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Moderates vs. Conservatives: Part 463

If you haven’t read THIS excellent article – “State GOP prepares for ideological battle over taxes” – by Las Vegas Sun reporter J. Patrick Coolican today, don’t miss it.

The only part I might take issue with is Coolican citing “Republican reformers…including a small set of Washington intellectuals such as Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, (who) think the conservative message of decades past has lost its relevance and needs updating.”


I mean, seriously. Why in the world should GOP activists and leaders listen to a pair of egg-headed intellectuals who no one has ever heard of. It’s like taking grassroots political advice from political science professors who have never knocked on a door, licked an envelope or made an election day get-out-the-vote phone call in their lives.

But other than that, Coolican does a superb job of laying out the battlefield between the conservatives and moderate Republicans in Nevada – a battle, Coolican rightfully maintains could be “a microcosm of the direction of the national party.” It’s a must read for anyone interested in the GOP’s future political prospects here. Ten observations:

1.) Reflecting on the party’s ballot box losses in 2006 and 2008, GOP strategist and Nevada Republican Party Finance Chairman Robert Uithoven said “Republicans lost because voters became disenchanted with the party for not living up to conservative principles” and declared that this is a philosophical “battle within the Republican Party that needs to take place.”

Give that man a cee-gar.

2.) Coolican writes that “Former Sen. (Warren) Hardy has said Nevada Republicans must adapt to the new reality – that Nevada is a Democratic state – and need to determine how to appeal to moderate Democrats and nonpartisan voters.”

Drum roll, please.

And the winner of the 2009 Neville Chamberlain Award goes to…..

Warren Hardy!!

Yes, by all means Warren. And Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Belgium and France should have “adapted to the new reality” that they had become German states and should have looked for ways to appeal to moderate Germans and the non-partisan Swiss rather than resist. Why couldn’t those countries just bend over and take it rather than getting the rest of the world all worked up over nothing? Sheesh.

3.) Warren Hardy voted for over a BILLION dollars in higher taxes this past legislative session – the ONLY Republican who signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge “to oppose and vote against any and all efforts” to do so.

In other words, in addition to being a Kumbaya Republican appeaser, the man’s word is no good either. No wonder the lobbyists and moderates love the guy.

4.) According to Coolican, Hardy says that “conservative ideologues are not Republicans, but, rather, libertarians.”

The point that Hardy and his fellow travelers miss is that the libertarians are the true conservatives. Recall that it was the late Sen. Barry “Conscience of a Conservative” Goldwater who sparked the libertarian movement in the late 60s and early 70s, setting the stage for the election of Ronald Reagan who succeeded by uniting the limited government libertarians with pro-defense conservatives and social conservatives.

It was moderates such as Hardy and Dick Darman who undermined the success of the Reagan movement by persuading President George Bush the First to abandon his “read my lips; no new taxes” pledge. Blame moderates, not conservatives, for giving us Bill Clinton, George the Second and now Barack Obama.

5.) Coolican highlights a potential GOP primary battle for the seat of moderate term-limited state Sen. Randolph Townsend between Townsend’s hand-picked moderate successor Ben Kieckhefer and conservative Assemblyman Ty Cobb (if Ty ever moves into the district and declares).

Cobb has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and helped found the conservative Nevada Republican Study Committee within the Assembly Caucus this last session. He established himself as a conservative “boat rocker” in his freshman session when he was the ONLY Republican who refused to vote for liberal Democrat Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley for Speaker in 2007.

By the way: Who wants to bet that Buckley, in her expected gubernatorial race next year, campaigns on the fact that she was able to “reach across the aisle” and attract significant bi-partisan GOP support thanks to all those Republicans who voted for her? Once again, GOP appeasement only encourages and enables greater Democrat dominance.

6.) For his part, Kieckhefer is a nice enough fella, but he ain’t no boat rocker. Ben will be a typical go-along-to-get-along rubber stamp Republican. But don’t take my word for it; take his.

First, in a conversation immediately after announcing his candidacy for Townsend’s seat, Kieckhefer told me he would not sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. His excuse was a typical one; one we’ve overcome time and time again – that he wanted to be able to raise “fees” – as if fees somehow aren’t just higher taxes by another name. You know, like how the garbage man is actually a “sanitary engineer.”

Secondly, according to his own news release announcing his candidacy, Kieckhefer would be just another stand-for-nothing-fall-for-anything Republican legislator. His stated legislative goals are to “work on stimulating job growth, improving the state’s long-term fiscal stability, increasing the accessibility and quality of health care and addressing Nevada’s infrastructure and transportation needs.”

Boy, there’s a specific agenda, huh?

I mean, that agenda could apply to ANY legislative candidate. The questions are (a) HOW would you stimulate job growth? (b) HOW would you improve the state’s long-term fiscal stability? (c) HOW will you increase the accessibility and quality of health care? And (d) HOW will you address the state’s infrastructure and transportation needs?

Oh, and this little question: HOW will you pay for it all?

And its corollary: WHOSE taxes will you raise to pay for it all?

Conservatives and liberals answer those questions VERY differently.

“As guiding principles” to answer those questions, Kieckhefer says “that government should create laws that treat all its citizens equally, protect individual freedoms and be accountable for every taxpayer dollar raised and spent. “

Would somebody please bring me a bucket; I think I’m gonna blow chunks.

Treat citizens equally? Protect individual freedoms? Account for every tax dollar you raise? Wow. That’s really going out on a limb, Ben. I’m surprised you didn’t include “be nice to puppies, babies and old people.”

Kieckhefer concludes by promising to be a “consensus builder” if elected – you know, like all those Republicans who formed that consensus with the Democrats to raise taxes on Nevadans by over a BILLION dollars in the middle of a recession this past session.

Seriously. Ask yourself if Kieckhefer’s agenda is a Reagan-like agenda of bold colors….or a Raggio-like agenda of pale pastels?

And if you’re still not convinced that Ben Kieckhefer is no movement conservative, get a load of this quote: “If the premise is that you can only be a Republican if you swear not to raise taxes ever in your life, even if that means releasing prisoners, letting roads fall into disrepair and closing schools, it’s going to be a small party.”

Of course you can still be a good Republican if you refuse to promise not to raise taxes; you just can’t be a good conservative if you vote to raise taxes by a BILLION dollars in the middle of a recession.

But young Ben steps over the line here by embracing and articulating the Hobson’s choices put forward by the likes of liberal Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley (D) and, regretfully, moderate Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio (R).

There were PLENTY of non-essential government programs which could have been cut this last session; PLENTY of non-essential government “services” which could have been eliminated; and PLENTY of non-essential government employees who coulda/shoulda been laid off – starting with UNLV’s Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion – instead of letting prisoners out of jail and closing schools.

Ben should be embarrassed by regurgitating this liberal pabulum.

7.) Speaking of Republican Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, he is Nevada’s Bob Dole. A wonderful man deserving of great respect for his service to our nation and our state – but a limp biscuit when it comes to truly fighting for the principle of strictly limited government.

Sen. Raggio is a “compassionate conservative” along the lines of George the Second, not a true conservative along the lines of Goldwater and Reagan. He’s not opposed to bigger government; he just wants his bigger government instead of the other guy’s.

Coolican notes that “Reagan cut deals with Democratic Speaker Thomas ‘Tip’ O’Neill when he had to, just as Raggio did with Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas.” Or as Raggio says of the 2009 legislative session in the article, “We did exactly what we needed to do for the state to provide essential services.”

Taking the second point first, the problem here is in defining “essential services.” Senator Raggio defines them VERY broadly. For example, apparently the Nevada Arts Council is something Nevadans just can’t live without. It is an “essential service.” Conservatives disagree.

And while one might concede that Raggio and Horsford had to “cut deals” in this past legislative session, the reality is that Horsford couldn’t have passed even a nickel of higher taxes without Raggio’s support. Sen. Raggio had the power – by virtue of the citizen-passed constitutional requirement for a 2/3 super-majority vote to raise taxes – to block every last dime of those tax hikes. He simply chose not to.

Yet now he wants to take credit for making sure those tax hikes “sunset” after two years – which means only that he kicked the tough decisions down the road once again, which could leave the decision to make this billion dollars worth of tax hikes permanent completely in the hands of the Democrats should they, as is certainly possible, attain a veto-proof majority in the state Senate next year.

As the saying goes, indecision is a decision – it’s just not a solution.

8.) In responding to criticism from conservative Republicans for breaking his no new taxes “guarantee” this past session, Sen. Raggio hopped up on his high horse in his interview with Coolican and declared: “If you’re just going to say ‘No,’ just going to vote no just to say so, I don’t think you’re fulfilling your oath as a legislator. . . . I took an oath, ‘So help me God.’ Not, ‘So help me Republican Party’ or anyone else. I took an oath to do what’s right for the state.”

Admirable sentiment. But let’s take a look at exactly what that oath Sen. Raggio took says, shall we?

“I, Bill Raggio, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, protect and defend the Constitution and government of the United States, and the Constitution and government of the State of Nevada, against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign, and that I will bear true faith, allegiance and loyalty to the same, any ordinance, resolution or law of any state notwithstanding, and that I will well and faithfully perform all the duties of the office of state senator, on which I am about to enter; (if an oath) so help me God; (if an affirmation) under the pains and penalties of perjury.”

Would Sen. Raggio, or any other moderate Republican, please show me where the promise to “support, protect and defend the Department of Cultural Affairs” appears in either the state or federal Constitution?

9.) Coolican reports that Nathan “Li’l Nate” Taylor “sides with the moderates” and says “conservatives will destroy the party if they proceed.”

Considering the fact that Nathan Taylor is a boob who would be out of his depth in a parking lot puddle I can only say: Consider the source.

10.) Political consultant Pete Ernaut – himself a proud card-carrying moderate who, unlike Li’l Nate, is actually a smart, bona fide political strategist – says that GOP infighting between moderates and true conservatives will likely only end “when a candidate emerges for a higher office whom the factions can rally around.”

Unfortunately for Republicans, no such candidate appears on the Nevada horizon today. It *could* be Rep. Dean Heller should he decide to run for U.S. Senate or Governor next year, but those prospects fade with every day he delays in making such a decision.

Final thought: I’m in Philadelphia this week attending the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) annual meeting and took the opportunity to visit Valley Forge yesterday. While listening to the tour operator it struck me that George Washington called for what moderates such as Warren Hardy and Bill Raggio and Ben Kieckhefer like to point out that Ronald Reagan did: raising taxes.

However, the tax hikes Washington and Reagan supported were for funding needed to defeat the British tyrants and the Russian commies. The tax hikes Hardy, Raggio and Kieckhefer support are to retain the Culture of Pizza course at UNLV.

Apples and oranges, love. Apples and oranges.

In conclusion, and contrary to popular opinion, conservatives don’t think moderates need to LEAVE the Republican Party; they just don’t think they should LEAD the Republican Party.

Let’s face it, the GOP needs moderates.

I mean, somebody has to go fetch the coffee, right?


“I don ‘t know about you, but I am impatient with those Republicans who after the last election rushed into print saying, ‘We must broaden the base of our party’ – when what they meant was to fuzz up and blur even more the differences between ourselves and our opponents….

“Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people? Let us show that we stand for fiscal integrity…”

– Ronald Reagan, Conservative Political Action Conference, 3/1/75


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