Jewish World Review Nov. 14, 2005 / 12 Mar-Cheshvan 5766
John H. Fund
And the Winners Are ...
Everyone agrees that Democrats did well and Republicans were
chastened in last week's elections. But beyond that there were clear
winners and losers. A clear loser was President Bush, who only two
days after the election saw rebellious moderate Republicans in both
the House and Senate shelve at least
temporarily his budget and tax proposals. But who
were the winners? Let's focus on three clear ones: Virginia's Gov.
Mark Warner, Arizona's Sen. John McCain and California's government
Mr. Warner has suddenly become the Democratic Party's rock star. He
is touted as a presidential candidate by members of the centrist
Democratic Leadership Council who fear Sen. Hillary Clinton may be
Mr. Warner's sales pitch which he will carry to
New Hampshire this Thursday for a "conversation with voters"
will be that he has picked the lock on GOP dominance in
the South. In 2001, he impressed party insiders by courting Nascar
enthusiasts and gun owners and winning in a state that hasn't gone
Democratic for president since 1964. In office, he focused on issues
such as education and traffic congestion and built enough popular
support to persuade a GOP Legislature to raise taxes. Then, barred
from seeking a second term, Mr. Warner successfully helped Tim
Kaine, his lieutenant governor, score a decisive six-point victory
to succeed him in the governor's mansion.
Although he was born in Indiana and spent much of his childhood in
Connecticut, Mr. Warner has become an effective proponent of the
need for Democrats to reach out to voters in Southern states. He
refuses to join other Democrats in fighting a "blame game" over the
Iraq war. "The Democratic Party ought to get over refighting how we
got into the war and, again, continue to press the president on what
he hopes to do in terms of how we will finish the job," he told CBS
His success in Virginia has some party activists already sold. "I've
never met the guy, but he ought to be our nominee in '08," Dick
Harpootlian, a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic
Party, told Knight Ridder. "If Democrats around the country don't
wake up and take notice, we're going to go down the same road we
went down in '04."
Mr. Warner may still be a long-shot for the Democratic
nomination only 1% of Democrats in an October
Marist poll picked him as their favorite but he
is clearly the new frontrunner among "anybody but Hillary"
Democrats. Even if he stumbles in the primaries, don't be surprised
if the New York senator woos him to join her ticket in hopes of
snagging Virginia for the Democratic column.
If Mr. Warner is basking in newfound attention in his party, Mr.
McCain is getting new respect from Republicans as President Bush's
approval numbers continue to weaken.
Mr. McCain's basic message is that if Republicans still face a
hostile political environment in 2008, they must find a candidate
who transcends partisanship. He says the public is fed up with
"fight gang" politics and wants bipartisan solutions, such as the
agreement that 14 senators, including Mr. McCain, made last May not
to filibuster judicial nominees except in "extraordinary
The senator says his approach which includes
co-sponsoring global warming legislation with Sen. Joe Lieberman and
pushing for campaign finance reform is a
political winner. He points to his own approval ratings in Arizona,
where, despite grousing from many conservatives, nearly two-thirds
of Republicans like the job he's doing. He also sports an approval
rating of nearly 50% among Democrats and over 60% among
But such numbers may count for little in the hothouse world of
Republican primary politics, which is dominated by activists.
"McCain has one big problem in winning the nomination," political
handicapper Charlie Cook told me. "Conservatives hate him for
everything from voting against tax cuts to opposing English-only
Mr. McCain has nonetheless confounded his critics by managing to
make himself increasingly relevant in the U.S. Senate. "Unlike John
Kerry, who also wants to run for the White House again, McCain is in
the middle of the debate on every major issue," says one key GOP
Senate staffer. "He is always on TV and has scored points with
conservatives for asking for cancellation of the new prescription
drug benefit." He is also continuing to churn out books. Later his
month, Mr. McCain visits the key primary state of South Carolina to
sign his latest book, "Character Is Destiny." Mr. McCain clearly
thinks another run at the White House is part of his destiny.
It seems eons ago that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stood astride
California politics. Only last February he had a 65% approval rating
and seemed likely to roll over his state's Democratic Legislature by
calling a special election to implement his reform agenda through
the initiative process. But he didn't count on the clout
and cash of the state's public
employee unions, which represent 55% of the government workers in
the Golden State, significantly more than the 37% national figure.
The unions quickly decided to make a maximum effort to defeat the
governor. They initially claimed that spending $80 million on a
special election was a waste of taxpayers' money, and then proceeded
to spend $150 million of their workers' dues to make certain it
would be. Their main target was Proposition 75, which would have
required unions to get written permission from their members before
funneling their dues into political causes. Last week they defeated
all four of the governor's ballot measures with "no" votes ranging
from 53% to 62%.
The governor was slow to recognize the danger of the union
onslaught, which portrayed him as a tool of both corporate interests
and President Bush. By September he had belatedly woken up. "What is
derailing California right now, and has been for years, it's the
public employee unions," Mr. Schwarzenegger told reporters. "They
have collected so much money that they have control over the
Steve Malanga of the Manhattan Insitute says that public-sector
unions are now at the center of a new left-wing coalition of "tax
eaters," which consist of everyone whose livelihood depends in large
part upon government regulation, employment or entitlements. AFSCME,
one of the more powerful public-sector unions, has grown from only
100,000 members in 1955 to over 1.4 million today. This year it
helped vault Antonio Villaraigosa, a former organizer for a teachers
union, into the office of Los Angeles mayor. Another union
organizer, Fabian Nunez, is the new speaker of the California
Some liberals are concerned that the union desire for ever greater
political control is now threatening to strangle common-sense
reforms that are in the best interests of the electorate as a whole.
The liberal Los Angeles Times endorsed Proposition 75, the
union-dues initiative, saying that "when public employee unions
wield the type of influence they do now in California, too much
governing becomes an exercise in self-dealing."
But the entire Democratic Party apparatus swung behind the effort
against Proposition 75 and other measures, which would have limited
teacher tenure, reformed the budget process, and ended the
gerrymandering of political districts. "Some liberals in California
are in danger of becoming Paleolithic liberals who will stick with
the interest groups come hell or high water," laments Jonathan
Alter, a columnist for Newsweek. "It's kind of pathetic on the part
of some liberals that they can't accept a good idea if it's put
forward by a moderate Republican."
For now, the unions are flush with victory and their success in
humbling Mr. Schwarzenegger. But their victory may be a Pyrrhic one
if it accelerates the flight of California private-sector jobs and
capital to other states, taking the source of much-needed government
revenue at the same time. Even the most powerful economic engines
can rust. Take New York City, which today has the same population it
did two generations ago but a total of 30% more government workers.
During the same period, the number of Fortune 500 headquarters in
New York City has dwindled to 30 from 140. When the unions win too
much political clout, the overall economy inevitably suffers.
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JWR contributor John H. Fund is author, most recently, of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
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©2001, John H. Fund