Pennsylvania

New Brady Bill to Outlaw Dangerous Speech

by Bill O'Connell on January 11, 2011

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I for one must say it’s about time.  Representative Robert Brady (D-Pa.) is planning to introduce legislation that would make it a federal crime to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress.  On Fox News he said emphatically that “you can’t put a bull’s-eye or crosshairs on a United States congressman or a federal official.”  He also said, “The rhetoric is just ramped up so negatively, so high, that we have got to shut this down.”  Amen, brother.  But let’s not stop at just bull’s-eyes or crosshairs.  We need to make sure nothing triggers another individual like this.  After all, we don’t know for sure he even saw the map on Sarah Palin’s web site.  Maybe he’s was a basketball fan.

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The Progressive Assault on the Electoral College

by Bill O'Connell on December 10, 2010

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Comments submitted in response to a previous post, “The Progressive War on Federalism,” focused on the Electoral College and a movement called the National Popular Vote (http://www.nationalpopularvote.com) bill.  Rather than argue against my point it only seemed to reinforce it.  The objective of this movement, which before this commenter’s contribution I was unaware of, is to abolish, or should I say neuter, the Electoral College and replace it with the direct election of the president.  This movement looks to further weaken the states and move us away from federalism and toward a strong monolithic central government.  Here is my analysis.

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The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.  – Unknown (often attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville)

An article in The Hill newspaper titled “Teachers union expands playing field for midterms” describes how the teachers’ union is getting out supporting certain candidates.

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It’s Time to Get Out of the Way, Mr. President

by Bill O'Connell on September 7, 2010

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As we approach the mid-point of his term we, once again, hear President Obama with another scheme to create jobs.  This time he really, really means it.  For a mere $50 billion we can build roads, rails and runways and we can create an “infrastructure bank” to boot.  I guess the government wants to get into the banking business now that they have swallowed up two thirds of the domestic auto companies and passed a law to take over health care.  But, hey, who are you calling a socialist?

The infrastructure bank has supporters: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ed Rendell the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania and Michal Bloomberg the Democratic, Republican, Independent mayor of New York, but they want it to support more projects such as water and clean energy projects.  But here’s the really good news, according to the New York Times “They say such a bank would spur innovation by allowing a panel of experts to approve projects on merit, rather than having lawmakers simply steer transportation money back home.” We get a brand new panel of experts to tell us morons what is good for us! 

How about this idea, get the Federal government out of the roads, rails and runways business.  Unless the road is part of the Interstate highway system, and that means interstate, the feds should stay away from it.  If a road within a city needs maintenance, that city and its citizens should pay for it, not taxpayers elsewhere in the country.  That’s how the whole process got screwed up.  You build my road, I’ll build your road and nobody will know who pays for what, until we find out we are $13 trillion in debt.

One of the good ideas Jimmy Carter had was to deregulate the airlines.  Airlines became competitive and prices came down.  The problem is that air travel consists of three components: the airlines, the airports and air traffic control.  Complete the process, deregulate the airports and air traffic control.  If you do that, airports can charge different prices for takeoff and landing slots.  No more will we see thirty-two flights all scheduled to take off at 7:30 AM from one airport.  Private investors would also have an incentive to build a state of the art air traffic control system. 

By the way, what happened to all those “shovel ready” projects from the first stimulus plan?  Did we actually finish building all the turtle crossings that this country needs?

On another front, Obama continues to tinker with the mortgage market rather than getting out of the way, letting housing prices find their bottom and then going from there.  George Mason economist Anthony B. Sanders said in the New York Times, ““Housing needs to go back to reasonable levels.  If we keep trying to stimulate the market, that’s the definition of insanity.”  Even Democrats are piling on:

“The administration made a bet that a rising economy would solve the housing problem and now they are out of chips,” said Howard Glaser, a former Clinton administration housing official with close ties to policy makers in the administration. “They are deeply worried and don’t really know what to do.”

Who would have thought that a president and vice president with no executive experience prior to taking office would not know what to do once they got there?  After all everyone knew that Obama was a really nice guy with an even temperament, what went wrong?  Now we hear that Fannie Mae wants to back mortgages with nothing down.  But not to worry, this time they are actually going to require the lenders to check to make sure the borrower has income. I feel better already.

Since this administration seems to like experts how about listening to these experts:

“We have had enough artificial support and need to let the free market do its thing,” said the housing analyst Ivy Zelman.

 

Michael L. Moskowitz, president of Equity Now, a direct mortgage lender that operates in New York and seven other states, also advocates letting the market fall. “Prices are still artificially high,” he said. “The government is discriminating against the renters who are able to buy at $200,000 but can’t at $250,000.”

 

It’s time for President Obama and his administration to get his boot off of the neck of the economy.  Ours is the strongest most resilient economy in the world, if you set it free.  All of the tinkering and the anti-business threats have pushed employers to the sidelines.  The uncertainty over the economy has led businesses to take a wait and see attitude.

The rhetoric the Democrats have been trying to muster to save their skins is that “eight years of failed policies,” yada, yada, yada.  The reality is that this recession started one year after Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid took over Congress.  This recession started in the last year of the Bush administration, not the first seven.  This recession has lasted nearly twice as long and counting under Obama than it did under Bush, and it shows no sign of changing anytime soon.  A recent poll in Ohio by Public Policy Polling asked respondents who they would prefer to see in the White House right now and the results were George W. Bush 50%, Barack Obama 42%; what does that tell you?

So, Mr. Obama, keeps your hands were we can see them and slowly step away from the economy.

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Shut Up Stupid, and Take Your Medicine

by Bill O'Connell on March 22, 2010

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“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” Nancy Pelosi 

The White House claimed, incredibly, that most Americans support ObamaCare.

“If you take the last 12 independent polls, and you throw out four by Rasmussen, whose results the White House doesn’t like, and you throw out six others that show a wide margin of opposition, then you have two polls with results consistent with the Washington Post poll showing a fairly small margin of opposition to the Democrats’ national health care plan. And that is Benenson’s case. By the way, the headline of his article? “Most Americans want health care reform.”  – Byron York, National Examiner

Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, gushed on Fox News last night, about how ObamaCare was good for Pennsylvania.  Why?  Well, he said, today Pennsylvania is only reimbursed 50% for Medicare while under ObamaCare Pennsylvania will be reimbursed 90%.  Very cool.  Er, who’s picking up the tab for that extra 40%?  That question goes to the heart of the Liberal/Progressive movement which is basically you are too damn stupid to recognize a shell game when you see one.

Unless the plan is to have ObamaCare paid for with the profits from GM and Chrysler, the only thing the government does for a profit, it is all a giant shell game.  The giddy governor of Pennsylvania knows that this is a shell game and that extra 40% will either come out of Pennsylvanians federal tax pocket instead of their state tax pocket or it will be subsidized by citizens in other states through their taxes.  Oh wait, no, there is always those evil drug and medical device companies to tax.  But where do they get their money?  That’s right taxes are built into the price of their products, so expect drugs and medical devices to cost more.

The Evil Health Insurance Company Myth

Obama & Co. jumped all over a 39% premium increase by Anthem Blue Cross in California as Exhibit A justifying their takeover of the health care industry.  This is not going to be fixed with ObamaCare but only made worse.  An example is given by a doctor who says for the last seven years he has been reimbursed $50 for an office visit under Medicare.  In that time his expenses have risen 30%. (Quick check — if the good doctor gives his staff a 4% raise each year for 7 years that comes out, compounded, to about 30%).  Under ObamaCare they are proposing a 21% reduction in Medicare reimbursement, so the doctor will now get a $40 reimbursement for an office visit.  The doctor can do one of two things.  He can stop seeing Medicare patients, or he can charge his other patients more to make up the difference.  If he chooses the latter course of action, then private insurance companies, like Anthem, will have to pay for the increase.  How do they recover their costs?  That’s right by increasing premiums.

Just like you never hear statists blaming government polices of HUD, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac for the housing bubble that triggered the financial crisis and recession (it was all those greedy, evil bankers), you won’t hear them mention their policies regarding Medicare as triggering the premium increases.  It was all about greed.  So government will need to step in and make sure those greedy insurance companies cannot increase prices like they have.  So expenses rise, premiums are capped, insurance companies fold, and voila you have a public option, which becomes the only option.  Next to keep expenses from rising, health care will have to be rationed because there are no market mechanisms in ObamaCare to actually reduce costs.  No tort reform.  No elimination of 3rd party payers.  No true insurance that protects against catastrophic costs while you pay for the routine, like all other insurance.  Just government fiat.  Obama can no more order health care costs to decline than he can turn off gravity. 

News flash to people around the world living under socialized medicine who travel to the United States for critical care when they need it, that door will soon be closed.

Who Is Really Stupid?

Statists believe the average American is too stupid to make decisions, or should I say the right decisions, about their lives, health, safety, etc.  We need the really, really smart people in government to tell us what is good for us and follow their instructions.  Or…in November we can send them the message that they were really, really stupid to ignore what the American people were screaming at them, STOP!!!! If Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Adams, Hamilton, et al, thought Americans were smart enough to look out for their own best interests, who are Pelosi, Reid, Waxman, Boxer, Rangel, Schumer, Dodd, et al, to say otherwise?

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Pick My Pocket. Please!

by Bill O'Connell on December 28, 2009

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Who doesn’t love a freebie?  Who does not get a thrill of good fortune by finding money in the street, no matter how insignificant the amount?  We may not believe in the Tooth Fairy, but many of us believe we have a rich benevolent uncle, Uncle Sam, who is willing to lavish upon us his wealth if only we would ask.  The sad truth is that Uncle Sam is not rich, but penniless and is running a ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff blush.

Health Care for $20

One of the major reasons that health care costs are rising out of control is that no one is minding the store.  While Washington twists itself in knots to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic of health care, we have little to no say in how our health care dollars are spent.  Our health care “insurance” system is not really insurance.  Insurance is meant to protect us from a financial catastrophe.  Going to the doctor for a checkup is not a catastrophe.  Paying a $20 co-pay for that checkup is like finding money on the street.  There is no way anyone can get a physical exam, except by a hooker, for $20.  It is a good idea to get a physical checkup every year?  Yes, then pay the bill and ask what you are paying for and make sure you need it.  You take your car in for service don’t you?  Do you file an insurance claim when you do?  Can you get it done for $20.  Let’s get real.  What we have is called third party payer and when someone else is picking up the tab, do we care what it costs?  Really?  But someone is picking up the tab.  Look in your other pocket, because you are.  If you are generally healthy and you get your annual checkup, your insurance premium (here in New York at least) will probably run around $10,000 per year.  But, hey, you only paid $20 for that physical!  What if you paid the full amount for the physical, say, $500.  What if your insurance premium was cut to $5,000 because you would pay most routine medical costs out of your pocket and what if you could put the $4,500 left over ($10,000 original premium, minus $5,000 current premium, minus $500 cost of checkup), into a tax free account that can be used for future medical expenses or retirement if you don’t use it?  If you are a young person and stay healthy into your mid-40s, you would have accumulated over $90,000 in your medical savings account and you still have catastrophic insurance coverage and the government stays out of the picture.

Retirement for Free

Like many well intentioned Government programs, Social Security, enacted during the Great Depression, seemed like a good idea at the time.  When enacted there was about 15 workers paying in for each recipient drawing out.  Today there are about a little over 3 workers paying in for each beneficiary.  Bernie Madoff would blush at the audacity of it.  On top of that the money that is paid into Social Security can only be “invested” in Treasury Securities so the return is lousy, but safe.  People reacted to Social Security by saving less because the government safety net was there.  Had people been encouraged to save for their own retirement, they would not be leaving their children this legacy of a ticking time bomb.  So today, many young people feel the government’s hand in their pocket when they look at the FICA line on their pay stub, but don’t believe they will ever get a penny back.  Nice concept.

Bring Home the Bacon!

What’s the measure of a good Congressman or Senator?  Bringing home pork for the district, no?  If you are like me, you get flyers every year or several times per year, touting how Congresswoman Jones obtained federal funding for that pier at the amusement park.  With 435 Congressmen you can count on this, for each $1 that your Representative brings home $434 leaves the Treasury for each of the other Congressional districts and probably more, depending on the power and seniority of your Representative.  Guess who’s paying for that Turtle Crossing in Florida?  that bridge to nowhere in Alaska? that airport in Johnstown, PA that no one uses?  That’s right, you are.  What if we decided locally if we really needed a pier at the amusement park, and if we did, pay for it ourselves?  Then we could let the people of Florida decide if they want to build a turtle crossing, the people of Alaska decide if they wanted a bridge to nowhere and the people of Pennsylvania decide if they wanted an airport that no one used.  Then we could cut federal taxes by an equal amount to keep them out of mischief and help us pay for these projects if we really wanted them.

Let’s Get Organized

There was a time in our history where labor unions performed a valuable service.  In those times when many industrial jobs were unskilled or semi-skilled, employers could dismiss someone on a whim and replace them within the hour.  Unions gave those workers some counterbalancing power and fairer treatment.  Today, we have a much more sophisticated economy and workers have more skills and mobility.  Union membership has declined accordingly, in the private sector at least.  Why is union membership still growing in the public sector?  What is different about workers in the public sector that they still need unions?  Are we suggesting that all government workers are unskilled?  Why do teachers need a union?  Are they not skilled such that they could sell their services to the highest bidder?  Why do unions fight merit pay for teachers?  Why are school principals, the de facto CEO of the school and who in New York easily make six figures, unionized?  Do you get an idea why our K-12 public school system is trailing the world in performance?

In Michigan, privately owned small businesses that provided day-care services suddenly discovered that they were part of a union and union dues were being withheld from their government contractual payments.

Ms. Berry owns her own business—yet the Michigan Department of Human Services claims she is a government employee and union member. The agency thus withholds union dues from the child-care subsidies it sends to her on behalf of her low-income clients. Those dues are funneled to a public-employee union that claims to represent her. The situation is crazy—and it’s happening elsewhere in the country.

Ms. Berry, runs “The Berry Patch” a private day care center she operates from her home catering to low income clients.  The money that was once paid to her, now goes to a union that does little for her.  She is “self employed and wants nothing to do with the union.”  Don’t you think we need more of these tactics in America?  Card Check anyone?

Going Postal

And let’s not forget the Postal Service.  As postal rates are again scheduled to increase on January 4, let’s look at this paragon of efficiency, that is actually authorized by the Constitution.  In 2008, the Postal Service lost $3 billion, and the Postmaster General John Potter pulled down $800,000 in compensation including $135,000 in incentive bonuses.  What do we have to pay this guy if he actually breaks even?  Also, let us not forget this is also a very heavily unionized operation.

Don’t Worry, You Won’t Feel a Thing

During World War II, FDR needed to raise more revenue to pay for the war.  Fearing a backlash, his team hit upon the idea of payroll withholding.  Knowing the potential backlash that would result when taxpayers had to write that big check on April 15th, he rightly figured that if he took a little bit each week, he could take a lot more in total.  Statists in Washington have never looked back.  It’s like the tax that was imposed on telephone service to pay for the Spanish American War that is still in place today.  Instead of picking our pockets every week, what do you think most Americans would say about the size of the federal government if they had to write one big check on April 15th?  There would be no tax rebates, because there would be no tax withheld.  Do you think Americans would force Congress to sharpen their pencils and scale back the size of government?

Help is On the Way

Ronald Reagan said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help!’”  But perhaps the best example of how far from our founding principles our government has strayed comes from Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut as she spoke during a House End of Year Wrap Up Session:

“This House–we understand, we’re there,” she said.  “You can count on us because we believe that it’s our moral responsibility to make sure that you and your family need our help.” 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need the House of Representatives making sure I need their help.  I need as little interference as possible from them.  Their meddlesome intrusions in our lives is killing what made this country great.  It is a point we cannot make often enough.

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Liberty and Mobility

by Bill O'Connell on June 1, 2009

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Movin' Out

One of the great blessings bestowed upon us by our Founding Fathers was federalism. Our federal form of government evolved from the Articles of Confederation, where states had primacy and the national government acted only with the consent of the states.  This proved to be too cumbersome.

In writing the Constitution, the Founders identified very specific roles and responsibilities for the national government and left everything else to the states or the people (see Tenth Amendment).  In doing so it gave the people the power of liberty through mobility.  If you didn’t like the way they did things in Massachusetts, you could move to Virginia.  If the people of Pennsylvania didn’t want a mass migration of people to Georgia, they needed to be careful regarding the laws that they passed so as not to alienate a large block of their constituents.

The War on Federalism

The statist, who loves government and believes government should control every aspect of our lives, hates federalism, because it weakens its control.  So they attack it through the courts.

Here is their standard battle plan.  Let’s the case of Gay Marriage.  Vermont’s legislature approves Gay Marriage.  Whether you are in favor of that or oppose that it shouldn’t affect you if you don’t live in Vermont.  If you are in favor and you live elsewhere, you can move to Vermont.  If you live there and are opposed you can either fight to overturn it in Vermont, or move elsewhere.  That’s the beauty of federalism.  If continued to its logical conclusion, some states would approve it and those in favor would migrate there, and those who are opposed would concentrate in states that would ensure that it would not be adopted in their state.  You could have a raging debate, but your liberty would be preserved through mobility.

However, the statists have a different view of things.  After the law is passed in Vermont by the legislature (as is proper), or made up out of thin air by the court in Massachusetts (judicial activism and improper), some couples who are married in these states move to another state.  By doing so, they should leave their state sanctioned rights behind.  However, what they will typically do when their Vermont sanctioned rights are not honored in, say, Tennessee they will rush to federal court and says their Constitutional rights are being violated.  A court stocked with judicial activists, will find some fig leaf of justification with words like emanations and penumbras, to make a new law of the land and with the stroke of a pen, the liberties of all Americans will be swept away based on the will of the people of Vermont.  You no longer can protect your liberty through mobility.  You cannot go anywhere to live in proximity to like minded people and live the life you believe in.  Mobility is no longer a tool to protect your liberty it is a weapon against you.  People can secure rights elsewhere and use mobility to come to your doorstep and use the courts to force their beliefs on you.

Fierce Fighting

I believe that is why the fighting over these issues become so fierce and acrimonious.  If something is allowed anywhere, it will soon be allowed everywhere, because of an activist judiciary.  Our rhetoric has become more strident, our politics is anything but bipartisan, all because everything is being elevated to the federal level.  States are becoming less and less important.  If you don’t believe it  ask people, who was responsible for the fiasco after hurricane Katrina?  If they say President Bush, ask them to name the mayor of New Orleans or the governor of Louisiana at the time. Bush and the federal government should have been the third line of defense, not the first.  The first should have been the city, then the state and then the federal government.

Back to Federalism

Show me where in the constitution it says the government should own General Motors and Chrysler.  Show me where it says that a tunnel, entirely in the city of Boston should be paid for by the taxpayers of Arizona.  Show me where in the constitution it says education is the responsibility not of local government but the federal government.  It doesn’t.  And until well roll back this juggernaut, our liberties will be crushed little by little, day by day.

This is why it is also important to guard against activist judges getting on the bench or being elevated to higher levels of the court. It is just these activist judges who are taking away your liberty to move away from those who don’t believe what you do and moving toward those you do agree with.  Take note of the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

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The Specter Spectacle

by Bill O'Connell on May 1, 2009

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Politics Over Core Beliefs

Now that Arlen Specter has jumped ship to the Democratic Party, there is outrage amongst the Republicans.  Sorry, folks, but I don’t share your outrage so point that muzzle away from your other foot.  In 2004, Arlen Specter had a strong primary challenge from Pat Toomey, a conservative.  Toomey came within two percentage points of beating Specter and taking the Republican nomination.  Not sure that Toomey could win the general election and fearing losing control of the Senate to the Democrats, President Bush and Senator Rick Santorum, also a conservative, threw their weight behind Specter, a moderate at best, though a liberal label would fit all the same.

So, where do we stand today?  Bush is gone. Santorum is gone. The Democrats not only control the Senate but are a whisker away, with Specter’s help, of gaining filibuster-proof control.  It’s the same old story.  Republicans get weak kneed about being strong conservatives and then wonder why they lose?  They cut deals with liberals or statists as Mark Levin aptly calls them, and then get their heads handed to them on Election Day. Bush and Santorum should have either stayed out of the race or thrown their support behind Toomey back in ’04.  Specter won the primary and the general election and proceeded to thank Bush by sticking his thumb in Bush’s eye whenever he got the chance.

So spare me the angst, the hand ringing, the “how could yous?”.  Republicans had the chance to fix this in 2004 but they went wobbly, as Margaret Thatcher used to say.  So stop your whining and learn your lessons and don’t do it again.

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The Untold Story

by Bill O'Connell on October 21, 2008

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This Sunday morning brought the news that Colin Powell had endorsed Barack Obama.  This was deemed as anywhere from a major setback for the McCain campaign to the final nail in his political coffin.  However, to most people paying attention to Powell’s career this is not really a surprise.    Colin Powell’s is a great American story.  Someone who rose through the ranks to the top of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  He wasn’t a West Point graduate, but rather went to City College in New York and joined the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps.  His service is worthy of our admiration and gratitude.

Politically, Colin Powell is not a conservative.  He is an advocate of Affirmative Action and he is pro-abortion.  He didn’t campaign for black conservative candidates like Michael Steele in Maryland or Lynn Swan in Pennsylvania.  He didn’t speak out about the treatment of Clarence Thomas in his Supreme Court hearings and the way those hearings where conducted by Joe Biden.  So his endorsement of Obama should neither be surprising or earth shattering.

In his Sunday interview he “expressed displeasure with the direction of the Republican Party.”  This, according to the New York Times, was “another dispiriting setback to Republicans.”  Really?  When do Republicans win elections and when do they lose them?

When Republicans remain true to conservative principles they tend to win elections.  When they move to the center to appeal to moderates they tend to lose.  Why is that?

A Battleground poll taken this past August shows it quite clearly.  When  asked the question, “When thinking about politics and government, do you consider yourself to be…”

  1. Very Conservative
  2. Somewhat Conservative
  3. Moderate
  4. Somewhat Liberal
  5. Very Liberal
  6. Unsure or refused to answer

The poll results were:

  • Very Conservative — 20%
  • Somewhat Conservative — 40%
  • Moderate — 2%
  • Somewhat Liberal — 27%
  • Very Liberal — 9%
  • Unsure/Refuse to Answer — 3%

What is most interesting is that only 2% consider themselves to be moderate, and yet conservatives are being repeatedly counseled to reach out to moderates.  Why put forth all that effort for 2% of the population?  If you combine the first two categories, those who consider themselves to be conservative or very conservative, it totals 60% of the population.  Republicans should be able to win elections all day long with those numbers.

The Battleground Poll is a well respected bipartisan poll jointly conducted by a Democratic polling group and a Republican polling group.  What is even more interesting is that they include this question in every survey, and the results have been very consistent over time.  In the thirteen Battleground polls taken between June 2002 and August 2008, those who consider themselves conservatives have ranged from a low of 58% to a high of 63%, pretty consistent indeed.

When Republicans stick to core conservative principles they generally win elections.  When they took control of Congress for the first time in forty years it was because they ran on Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America.  It advocated smaller government, personal responsibility, tort reform and term limits among other things.  This resonated with people who are fed up with Washington and a government that grows without bound.  When they got in power and started spending like liberals, they got tossed out on their butts, as well they should.  If the choice in the voting booth is between a professional liberal (Democrats) and the amateur liberal (moderate Republicans) most folks are going to go with the pro.

Reagan, the truest conservative won the Presidency twice, and easily.  George Bush senior won his first term and then raised taxes breaking his “Read My Lips” pledge.  Out he went.  Clinton won two terms and neither time garnered a majority of the popular vote.  George W. Bush ran as a conservative and won two terms, but they were close races.  Why?  He talked about being a “compassionate conservative” which many took as a code word for being a moderate and not that great a difference from the Democrats.

The untold story is that a significant majority of Americans consider themselves conservative and the closer the candidate adheres to conservative principles (e.g., Reagan) the larger the margin of victory.  The further they move a way, the closer the final tally.

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