David Reynolds: Bob & Karen, George & Jamie

As I recall, the Republicans had a primary election a couple of weeks ago. A Sixth Congressional District and the statewide Senatorial Republican Primary were held on June 12 – and it is not over! We may have to wait until November of this year and the spring of 2014 for the final results. Will Karen Kwaitkowski run again? Will Bob Goodlatte ever retire? And will George Allen get back to the U. S. Senate, or will Jamie Radtke steal enough votes to allow Tim Kaine to make a permanent move up I-95? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, let’s learn a little from the recent past in order to get a hint of what the future holds.

On June 12 we found out that Karen Kwiatkowski had not sold a majority (only 34%) of a small turnout (7%) of voters on the need to end Bob Goodlatte’s twenty years in Congress. To retire the established man of the valley borders on Mission Impossible. So why the considerable effort by Karen and her avid supporters? Is it because a good number of Republican voters, not to mention most  Democrats, would not mind seeing someone else represent them in Virginia’s Sixth?

It’s easy to be frustrated with a congressman seeking his eleventh term in office. Or one who talks a good game before the folks back home, but gets bogged down in the swamp where we have sent him every two years.

In defense of Bob, most of us in the valley don’t know what it is like to work in the DC swamp. It’s a place where few succeed, but many hang around. Yet in the long ordeal of political survival Mr. Goodlatte has picked up baggage from his party’s base. And his compromises are interpreted as a weakness — at least to the tea drinkers. An unassuming personality coupled with a long record of servicing constituent needs has earned Mr. Goodlatte a reputation of being “a lifer,” just another professional politician. Then there are those budget earmarks for the Sixth. None of this helps to promote a fiscal conservative image. And so a certain perception is formed. And frustration grows.

Frustration, or discontent, is what makes intraparty struggles. The Goodlatte-Kwiatkowski battle was just representative of many GOP conflicts since the tea party came into being. The pattern goes like this. Sober and responsible adults with experience are being challenged by determined foes who are not known for exhibiting a willingness “to come together” — the definition of “congress.” Their determination may win some votes in the Spring (Radtke received 23% of a 5% statewide turnout), but usually loses in the Fall. November voters are smart. They know that if we elect those not used to playing on a team, there will be no team solutions. And America can only survive and grow as a team.

I had an opportunity to ask a candidate for statewide office what he thought about Karen Kwiatkowski. He was most reluctant to say anything. Then a couple of words slipped though, such as “negative’ and “bitter.” I understood. But I’ll add a third word: “misrepresentation.” It can be found on virtually every piece of campaign literature she distributed.

Sorry, Karen, you had an opportunity to run a reasonable, truthful campaign against an incumbent who is far from being the most decisive member of the U. S. Congress. Your campaign failed to inform the voter. You advocated repealing the 16th Amendment that established the federal income tax. And you told me that you were serious! Goodlatte may not be your cup of tea, but he has displayed a long period of sanity and stability.

Along with sanity, stability is not to be discounted. I don’t understand why candidates on the right speak so freely of defending the United States Constitution and fail to understand why nations, ours especially, have constitutions in the first place. Constitutions provide stability. Their existence is as important as their content. Yet in too many campaigns the speed of the change advocated, while on the right track (pardon the pun), can be destabilizing. Rep. PauI Ryan has proposed a balanced federal budget — but not for five years! He knows that reasonable solutions take time. Direction is what matters, not speed of change.

Look, both sides are frustrated. The left, as well as the right. But, before we go off in either direction, let’s make sure we do it without destroying this nation’s 236 year record of stability. Otherwise, it’s the end of the Great American Experiment.

That’s it for Bob and Karen. No need to repeat it for George, as in Allen, and Jamie, as in Radtke, of Virginia Tea Party fame. Same story, except with a twist. Jamie Radke has a six-foot high painting  of herself on her old campaign bus. I’ve never seen that of any candidate for any office. Jamie may be up to something big. Has she positioned herself not just to defeat George Allen, but to keep the Democrats in control of the United States Senate? In may happen. Therefore, if you are a Tim Kaine supporter and wish to contribute to his campaign. Don’t! Rather, make a contribution to Jamie’s campaign to help her continue to take away votes from George Allen. Just think of Radtke as a Kaine PAC. And by helping to elect the fifty-first Democrat to that august body, well, you know the rest of the story. Sorry, George and Jamie, the Law of Unintended Consequences has not been repealed. Tea anyone?


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