Opinion

BEDFORD: What the hell is the point of the Virginia GOP?

On Feb. 6, 2013, Republican Speaker of the House Bill Howell killed the Republican Senate’s redistricting plan, which would have reversed the Democrat’s redistricting and sealed Republican control of the legislature for years and years to come.

Why did Mr. Howell kill the plan? Essentially, he killed it so Democrats would come to the table and help the Republicans with their agenda. And what was the GOP’s agenda in a state run by a Republican governor, Republican Senate and Republican House? To pass what may be the biggest tax hike in Virginia’s history, of course.

But before anyone gets angry that Mr. Howell is a damn fool, and points out that Democrats would never pass a chance to cement their own power, they should consider one thing: What the hell is the point of the Virginia GOP holding power anyway?

From the state level to the local level, and back to the national, the Virginia Republican Party is a disaster.

Let’s kick off with just a few examples of why.

1) On the state level, the Virginia GOP ranges from useless to liberal.

In January 2013, Virginia’s Republican-controlled House introduced a transportation bill that included a $2.4 billion tax hike.

But that wasn’t enough for the Democrats (or Republican Sen. Frank Wagner), and while Mr. Wagner offered an amendment to hike the tax higher, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw demanded that the GOP raise the hike to $5 billion.

So what did the Republicans in the Senate do? They brought the House bill and the amended Wagner bill before a Republican-dominated conference and emerged with — wait for it — a $6.1 billion tax hike. More, we notice, than the Democrats had even asked for.

But that wasn’t enough for the Senate Democrats, and they said they wouldn’t vote for the hike — a hike anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform has described as the biggest tax hike in Virginian history — unless the GOP explored Medicaid expansion. So the GOP, of course, formed a commission to explore Medicaid expansion.

“We’ll get something that everybody can live with,” Mr. Saslaw said after the Republicans sacrificed redistricting. “Everybody probably has to give a little.”

So what we have here is a state party with complete control, who surrenders continued political dominance and expands Medicaid so they can pass what may be the biggest tax hike in Virginia’s history.

And before that, they busied themselves with sinking a bill that would allow home-schooled kids to try out for school sports teams, and derailing a bill that would allow farmers to sell more types of their own homegrown produce.

I guess we missed that chapter of ancient strategy where Sun Tzu advised “To make friend with enemy, first kill self, then spread own guts all over wall.”

But surely things are better on the local level? Enter: Fauquier County Republicans.

2) On the local level, the Virginia GOP ranges from anti-business to totalitarian.

In scenic Fauquier County, farmers have been taking advantage of the great soil to live out Thomas Jefferson’s dream of creating a Virginian wine industry. This has resulted in the win-win-win situation of more people with jobs, more people spending money, and more wine.

So what did the Republicans — the anti-regulation party that champions free markets — respond with? Regulations, of course, that were anti-free market.

On July 12, 2012, the Republican-dominated board of county supervisors voted 4:1 to stunt the booming wineries, dictating the number of events they could hold (which are how wineries make their money), telling wineries to close by 6 p.m., and banning everything from selling food to allowing mini-golf — all in the name of public safety.

And just to make sure they didn’t miss anything, the supervisors gave the enforcers the power to arbitrarily decide what other activities they deem “similar in nature or in impact” to the banned activities.

Oh, and to stem the lawsuits from wineries, they granted exemptions to the most powerful wineries.

Meanwhile in Fauquier County, the Republican county administrator is proposing to raise the real-estate tax.

I guess we missed that chapter of ancient strategy where Sun Tzu advised “To protect core principles, kill them, then spread guts all over wall.”

But surely the GOP’s control of the state at least turned the citizens out for the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney? Enter: Some comedy to lighten the mood.

3) On the national level in 2012, the Virginia GOP ranged from incompetent to downright comical.

We would imagine that a state party that controls the governorship, the House and the Senate would be capable of turning out enough voters for their national candidate to triumph. But in Virginia in 2012, we would be wrong. Because in Virginia in 2012, Mr. Romney lost to President Barack Obama, 47.3 percent to 51.2 percent. (BEDFORD: How Romney’s consultants lost the election as soon as it began)

So we called some grassroots folks who worked on the campaign, and we asked them to tell us a few stories about what they did to elect Mr. Romney.

“We were doing door-to-door surveys,” one volunteer told us, “asking people who they were leaning towards — in October.”

That’s right. Not asking people to vote for Mr. Romney; asking them who they planned to vote for– one month before the election.

Mr. Obama’s campaign, in contrast, had spent their October advertising budget before October even began, because they were operating under the assumption that by Oct. 1, 2012, the voters who would decide the election would already have made their decisions.

So what question were these door-to-door volunteers asking, we wondered. Turns out they were tasked with asking four questions, but would only really ask three: Who do you lean towards voting for for president, who do you lean towards voting for for the House, and who do you lean towards voting for for the Senate.

What was the fourth question? Well, if the person turned out to lean toward Mr. Romney, the volunteers were supposed to ask if they wanted a campaign yard sign.

“We never asked that question,” that activist told The Daily Caller, “because we didn’t even have yard signs to give them.”

But who was commanding these activists to spend their precious time gathering near-useless information that no one would have time to process before Nov. 6? That would be Mr. Romney’s campaign, as the state GOP had ceded all control to them. So where the hell was the local GOP? The one that actually knew the first thing about Virginia, and about Virginians? (BEDFORD: The tyranny of the GOP’s political consultants)

We took a moment to scroll through the 5th District Republicans’ homepage. It begins, “Welcome to the 5th District Republicans website, a new interactive site dedicated to all things Republican here in Virginia’s beautiful 5th District.”

It hasn’t been updated since 2010.

“The Virginia GOP ceded their election HQ to the Romney campaign,” that activist told us, “so all of their reps were getting marching orders from the campaign, which were to do these surveys.”

But at least the activists who turned out got their promised Romney-Ryan t-shirts, right?

Nope. We have rarely met a person who received their t-shirt, or their bumper stickers. By March 2013, most had given up waiting.

I guess we missed that chapter of ancient strategy where Sun Tzu advised, “To win local battle, outsource local tasks to distant idiots. Then spread guts all over wall.”

Which brings us back to redistricting.

Because some on the right are worried that Virginia is no longer a Republican stronghold, and is primed to fall to the Democrats. To them, we ask, “Who cares?”

We’re talking about a state party that controls the governor’s mansion and the legislature, but compromises with Democrats to pass progressive legislation; a state party that curbs entrepreneurship, punishes successful businesses and cuts off the booze; a state party that holds nearly every lever of local power, but is too incompetent to even pull the levers when it matters.

So what the hell is the point of the Virginia GOP?

I guess we missed that chapter of ancient strategy where Sun Tzu advised, “Virginia, we guess, is for lovers. Not fighters.”

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