upholding the right of the U.S. Senate to decide for itself when it is in fact in session.  At specific issue were appointments to the National Labor Relations Board made by the president while the senate remained in session but not fully present in the capitol.  The president argued that was a recess during which time he could make appointments without senate confirmation.  The court ruled otherwise, bringing to a close the presidential end-run around congress and the constitution.

In a major win for individual rights, the court held that the federal government cannot require family-owned corporations to provide contraceptive benefits to employees if it violates their religious beliefs. Under the Affordable Health Care Act the administration had sought to force the national craft chain Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Products in Lancaster County to provide such benefits despite their religious objections.  While the ruling was narrowly applied to corporations in which the corporation is indistinguishable from the family that owns it, it did mark the first time the high court has extended religious freedom protections to corporations.

The court also issued a sweeping ruling protecting the privacy rights of every American by requiring law enforcement authorities to obtain a search warrant before looking at the contents of an individual’s cellular telephone. Chief Justice Roberts humorously observed that “the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.”

President Obama was not the only one reeled in by the court’s recent rulings.  Ruling in an Illinois case the Justices collared public sector labor unions that had been forcing thousands of in-home health care workers to pay union dues. The court held that practice violated the first amendment rights of workers who might disagree with union policy and political positions.

Thomas Jefferson once observed that: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time by the blood of patriots and tyrants.”  In his time there was little recourse to obtain liberty than by armed rebellion to win and protect it.  He and his compatriots embarked on a Great Experiment to provide a peaceful means of refreshing our God-given rights.  This past week, for the time being at least, the experiment worked.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and 

host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Moving the Goal Posts


A football field is 100 yard long.  That makes the 50-yard line the center of the field.  Suppose we were to change the rules and make the football field 120 yards long.  That would make the center of the field the 60-yard line.  Despite changing the center, the 50-yard line is still 50 yards from the goal line even though it is now ten yards away from the middle of the field.

Simply put, we moved the goal posts.

That is what has happened to American politics.  Policies and positions that at one time were considered moderate, are now denounced as extreme.  This is because the field was not lengthened ten yards on each side; rather all 20 yards were added to the Left side of the field making formerly centrist positions seem further to the Right.

Conservatives who espouse low taxes, personal freedom and a strong national defense are now portrayed as the “radical Right,” despite the fact such positions occupied the nation’s mainstream for generations.  The Democratic Party, establishment Republicans and a liberal dominated news media all view it in their best interests to claim the center is now the extreme.

But voters are not buying the argument.

The upset of this year’s primary season was the defeat of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s 7th congressional district.  It was the first time in history a sitting Republican majority leader lost his own party’s primary.  Many factors contributed to Cantor’s defeat, but the fact is a TEA party conservative put together a message that resonated with voters and despite being massively outspent won the election.

Another incumbent is on the verge of being ousted in Mississippi where long-time U.S. Senator Thad Cochran has been forced into a run-off election by TEA party conservative Chris McDaniel who actually received more votes than Cochran in the first round of balloting. McDaniel has been ahead in polls leading up to the run-off election.

For his part, Cochran has laid waste to establishment claims that TEA party candidates must be defeated in primaries because they suffer from foot-in-mouth disease causing them to lose winnable general elections.  At a recent campaign appearance Cochran claimed he grew up “doing all kinds of indecent things with animals.”  His claims of barnyard exploits proved candidates from all parts of the political spectrum can say stupid things.

Here in Penn’s Woods even Democrats are not buying the progressive spin. In what one Left wing blog termed “the worst Primary night for PA progressives in recent memory,” Democrats nominated a wealthy “one percenter” over more Leftist candidates for governor.  Self-described liberal lion state Senator Daylin Leach finished third in a congressional primary in which the most centrist candidate on the ballot prevailed.  Progressive rising, now fallen star State Representative Erin Molchany lost to an old-line Democrat and State Representative Margo Davidson, a pro-life Democrat defeated her progressive challenger.

The bottom line is this: although the progressive/mainstream Republican/news media echo chamber would have you believe conservative positions are now extreme voters in both parties are, at the ballot box, proving otherwise.  Essentially, both political parties have become disconnected from their grassroots.  Thus the political division in America today is more between those who govern and those who are governed than it is between Republicans and Democrats.

For Republicans this is an opportunity to appeal to Democrats turned-off by their party’s ultra-progressive wing much as Ronald Reagan did in assembling a winning coalition back in the 1980s.  The war establishment Republicans are waging against the GOP’s TEA party base provides a division that can be exploited by Democrats.

With internal strife abundant in both parties, the one which does the best job of minimizing their internal divisions will prevail at the ballot box both in this November’s race for Governor of Pennsylvania and in the 2016 Presidential campaign now getting underway.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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