David Reynolds: The Virginia Plan

How have you been enjoying the 2012 presidential campaign so far? Just as I thought. Here’s more bad news: there are 13 months months left in the campaign. One suggestion: cancel 2012. Tell the Republicans to go ahead and hand four more years to the president. This should be easy. The GOP is very good at blowing presidential elections. (And for the losers the winters are not that bad in Canada.) In exchange, Americans will be so grateful that any 2016 GOP presidential nominee will sweep into office.

Now for what I wanted to say. Let’s start at the beginning. From Alex and Tom to Barack and John, from Hamilton and Jefferson to Obama and Boehner, there have been two grand philosophical highways. Now there are four byways requiring serious repair.

This should please the so-called independent political souls out there who are always wishing for a third major political party. I’ve just raised you one. Yes, my Republican and Democratic friends, splitsville has finally occurred. We have proof: last summer’s debt ceiling soap opera in gridlock DC. There are not only two different visions of America — there are two different ways of doing business.

Here are today’s four major political parties. You should be able to recognize each.

A. The Tax & Spend Party. The Great Depression made this party great. It spoke directly for those unable to speak for themselves. The party ran on a successful fiscal formula of redistribution of income to the lower classes. Then came Vietnam, the 1972 election and social issues. The party spoke from both coasts, but was seldom heard in America’s heartland.

B. The Spend & Tax Party. This new party came into power in 2008. Its timing could not have been worse. The housing bubble burst and the economy collapsed. The party’s strategy was that once the vast middle class enjoyed their new candy store, they would be willing to allow others to pay the tab later. After all, this strategy worked for decades in Europe. Why not in America? Meanwhile the financial crisis depressed growth and tax revenues. The people were not able to pay for their big new candy store, including the health care all day sucker sold to them. Its leader’s honeymoon ended.

C. The Don’t Tax/Don’t Spend Party. This is the party of “No.” Its roots go back to the Libertarian Party and are now spreading with the tea party movement. Its base does not care for today’s big government because it enjoys reading old musty documents, such as the Constitution. Therefore, it will always be out-of-date.  They believe that two birds in the bush would have been better than two Bush’s. However, in order to grow and have influence, this party needs to buy a dictionary. In it they will find that “congress” means, “the act or fact of coming together.”

D. The Tax A Little/Spend A Little Party. This is currently the watered-down version of Party “A.” It tends to lose elections because voters are like Coke drinkers, they like “the real thing.” It is the party of “It all depends.” It sees most government programs as evil, but necessary. It has lasted since Lincoln by rationing out its sweets to those only in congressional districts. Then it discovered that everyone lives in a congressional district.

That’s it. Four parties, four speeds: fast; express; stop; and slow . We now know that it doesn’t work in government, politics or in railroading. There’s going to be a train wreck. There almost was.

Here’s my solution, call it “The Virginia Plan.” Go back to doing everything the way we’ve always done it. Tell Mr. Obama that his party is over. It was an exciting four-year run. But too exciting. Tell the tea drinkers to keep the faith, but join up with the GOP. Now dem Dems can return to what they do best: spreading social justice and raising money. The elephant will finally throw its full weight around. It will get smart and run on its ticket the governor of a key swing state and win the election. Governor McDonnell will be happy in his new DC home.

By the way, Bob, it is on Massachusetts Avenue, not Pennsylvania Avenue.

Column by David Reynolds



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