News over the weekend of snow falling in the United States, something that generally doesn’t start until October, reminded me of the political pot-boiler taking place in Lebanon County. August is generally a soft political month but, like the snow, events in Lebanon County seem more like the political climate of an October, not an August. As we move in to September, it shows no changing. Political heat is not only contained to Lebanon, it has hit the state race as well.
A recent article by John Fund addressing the problems Corbett is facing is a glaring commentary on the state of politics here in Pennsylvania (http://m.nationalreview.com/article/386774/anatomy-gop-disaster-losing-pennsylvania-john-fund). While Fund touches on this, in my opinion the problem lies in the fact that in spite of Corbett’s pressure to bring reforms to Pennsylvania, he has been unable to get serious reform accomplished because of the Republican leadership, especially in the house, who is selling the moral compass of the Republican Party in the state to the highest special interest bidders.
As Fund reminds us, time and time again, Corbett’s agenda was blocked by key Republicans in the legislature. “His effort to pass school vouchers was whittled down to a measly $75 million increase in tax credits for private schools.: Fund Says “His bid to finally privatize the state’s antiquated system of state liquor stores was thwarted. Ethics reform was dead on arrival.” None of this is the Governor’s fault. Even in his fight to reform the Pension problem in the state, he needs a General Assembly willing to fight for that principle and they haven’t been willing to take up that mantle yet. The blame for this rests firmly on the shoulders of the leadership in the General Assembly which seems to be all to willing to cower to public-sector employee unions who as Fund continues “have their hooks buried deep inside both parties.”
The PSEA and the SEIU are powerful unions in and of themselves but since we don’t have Paycheck Protection in this state, monies from taxpayers that are used to collect dues for these unions goes to aiding in their ability to hire lobbying firms like Long, Nyquist and Associates to work on their behalf. When the Republican Senate Caucus got them-self in a bind by trying to manipulate the election process through a special election in York County they hired Long, Nyquist and Associates to run a smear campaign against write-in candidate (now Senator) Scott Wagner. There you have Republican leadership getting in bed with a lobbying firm that is also working against real reform in the state. The money paid to run this smear campaign against Wagner could then be used to advance the platforms of organizations who are working against conservative reform in this state.
That’s the real problem in this state, arrogant and powerful leadership willing to empower bodies that are working against Conservative principles and values like political opportunists with no regard to the impact this has on the common person in the state. As was pointed out in an ABC27news story by Dennis Owens the number of Republican legislators who hire this same firm should come as a shock to us. Why would someone alleging to be a Conservative during a campaign run hire a firm that is working against Conservative principles and real reform in the state?
I will admit to finding myself in a sense of Catch-22 when it comes to the Governor’s race. A Corbett win, especially after the point spread that now exists, will send a message to those in leadership that its business as usual in Pennsylvania and that they can count on Republicans to rally behind them when the chips get down. Their disconnect with the people in this state perpetuates their misconceptions of how and why we vote. I do think that between the two candidates, Corbett and Wolf, Corbett is the choice. At the same time I don’t want to perpetuate the notion that I am willing to sacrifice principles in the batter for lesser of two evils.
It is clear that a Wolf victory in November spells doom to conservative values in the state, not because Wolf as Governor will be able to run roughshod over the legislators but because the leadership will be able to appease their public sector benefactors and the lobbyists who work for these organizations. Wolf can’t enact any tax increase without it first being approved by the General Assembly and, frankly, a Wolf governorship is a frightening concept…not just because Wolf, in my opinion, is a died in the wool socialist but because we have far too many Republicans in the house who would be willing to give Wolf what he wants to make sure their campaign coffers remain full and they can hold on to their powerful high-paying benefit laden jobs.
A Wolf victory means Property Tax Independence, Paycheck Protection, Right To Work, Right To Life…. Any real conservative value in the state is dealt a fatal blow. At least we have a chance with those issues and Corbett but not without a change of heart by the GOP Insiders. Wolf will get the blame by conservatives but it will be the General Assembly who will make it all possible and it will be Republicans, many of whom claimed to be a conservative in order to get elected, who will make this possible.
That begins to dispel my notion of a Catch-22 in the state. However, that is only dispelled if we begin to really understand how real reform comes to the state. We need principled leadership in our General Assembly and that starts with our local representatives. We needs elected representatives who are more than name on a piece of reform-minded legislation but who are also stalwart champions of advancing those conservative principles. Representative who are willing to take up that mantle and bring it home to the people in their districts.
Here in Lebanon County we have been blessed with a Senator and a House Representative who have held accessible town halls to take those difficult questions to the people they represent. Senator Folmer and Rep. RoseMarie Swanger are to be commended for their attempts of staying connected to the people in their districts. It is not surprising then that when it comes to reform minded legislation these two have made the case for this legislation to the people they represent.
We live in a time when our candidates can run long-distance campaigns where they don’t have to get in front of the people and take questions directly from them. We elect people by party endorsements or who can spend the most in those glossy cardstock flyers where they can find the least flattering pictures and least complimentary things to say concerning their opponents. As we have seen in Lebanon County, especially in elections where the Long, Nyquist firm is associated, it doesn’t matter if what they are saying is true or not. Just ask Liz Judd or John Dissinger, two recent candidates who ran up against the Long, Nyquist political machine.
Part of this political strategy of politics in personal destruction is to keep us from talking about issues that are important to us. We get distracted and then we stop talking about issues and start talking about anything but. And yes, Character is an issue.
I happen to believe that character does matter. I define character by the individual’s involvement in community and the causes they work towards supporting. I don’t define character by an isolated moment in their life when they, like all of us, made a mistake in judgment. A series of questionable activities and involvements is a different story all together. It’s really about looking at patterns of activity, not isolated moments. Community activism is also not enough when we begin to look at who we select to represent us.
Campaigns are times when we get the talking point memo of the legislation they support but without direct contact with the people, we rarely hear why they support those issues. This allows imposters to claim to support an issue because it happens to be the flavor of the day without any real substance behind their claim.
It is no mistake that every candidate in the 102nd is claiming to support Property Tax Elimination. The proof of that claim is, as they say, in the pudding. In the history of campaign lies you would think that we would have learned by now that many of our elected representatives will tell us anything in order to get elected. That, in turn, should have us demanding that they get out in front of us and explain their positions on these issues so we can separate the wheat from the chaff. Rather than debates, I prefer one on one town hall. The 2 minute talking points never get into details and the town halls allow for the exchange between the citizen and the person who wants to be their representative. If you see that one of these candidates is out there, willing to talk to the people you owe it to yourself to go and hear them out. Then ask them why they support these issues if they don’t make those points clear. They can’t really represent you if they don’t know what you believe.
As we draw closer to the election, in spite of snow falling on the first day of September, the political climate in the 102nd is going to get hot. The Governor’s race is going to continue to be the focus of most of the statewide news stories and the Governor’s race is going to be important. So are the legislative seats that are going to be up for election this November. At least in Lebanon County we have a choice regardless of attempts to put stumbling blocks in front of that process in both the Primary and now in the General Election. That choice is between Russ Diamond (Republican), Jake Long (Democrat), Robert McAteer (Independent) and, as announced today, Wanda Bechtold (as a write-in).
We are already hearing the split-the vote argument and frankly, I find that alarming. For me, I’d rather put an end to the entire Primary nonsense and just hold General Elections that force Candidates to go out and make their case to the people. We are essentially holding two elections, one for the party and the other for the people. How about we forget the parties and just hold elections for the people. The Primaries keep us in constant election mode and that would be fine if we were actually talking about the issues instead of all the things that result in many voters finding themselves in a state of being “peripherally visionless” when it comes to elections. (Explanation: peripheral visionless is a state of becoming so focused on one thing that you become unable to see the surrounding things related to the incident…look it up!).
Isn’t that really what happened with the Exec. Committee? They became so focused on an issue that they lost sight of their responsibilities in following their own by-laws. Those spearheading this effort are doing everything in their power to try and keep that sense of a “peripheral visionless” argument in the forefront. The argument from them continues to be that if you aren’t standing with them, you somehow support domestic violence. That is being peripherally visionless. Their attempts to grasp at this power makes them much like the “great and powerful” Oz telling us to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. They are, after all, just men and women capable of making mistakes just like the rest of us. The true test of character in situations like this is an ability to recognize that mistake and then correct it, not in making excuses or looking for someone else to blame for their mistakes. That is what responsibility and personal accountability is all about.
In many ways, Lebanon County has become a small window capturing the larger problems we face in advancing conservative principles in this state. We’ve seen the courts being used and we’ve seen over-exertion of the powers of the local committee spear-headed by the same lobbyist problems we face in Harrisburg all for the purpose of removing the voice of the people from this process. The real question comes down to the people…are you willing to get informed about the issues the candidates claim to support? Are you willing to take a stand or do you let the entrenched system that is corrupting our election process to persuade you, once again, that you don’t matter and that your vote doesn’t really count?
The Governor’s race is going to be important but there is more at stake here. There are the candidates who claim to want to represent us and there are also the issues at hand…those things that operate in the realm of the core of what we believe; Government limited by a Constitutional Rule of Law coupled with Personal and Financial Accountability to the people they represent. Like it or not, none of this can be removed from our own faith principles. Those faith principles guide how we see those issues and can’t be separated. If you are willing to betray what you claim to believe for political expediency, you never really believed it in the first place.
As Abraham Lincoln reminded us “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” My problem is, with so many not willing to get to the facts and where the candidates really stand on the issues, it’s not just the blisters on their behind but the ones they are giving me as well. We all get burned, not just the ones who turn their backs on the fire.