‘Not a Tea Party Bomb Thrower’ Is Not Good Enough
The Washington Post editorial page has an endorsement in the local Arlington County, Va., race I wrote about last week. It is a neat little encapsulation of much that is wrong with Beltway media, in addition to being a train wreck of logic.
By almost any measure, Arlington County is a local and national success story, having remade itself over two decades — with a big assist from Metro — from a green but sleepy suburb into a still green but diverse, dynamic and highly desirable set of communities. Lately, the political comity that helped guide that transformation has frayed amid a bitter debate over a proposal to build an expensive streetcar line on fixed tracks along Columbia Pike.
On this thorny central question, the Post essentially sides with Democrat Alan Howze (who, again to fully disclose, is a personal friend to whom I’ve contributed money):
We happen to agree with Mr. Howze that the streetcar would yield long-term economic benefits and added passenger capacity that buses — even expanded ones — cannot replicate. …
Mr. Howze … [cites] a consultant’s estimate that a streetcar would generate $2 billion to $3 billion more in benefits than would improved bus service over a 30-year period, plus several thousand additional jobs. We’ve seen nothing to cast serious doubt on the consultant’s numbers.
And yet, the paper endorses purple Republican John Vihstadt because … because … he’s a nice guy:
[H]e made the case against the streetcar in a civil and cogent way.
And because he seems pretty smart:
[M]any Democrats have accorded Mr. Vihstadt grudging respect as someone who formulates and presents his views intelligently; he is no tea party bomb thrower.
Seriously? Is that it?
The kicker: Vihstadt is “a badly needed independent voice in a heavily Democratic county. … Whether Mr. Vihstadt prevails or not, it’s important for Arlington to have the debate; without him, the board runs the risk of groupthink.”
On its face, this is a reasonable assertion.
But in the context of our politics nationally, it’s been the foundation for self-pauperizing, self-crippling fiscal policy. (Before you jump on me over the Federal Reserve and quantitative easing, please re-read the preceding sentence and home in on the word “fiscal.”)
As it happens, “Not a tea party bomb thrower” is going to be one of the central talking points you’ll encounter after Tuesday night’s Republican victory. The party, you’ll be told, recruited the “sane” candidates, avoiding Christine O’Donnell and other tea party witchcraft. It’s true, as far as it goes. The problem occurs one stratum below: the Beltway media’s idea of what constitutes “sanity” is itself suspect.
In the same way that Fred Hiatt’s editorial page, among many others, aided and abetted the Iraq war, the establishment lent cover to those “tea party bomb throwers.” The “fiscal cliff,” sequestration, the debt-ceiling crisis—none of this could have come to pass without the “badly needed independent voices” of Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. As soon as the frame of deficit crisis was hung around an economy on the brink of deflationary spiral, the likes of Ted Cruz had all the legitimacy they would ever need to wreak havoc in a divided electorate.
To reiterate my gravamen against Mr. Purple: the Republican party did not lose in 2008 and 2012 because of social issues; and marginalizing the tea party is no guarantee of success in 2016. The tea party’s economic agenda, to be sure, sucks (with refreshing exceptions such as Sens. Mike Lee and Marcio Rubio’s family-friendly tax reform proposals). But the Republican party establishment’s economic agenda also sucks.
And on Tuesday—across the Potomac in Washington, and perhaps here in Arlington as well—the voices of “sanity,” of independence, of the Green Lantern and his magic ring, of let’s-eat-lunch-together-more-often bonhomie, will be seen to have prevailed.