Ringside Seat: Thou Shalt Not Govern

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s snub from the Conservative Political Action Conference is dumb—he’s the most popular Republican governor in the country—but it makes sense: In the course of governing a blue state, he’s had to take positions that run counter to the national party. CPAC’s decision to exclude Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, on the other hand, makes no sense at all.

No one will ever mistake McDonnell for a moderate; during his campaign, he faced questions over work he did for his graduate degree—arguing, in essence, that women were better served working in the home—and once in office, he rushed to implement conservative policies, from large budget cuts to new restrictions on abortion. By the end of his first year, he was hailed as a presidential contender and vanguard of the Republican right. Indeed, under his tenure, Virginia state politics have taken a sharp turn to the right—yes, Barack Obama won the state in 2012, but Republicans control the General Assembly as well as every statewide office (other than the two U.S. Senate seats, both held by Democrats).

McDonnell, in sum, is a model conservative governor. Of course, he’s also interested in governing his state, and over the last few months, he’s made a big push for transportation reform. The problem for McDonnell is that his bill includes tax increases to pay for new roads and repairs, thus breaking a campaign promise. What’s more, McDonnell agreed to expand Medicaid in order to win Democratic support for the measure. In other words, he made a pragmatic choice in order to get something done. So now, naturally, right-wing Republicans want nothing to do with him. Red State’s Erick Erickson, for example, denounced him as a sellout and a fraud. So in a way, we shouldn't be surprised that McDonnell was drummed out of CPAC; he seems to have violated the newest piece of conservative orthodoxy: “Thou shalt not govern.”

It’s hard to see the right’s endgame here. Shunning politicians for pragmatism might make for a more ideologically conservative Republican Party, but that will come at the cost of winning elections. And if a political party can’t win elections, what is it good for?

 

So They Say

"I’m gonna be cremated and I want my ashes spread on Rick Perry's hair."

Kinky Friedman, Texas renaissance man with gubernatorial dreams

Daily Meme: I Got 99 Problems and a Sequester Is One

  • The angry men in Washington holding the budget hostage are getting all the press in the never-ending story that is sequestration. But there are people all over the country who will suffer far more than the politicians' approval ratings.
  • There are also many problems already plaguing our country that are only going to get worse thanks to the meat cleaver that just wiped out a chunk of the budget.
  • Homelessness in New York City is reaching a frightening peak not seen since the Great Depression. The sequester could eject up to 100,000 from current housing or emergency shelters. About 125,000 additional people would no longer have access to rental assistance.
  • Communities hit by Hurricane Sandy are still hurting. Spending cuts could mean that promised emergency funding disappears into the ether. Regions hit by future environmental entropy will be forced to pick themselves up by bootstraps with little help from the feds.
  • Investment in the sciences on the federal level has been quietly shrinking for a while, but sequester cuts could set medical advancements back by a generation. 
  • Health care will also take a big punch to the face.
  • And don't forget the other important quester: Snowquester! All these budget cuts mean that in the future, crazy weather events could strike without notice thanks to a woefully understaffed National Weather Service. 

What We're Writing

  • Abby Rapoport explains how the sequester cuts could hurt GOP mothership Texas more than most.
  • Harold Meyerson profiles Jerry Brown, who's had a successful second act as California's governor—to the surprise of many.

What We're Reading

  • The Montana Senate has become the first Republican-controlled state legislature to support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.
  • Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died today, making it a good time to revisit Jon Lee Anderson's profile of the man and the city withering under his watch.
  • While Detroit falls apart, its private sector has quietly flourished.
  • D.C. may be dreading the impending snowstorm, but farmers in the drought-stricken plains are giddy at the prospect of shoveling sidewalks.
  • Frank Rich dismantles the GOP's remodeling plans.
  • Noam Scheiber has a confession to make: Turns out, he believes in the power of orange, at least when it comes to House speakership.
  • Michael Calderone examines conservatives' journalism stars, who are having a crisis of branding as expansive as the Republican Party writ large.

Poll of the Day

A new Fox News poll finds that large majorities of Americans support securing the borderand developing a pathway to citizenship for those already here. The findings hold for both Democrats and Republicans, and may echo recent bipartisan efforts to reform immigration policy. The poll also found that 69 percent think the borders should be secured first, though—which, in some ways, is the same as saying nothing should be done at all.

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