By Karen Kwiatkowski
It's an exciting time to be a Republican in Virginia! Before you say I'm off my rocker, let me explain that I'm really just off my Rockefeller.
The Republican Party has found it difficult, for several election cycles, to choose electable candidates at the presidential level. Romney was a hard sell for many conservatives, in part because he's a Rockefeller, not a Reagan. Ronald Reagan is continually referenced to inspire the GOP grassroots - yet the chances of getting a Reagan-style candidate are slim to none when the top leadership of the party is, as it is today, so heavily tainted by Rockefellerism.
Things are changing. The party seems to be trading up to more honesty and more populism. The failure of the Romney/Ryan ticket, just as the failure of the McCain/Palin ticket before that, is instructive. Palin and Ryan were added to those respective tickets as carrots for both the grassroots fiscal conservatives and younger voters who wanted someone who "looked like them." But the Rockefellerian shtick is not what this country needs, nor what we want. If the average voter wants to put a Democrat in office, they may as well vote directly for someone honestly running on that platform - not a look-alike posing as a Republican.
What exactly is a Rockefeller Republican? Wikipedia says it is a moderate, one who shares the views of Nelson Rockefeller, vice president under Gerald Ford. Rockefeller's brand comes from New England, is known for embracing the post-FDR social welfare state, supportive of the military industrial complex and Wall Street, and being ambiguous on the Constitution.
Ann Coulter said early this year that "we have killed off the Rockefeller Republicans." She was wrong, of course, but hopeful. The American Conservative magazine noted in August that in senatorial races, Rockefeller Republicans were losing seats. When neoconservative reactionary Ann Coulter and the American Conservative's classical liberals agree on something, Republicans should pay attention.
Bill Bolling is a Rockefeller Republican. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But he just bowed out of the gubernatorial race despite, in his own words, being "most qualified ...most capable of effectively and responsibly governing the state. ... the logical person and [he could] win the general election next November." For all of that - why did he bow out? He bowed out because Republicans in Virginia are rejecting Rockefellerism. They yearn for the promise of Reagan, but more that that, they yearn for a more honest constitutionalism, a better kind of federalism, where the states don't jump up and beg every time someone from Washington, D.C., shows up in a suit.
The Rockefeller strategy has been to target that narrow margin of centrist voters, those 2 million people who always vote, and sometimes don't know who they like until they get into a voting booth. While our party has pursued this path to the so-called center, we have lost more than the presidency. We have lost any way of reaching out to the 100 million people who don't bother to show up at the polls at all.
We have been a party that loves government intervention abroad, likes the national welfare system, and is comfortable with unlimited spending and borrowing in the name of the middle class. But that's not who we are any more. Today, we are as likely to be lower working class, and struggling economically as those affiliated with any other party. Our preferred solutions are found in constitutionalism - with as much emphasis on the 1st Amendment as the 2nd, and treating the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments as if they are as imperative as the 9th and 10th. Our preferred solutions rest on individualism, not statism. We love liberty, not just economic liberty, but liberty to think, and say and write, and live as we choose. We, like so many who came before us from a hundred different countries, believe - and hope - that freedom is the monumental value that differentiates our country from all others.
The Heritage Foundation's annual review puts the U.S. at only 10th in economic freedom. The existence of the TSA, militarized SWAT teams and domestic drones in our local police departments, unaffordable national Ponzi schemes masquerading as a social safety net, a federal debt level that is astounding and unpayable - all place this country's freedom at risk. Those 100 million potential voters have already checked out of the political game -- and why not? The two parties, obsessed with winning a few more of the 2 million centrists, offer no real change and have demonstrated no real solutions. Neither has seriously promoted and cherished liberty.
The first step in turning back the clock on centralized government controls and the domestic security state, and promoting honest debate about what a classical liberal viewpoint looks like in the 21st century is happening now. With the retirement of the remaining Rockefeller Republicans, we have a chance to freshen the debate about liberty, and unleash a Republican Party that is honest, authentic, and relevant.
Karen Kwiatkowski is a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, a farmer, a part time professor, and a liberty-minded conservative. She writes from the southwestern edge of Shenandoah County. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org