By Karen Kwiatkowski
We've had some unusual weather in the upper Shenandoah Valley over the past several years - extremes of heat and cold and unusual occurrences, tornadoes and droughts and spring snowstorms. We seek to understand and explain what we see, with discussions of global warming and global cooling. We debate if it is sunspots or human activity that have the most impact.
Politics is a lot like the weather. Chances are, old timers have seen it all before, but for most of us, it's new and spectacular.
The 2013 political forecast is variable, especially for the Republican Party. The GOP in Virginia is like an old comfortable habit that occasionally causes us some angst. Not enough angst to quit but enough to make us think about it.
A solid third of the GOP are establishment Republicans. Pragmatic, workaday party fans who never peer too deeply into what they really believe. They are members of a comfortable club that has some influence in the valley.
A third are reliable Republican voters, in that they are conservative, but they don't enjoy the perks of politics, and are not in the same clubs or class as the establishment Republicans. They show up and vote "R."
Another third are thinking Republicans, and they tend to be well informed on the history and performance of incumbent Republicans, and the party as a whole. Many of these are younger conservatives and libertarians. Many are acutely aware of the seven important government-created bubbles impacting their lives and futures, namely banking, housing, health care, higher education, Social Security, municipal debt, and the dollar.
They expect that their generations will be left standing when the music stops. They suspect that things won't always be as they have been.
They rightfully place blame on elected representatives, who almost entirely come from the establishment sector of the party.
Make that "mainstream" republicanism, as in lame duck Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling's new PAC, the Virginia Mainstream Project. He and his PAC are backing several local incumbents who face primary challengers this Tuesday. Bolling backs establishment incumbent Del. Bev Sherwood over medical doctor and limited government advocate Mark Berg in the 29th District. Bolling backs establishment incumbent Del. Joe May over businessman and limited government advocate Dave LaRock in the 33rd District. Bolling backs establishment incumbent Del. Todd Gilbert over former airline pilot and constitutional activist Mark Prince in the 15th District.
Each of the incumbents reflect the political sensibilities of their district. For example, Sherwood is more "mainstream" than Gilbert - but Shenandoah and Page Counties are more conservative than Winchester, so it works out. What is important is this: these GOP challengers believe that limited government and personal responsibility have been abandoned by their elected representatives.
Berg, LaRock and Prince have spent their lives in private enterprise. Berg, LaRock and Prince oppose the Governor's Transportation Act and the Affordable Care Act mandates as Trojan horses. The transportation bill conceals a fat tax hike, and the affordable care act is anything but affordable. They are political outsiders. Establishment Republicans won't vote for them, but these candidates do appeal to thinking conservatives who are acutely aware of the seven deadly bubbles of the early 21st Century.
The incumbents and the challengers both need the votes of that middle reliable sector of conservative voters - those who show up on election day to do their duty. At this point it isn't clear that these crucial and important voters have the slightest idea that they have a choice on June 11, what the candidates stand for, and what they oppose.
Mainstream is where the heaviest force is found. It is powerful. No matter what happens in elections, we all face ever-increasing taxation, more spending, more regulation, expanding government structures and strictures - that's mainstream D.C., mainstream Richmond and it is mainstream for local government.
For the mainstream, there is no time to think, and no real reason to. Go with the flow. Nonetheless, it is the season to vote. See you at the polls on June 11!
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