( – promoted by lowkell)
by Paul Goldman
Helen Dragas tried a power coup at the state’s flagship public university, but she didn’t check with the Governor we are told. Now, Senator John Watkins and his GOP posse are trying a power grab at the State Capitol, one that would need the governor’s support: But again, they haven’t checked with McDonnell, we are told.
What is McDonnell, the political equivalent of Rodney ” I don’t get no respect” Dangerfield?
Or is this the better analogy? When Stephen Spielberg does a sequel to Matt Damon’s “We Bought a Zoo,” he will be back at the Virginia State Capitol, shooting scenes in the State Senator chamber. It is now rather evident why Virginians have wisely banned an elected governor from seeking re-election: what normal person could remain sane having to deal with all the political animals for 8 conservative years? “Not I” said the Walrus.
Based on his comments, even Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli realizes the GOP’s Senate redistricting power-grab isn’t a good thing for his party in terms of the 2013 election. It not only reinforces their “my way or no highway” politics, but it exposed LG Bill Bolling as “all hat and now cowboy” as they say in Texas. Mr. Bolling had a chance to “walk the walk”, not just “talk the talk.” The moderate? Right.
Which brings us to Governor McDonnell: the Zookeeper. Like Matt Damon, he has only a short window of time to turn the Zoo into something other…than the Zoo the General Assembly has become. He has only one ally that I can detect: Speaker Bill Howell. Howell is a steady-Eddie kind of guy, who started shaky at first, but has grown into a force. He wants to help the governor. But like any savvy politician, he knows this is McD’s last year. Not so for most of his GOP Caucus and all the GOP senators.
So Howell is prepared to carry his part of the load: but he isn’t going to try and tame the Zoo, not a chance.
Thus all eyes are now on the governor, as they should be. The GOP power grab is actually the least of McDonnell’s worries: he can veto the bill should it pass the House and there isn’t a Republican in the state who will much care six months from now. Virginians are smart, they don’t need to be told the obvious. The GOP redistricting power grab wasn’t done to help solve problems, only to enhance the interest of a handful of politicians. McDonnell can kill it, and win a net-plus in political credits.
But that still leaves the big question mark over the governor’s final year: What is he going to do with whatever political capital he might already have, added to what this or that action of his might additional get? He gambled his legacy, his term, on Mitt Romney after gambling it on ABC privatization and offshore drilling. So did Bolling bet his smaller ranch on Romney.
When Romney lost, both McD and Bolling (alone) became the lamest of ducks. That’s why Bolling never had a chance to win the GOP nomination: look at the GOP presidential primary results, Romney barely won Virginia in a head-to-head race against Ron Paul, a fringe candidate.
So I ask the governor: You have about 6 weeks to tame the Zoo and, by your own admission, build a lasting legacy. Even under the best of circumstances, this is a very tall political order. What is going to be your play sir?
The political math produces one conclusion: The governor has to give the Democrats a big win on education in exchange for their helping him to modest, but important, victory on transportation.
That is one side of the coin. On the other side, the governor should give Democrats a win on Medicaid expansion – which is going to happen anyway so it is merely making a virtue out of a necessity – in exchange for the Democrats giving the governor a win on the fight against violence in our society (I got a good plan here, political it is true, but what exactly do y’all think is the name of this game?)
McDonnell went “all in” for Romney, and it bankrupted him in his own party; the GOP activists thumbed their nose at his hand-picked successor, even rejected McD’s call for a primary. Like it or not, McD’s only hope of a real legacy is a bipartisan coalition.
As I have written previously, the key to McD’s hopes is the fact that free market Republicans can not defend any longer the discriminatory way the sales tax is applied to some businesses and not to others, creating distorted market forces. Requiring some to collect the tax or face criminal penalties while allowing others to avoid such collection in order to achieve an unfair market advantage violates GOP dogma.
Mandatory Internet Sales Tax collection is coming, and it is going to grow. At the same time, the use of user fees to help fund road maintenance remains a sound policy idea but not as good as it was when first developed 100 years ago.
Thus, there are good political and policy reasons to make needed improvements in these areas in 2013, and for the governor to sit down on a bipartisan basis to reformat his transportation plan given that it is based, in part, on education funding also.
In truth, the GOP power grab is more symptom than cause: it is more effect than cause. If the governor were stronger politically, the GOP Senate would not have dared tried that play without getting him on board. But they did. No respect, no respect at all!