Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 Winners & Losers

A short political re-cap as seen through these eyes. First, the winners...

1. Indiana Democrats, on the surface. They won a majority of US House seats this year, ousting three Republican incumbents. That is a big deal, so it was played up on the major media. But there is much more to Indiana politics than the US House. Indeed, we rarely see our US House Reps back home once they win. Dems also won a narrow majority in the Indiana House, which is also quite a reversal in a state that is vastly more conservative than liberal.

2. Fiscal conservatives. No, the Republican Party did not rediscover Barry Goldwater. The Democratic gains in the Congress and the Indiana House brings us gridlock, the partisan battle that will freeze spending far more effectively than a Republican majority any day. I love it!

3. Property Rights. The Kelo v. New London decision opened the door for massive discontent and a wave of new laws limiting the use of eminent domain in Indiana and many, many other states. Very refreshing!

4. District 6 Libertarians. The Bells and crew have made large gains. Today in Hagerstown, an elected Libertarian Judge (Susan Bell) will swear in two elected Libertarian Township officials- Conley Tillson and Steve Coffman. Rex Bell had the strongest showing ever in a 3-way Indiana House race in District 54. Other areas have elected Libertarians, but rather than it being a one-time occurrence, the Wayne and Henry County Libertarians continue to grow and elected more and more to office. Never mind New Hampshire, this is the Free State Project.

5. Jim Irsay. I gotta hand it to the guy. He got all $121 million in naming rights for a stadium he won't own. He gets the lion's share of the operating revenue for the stadium he won't own. He paid almost nothing into the construction of that stadium. After all- he won't own it! The brilliance of Jim Irsay is that he wasn't agressive about promoting this fleecing. He allowed panicky, fearful politicians rush to give him the sun, moon, and stars. He stood quietly and accepted their gifts. All hail Jim Irsay!


1. The Republican Party. How do you set up the Republicans positioning as a close second? Give them overwhelming majorities across the land and then wait a short while. They had the greatest majorities seen in 100 years of Federal government, and yet failed to advance any meaningful agenda. If I told you ten years ago that the Federal government would advance a sweeping Medicare prescription drug plan, you might have guessed that Teddy Kennedy was President with a Democratic Congress.

2. Indiana Dems. Yes they won that US House majority. Yes, they won the majority in the Indiana House. However, if you can't run a candidate for US Senate, if you lose all three statewide offices, and the overwhelming majority of the state's township offices are won by Republicans, and you barely have a third of the state Senate, you really are the equivalent of a third party. Dems have the gerrymandering of districts to thank for their Indiana House majority, and the ineptitude of Republicans to thank almost entirely for their other gains. Republicans dominate more than 70 of the 92 counties, as was evidenced by the Township returns. Dems were mostly smart enough to ride the wave in. It's hardly a foundation for a lasting shift. The swing voters will certainly swing again.

3. Property Rights. The other wave of laws sweeping Indiana and the country are the smoking bans. Although not intended as such, they are limits on property rights whereby the interests of the patrons trump those of the business property owner. With the War on Food as the next nanny state frontier, the hospitality industry is essentially being dictated to, with owners and patrons losing choices. This is an enormously disturbing trend.

4. Fiscal Conservatives. Even with precious gridlock, the premise of spending as much as possible will be unquestioned by Republicans and Democrats. Only partisan war will prevent spending from being as outrageous as it was under GOP majorities. Sadly, despite all the efforts of libertarians, whether the Libertarian Party, the Reason Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the myriad others sounding the alarm against an all-consuming government, we still move in that direction.

5. Melina Kennedy. Her run for Marion County Prosecutor must certainly be the worst run Democratic campaign in Indiana this year. Republican ineptitude allowed Dems to make gains in many high profile seats, except this one. Curious, because Marion County is now a Democratic bellweather. If Kennedy's campaign was positive, she could have simply ridden the wave into office. I was pleased to see another negative campaign go down in flames.

Toss Up

1. Foreign Policy. Democrats have been questioning US foreign policy in Iraq. Is this the beginning of a deeper introspection on the US role as World's Cop, seeking an end to so much US intervention into world affairs, or is it merely a shallow political attack on George W Bush?

2. Democratic Congressional Agenda. After campaigning on themes of bi-partisan spirit, can the Dems resist the thrill of power and avoid repeating history with their own attempt at impeaching a lame duck president? Will it be too much fun for Dems to say, "but we're right"? Also, can they really live up to the laughable perception that Democrats are fiscally responsible? Sure, the GOP is a bad yardstick to measure up to. Still.

3. Bold Daniels. I don't think Daniels will stop looking for cute, inventive ways to score quick revenue. Will the Democrats' slim majority in the Indiana House be enough to slow him down?

4. Libertarian Mayor? Will this be the year? Indiana Libertarians continued to make incremental gains wherever they ran local candidates. With past wins at the township and even city council level, mayor is the next rung up the ladder. It's a possibility in smaller locales where advertising money is less a factor, and personal reputations count for much more.

5. Where will it end? With the smoking bans in private businesses continuing to advance, and bans on trans-fats next, what will be the new frontier? Will smoking be banned in private homes? Will Americans have to keep and submit a log of foods consumed? Many scoff at this line of inquiry, but 20 years ago, we never would have believed the restrictions that passed in 2006. Is choice dead, or just dying? Will there be a backlash, or will Americans simply roll over and obey? My money is on the advance of the nanny state and the decline of personal choice and responsibility. I hope I'm wrong, but I have smart money.

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