Monday, June 11, 2007

Weekly Podium: "Political Chop Suey"

(Cross-posted at The New Dominion)

With primary season in Virginia coming to a climax on Tuesday, the immigration bill currently on the shelf, and the first flurry of debates over…what is there to talk about? Well, there is plenty of “chop suey” (literal translation: “odds and ends”) in the political realm, both local and national.

For instance, the news that Barack Obama has sought the advice of former Secretary of State Colin Powell on foreign policy issues has caught the eyes of many who are closely following the presidential primaries. Powell previously served in both Bush administrations, and has always been associated with the Republican Party.

When asked about advising Obama, who is a Democrat, Powell said, “I've been around this town a long time and I know everybody who is running for office. And I make myself available to talk about foreign policy matters and military matters with whoever wishes to chat with me." Powell has ruled out running for any kind of an elected office, but also did not rule out a return to a post within a presidential administration.

For Obama, this is a great move on many levels. He is shoring up his foreign policy stances with advice from an excellent source of foreign policy advice. He is also working with a notable and popular conservative figure, which shows a willingness to work across party lines. Obama also will appeal to conservatives because Powell is a standout military figure, which also helps to distance him from the stereotype of liberals being weak on national security and military matters.

On a different note from the Democratic side of the presidential primaries, Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean stated that the “one way to truly ensure we end this war” was to elect a Democrat in November of 2008. The interesting aspect of that statement is the fact that it was carried by most major news sources as if it were a somewhat groundbreaking and unexpected statement.

Had Howard Dean actually said “vote for a Republican, it’s the best choice for America”, that would be groundbreaking and unexpected. It must be summer during a presidential primary season when statements from a national party chairman that support the candidates of his own party are considered relevant.

Joe Lieberman, who once-upon-a-time was Al Gore’s running mate, says that the United States needs to consider eventually conducting air strikes against Iran. Some are taking this as Lieberman endorsing war with Iran, while others believe it is simply Lieberman attempting to protect Israel due to his Jewish heritage. I personally believe that Lieberman was stating that we cannot completely dismiss the possibility of eventually striking Iran, as it is believed they are actively pursuing nuclear weapons.

Many Democrats have turned themselves off to Lieberman, as his foreign policy beliefs are more in line with the GOP than with the Democratic Party. I am inclined to believe that Lieberman is being sensible, and stating that we have to leave all options on the table…at least for the time being.

A recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll stated that 58 percent of Americans believe that to stop illegal immigration, the United States needs to enforce current immigration laws. These percentages include 65 percent of Republicans, 62 percent of Independents, and 50 percent of Democrats. Only 34 percent of those polled believed the entire system requires an overhaul.

As I have espoused in the past, I do believe that the previous attempt at reform was a form of amnesty. I believe that, at least for the time being, we do need to enforce current immigration laws until we can create a better bill for updating the laws. A combination of stronger, smarter border security and more efficient methods for legal immigration into America are the way to go, in my opinion.

Some other interesting numbers from this survey include that 84 percent of those polled believe that Mexico should not shown preference in the number of immigrants allowed into America, and should be treated as any other nation. Also, 55 percent of Americans support the government raids on big businesses that employ large numbers of illegal immigrants, compared to only 34 that object to these raids.

Shrinking the scope down to the state level, the majority of the June primaries is upon us. One thing that is very notable about this year’s primaries is the fact that many moderate incumbents are facing serious challenges by more partisan candidates.

For instance, in the 24th State Senate GOP primary, you have Emmett Hanger being challenged by Scott Sayre. Sayre is positioning himself as the more conservative candidate, noting Hanger’s votes for tax increases and apparent support for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. In the Democratic primary for the 9th State Senate seat, incumbent Benjamin Lambert is being challenged by Don McEachin. Lambert has drawn criticism for his endorsement of George Allen over Jim Webb in last year’s Senate race. McEachin has promoted himself to Democratic voters as “a Democrat you can trust”, putting him to the left of Lambert.

Another good example of this is in the Democratic primary in the 79th House of Delegates district. The current incumbent, Johnny Joannou is fighting for his party’s nomination against Henry Light, who has aligned himself as a “Warner/Kaine Democrat”. Joannou has also faced criticism from fellow Democrats for his alignment with House Republicans on many issues. This criticism has helped Light, who currently has raised nearly $200,000 more in campaign funds than Joannou.

With the exception of the 27th State Senate GOP primary between Jill Holtzman Vogel and Mark Tate, the June 12th primaries seem to be based around perceived moderates being attacked from either the left or the right, depending on the party primary that is in question. It makes me think of the campaigns of George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000. I remember that, in the pre-9/11 climate that we lived in at the time, many people thought that the two candidates were interchangeable. They were seen as the type of candidates both parties would put up in the future; a moderate who only slightly leaned towards their party’s ideology.

Here we are, 7 years later, and it seems that both parties are attempting to move away from the center. While this is starting to show in the presidential debates we’ve seen on TV, it seems to be actively happening right here in the state of Virginia.

Finally, I want to talk about the primary in the 24th State Senate district that has caused so much controversy and political noisemaking. Some believe that the Republican Party in the Valley may suffer a long-term fracture due to this primary. With many of the local party chairs and bloggers rallying behind Scott Sayre, and Emmett Hanger collecting the support of many elected officials and a growing number of op-ed writers, it could very well seem like the party is heading for a split.

However, I know that at least few of the local party chairs have stated that they will support and work hard for the Republican candidate, no matter who wins. I believe that this is the start of reconciliation between the supporters of both Emmett Hanger and Scott Sayre. For the sake of the GOP in Virginia, this is a good start towards healing some of the fractures that are taking place. If the Republicans want to continue their majority in both the State Senate and the House of Delegates, they need to start mending these broken fences on June 13th.

Or else, they may find themselves in a position similar to their counterparts in Congress.

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