Sunday, November 25, 2007

Column: What do the election results spell for Republicans?

There was an election up in ole Washington this November, and the results inspired my latest column:

It's hard to get a lot of excitement up for off-year elections. There's little hype, with the races not being highlighted by well-funded candidates and a year-long campaign cycle. These elections, however, can play a role in seeing what direction the electorate is leaning, politically speaking.

The victory of Tim Eyman's latest initiative, I-960, was interesting in this regard. The initiative pressed for greater accountability among legislators toward the people who put them in power by making it necessary that every statewide tax measure is first approved by voters. For those who believe that voters should control their own funds, this is a move that will increase the power of the electorate.

The initiative also would require that fee hikes be passed by legislators and signed by the governor, as well as mandating press releases regarding bills on taxes and fees in order to provide information to the electorate.

Eyman was quoted as describing the victory of the bill as "another victory for the taxpayer." It certainly was a victory for those who believe in the libertarian ideals of small government. The question is whether this could also translate into a victory for Republican candidates down the road, most notably Dino Rossi for governor in 2008, or if this is merely hollow populism on the part of Washington voters.

An interesting insight into Washington voters' psychology came while reading the blog of Seattle Times reporter David Postman. Postman quoted Chris Vance, the former chairman of the Washington state Republican Party, on why conservative and libertarian initiatives are passed by the same voters who vote Democrats into office: "They like our ideas, they just don't like us."

Can the connection be made in voters' minds that there are politicians on the other side of the aisle that support the policies they pass through initiatives? If it can, it may have to involve demolishing the popular myths regarding conservatives. In liberal circles, people who lean conservative or vote Republican are painted as either hopelessly ignorant or somehow morally vacant.

To combat this, it would be wise to be proactive. Instead of getting into personal battles during election cycles, demonstrate the power of conservative ideas and how they compete with the failed policies of liberalism. If articulated well enough, voters would see that the ideas and values they hold are not being shared by the people they vote into office.

No comments: