Wednesday, January 8, 2014

West Va. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: Symbols of Division

Above are links to the State of the State Address of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City.  Read the two addresses.  They seem to come from men of different countries, cultures, and traditions.  Hard to believe that these come from men of the same political party in similar roles, in the same country.

Governor Tomblin proudly touted a record of avoiding tax increases, holding the line on spending, and building up a near $1 billion rainy day fund.  He noted the soon to be developed factories in the state that would create coal and natural gas by products.  Tomblin promised to hold schools accountable and promised modest raises for teachers.  Shout outs to veterans and the Boy Scouts of America punctuated his relatively short talk that was built around gardening metaphors.

Bill de Blasio comes from the wing of the Democratic Party that thinks the EPA had better monitor one's gardening.  He praises Sandinistas, not fiscal conservatism.  He fights to gobble up more wealth from the most heavily taxed producers in the nation.  He picks fights with horse drawn carriages instead of teacher unions wary of school ratings.

Governor Tomblin is a relic.  He is a Democrat, there is no doubt of that.  Tomblin approved the federally encouraged expansion of Medicaid. This is expected to hit the budget hard, but his administration plans to make cuts in other areas to face the shortfall. Regulations and tort problems still bedevil development, but Tomblin's wing of the state party understands that social programs need a productive private sector to function.

He also comes from the old school. The Mingo County politics of his youth functioned a lot like the old Tammany and Daley metropolitan machines.  They directly rewarded those who supported them, usually illegally.  But they also understood the common man.  They knew he needed cheap food, cheap energy, decent housing, and a decent job.  And that a good economy could make that happen. Old time Democrats had a lot of flaws, but they believed in their country and in many institutions, like the Boy Scouts, that helped to make it great.  Tomblin is not corrupt, but he does still embrace a pragmatic approach. Cato in 2011 gave him the same rating as the GOP governor of Virginia for fiscal responsibility.

Contrasts between Tomblin and de Blasio illustrate how much the national Democratic Party has changed.  It moved in the direction of federal control over not only state and business, but also individual life decisions. They rely on bureaucrats, lawyers, and businesses that benefit from the Byzantine system of regulations and controls.  They have an idea of the way it ought to be, and that way leads to the regimentation of the daily lives of everyone along certain lines.  To keep us from self-inflicted wounds, or what they would perceive to be wounds.

Has the Republican Party changed? Certainly.  It abandoned unquestioning support of big business.  It now has a robust discussion within its ranks about pot legalization and gay marriage.  It has embraced more tightly than so-called liberals the basic philosophy of the Earl Warren Court that it once hated and feared (conservative publications have made a cottage industry out of reporting police abuses.) The party of small government in the past seven years has worked to make itself more consistent.  And on almost every issue it has moved more toward the freedom of the individual rather than diminishing liberty.

Looking at the addresses of the two Democrats, considering the drift of both parties, it is clear that a broad divide exists in the United States.  We are a house divided again between liberty and control.  We have two cultures that have no common foundation, and, at risk of being overly repetitive, these divides even exist within the Democratic Party itself!

Even in West Virginia, Democrats like Tomblin are a dying breed.  Moderate and pragmatic Democratic voters abandon the party for independence or the GOP.  Tearing oneself away from family and community traditions is hard, but so is stomaching what national Democrats have done to jobs and industry in the state.  Eventually a left wing rump will remain after the defections are over.  It will be more loud and shrill, but less effective in influencing the state.

Perhaps the disastrous Obamacare rollout will enable what is left of the Democratic moderates to regain control. Or it may drive them to more extreme dreams of control. Only time will tell

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