Friday, May 16, 2014

How the West Virginia Second Congressional District Was Won

Last Tuesday, Alex Mooney won the West Virginia Second Congressional District primary in commanding fashion, outdistancing his nearest of six other competitors by 13 percent of the final tally.  While Sasse's win in Nebraska and West Virginia's own 49th delegate district winner, 17 year old Saira Blair got more coverage, Mooney's win illustrates real changes in the 2nd.

It Has Grown More Conservative

In 2000, when Shelley Moore Capito beat Jim Humphries (and many do not remember what an underdog she was, outspent 3 to 1) the district had around 2/3 of its registered voters signed up as Democrats.  Republicans trailed significantly and way fewer voters were independent.  Capito then and now has never seen "moderate" as derogatory.  Her style and charisma won over centrists who were not sold enough to join the Republican Party, but believed in her.  

Capito's ascension to Congress came in the same year as West Virginia's favorite living president.  George W. Bush also sold in West Virginia a moderate Middle American conservatism.  His style, ridiculed by elitists elsewhere, endeared him to a state that enthusiastically supported his administration regardless.  

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party on the national level abandoned its roots.  Jefferson founded it as the party of farmers.  Jackson expanded it to include the poor country people.  Later, it fully embraced the working man's cause.  Since Bill Clinton, it neglected and even attacked all of these former rock solid constituencies. What Senator Zell Miller wrote about the South is true of all these groups, "if Southern voters think you don't understand them - or even worse, if they think you look down on them - they will never vote for you."

Al Gore attacked their livelihood.  Massachusetts John Kerry never had a prayer.  And Barack Obama's high church academic style that even Northeastern conservatives secretly admire looks condescending to West Virginians.  Then the War on Coal, snide remarks about religious people and gun owners. Obama couldn't even carry his own primary in West Virginia by 2012.  Romney won it by 22 points.

Somewhere between Bush and Obama, the district shifted far to the right.  They still love Capito, but they have also embraced a candidate much more aggressively conservative across the board.

Add to that the exodus of conservatives from Maryland and Northern Virginia.  Civil liberties in the Free State and the heavily regulated Fairfax Proprietary counties of the Old Dominion have decreased dramatically.  Anti-gun attitudes, zoning laws, strict regulations all combined to push the population of Jefferson and Berkeley counties much higher.  Many of these people, seeking a literally freer way of life, are very conservative. 

The Eastern Panhandle Is Becoming a Republican Center of Power

West Virginians in other parts of the state are not used to hearing that people are moving here for opportunities and a better lifestyle.  Bad economic conditions perpetuated by bad state level policies for decades bred a determination that better times looked more Utopian than possible. No one coming to the state could possibly move because the Mountain State offered something better.

The political success of Mooney and Attorney General Patrick Morrissey (who moved from out of state to Charles Town several years ago) illustrates a deeper trend.  Maryland has lost business and residents to Jefferson, Berkeley, Hampshire, and Mineral counties.  Hampshire also has attracted many who work and do business in Winchester, Virginia.  Affluent private sector oriented families, such as those moving in, tend to be conservative and Republican. According to USA Today, Berkeley and Jefferson increased their populations by three to five percent between 2010 and 2012. 

Kanawha's population declined to under 200,000 while Berkeley's is now near half that and ranked second, ahead of Cabell.   

But It Was Not Just the Panhandle

Mooney won 15 of the 17 counties in the district.  Ken Reed won his own county of Morgan; Charlotte Lane carried her home of Kanawha by a surprisingly small margin.  The rest of the counties responded overwhelmingly to a message and a record of unabashed conservatism in gun ownership, pro life, and opposition to the EPA.  A deluge of mailings, television, and radio ads reinforced Mooney's message. Certainly the broadcast advertisements helped to implant him in the minds of conservative Democrats and independents as well.

The Kanawha Valley bloc, that includes Putnam, gave the Charles Town resident much more support than what might have been predicted.  

His opponents were unable to convince voters that residency mattered, regardless of region.  Concerns about West Virginia's supposed hostility to "outsiders" is likely more stereotypical than true, voting in large numbers for Mooney, Morrissey, and Jay Rockefeller, among others would seem to confirm that.

Personal Wealth Also Did Not Matter

Two candidates tapped their own fortunes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars to finance their campaigns.  Mooney, without a personal fortune, still ended up with a more substantial campaign chest by first having to appeal to donors.  This certainly undercuts the usual Democratic narrative of rich Republicans simply "buying elections" (as if one could simply spend money and guarantee a win.) 

Was the Campaign All That Rough?

No one was accused of wanting to establish monarchy, put "dwellings in flames," or see "female chastity violated."  Candidates never heard the accusation that they imported mistresses from Europe.  All in all, the campaign developed in a way more spirited than nasty, more populist than personal.  Certainly some issues got exaggerated, others spun, but even modern campaigns in different areas have gotten far worse and for a much longer period of time.

The West Virginia Second, however, had not seen a really tough primary fight in at least a generation. Leading up to election day, more people paid attention as they saw the fight take place on TV and radio, over their phones, and in their mailbox.  Interestingly, the focus on this race did not inflate voter numbers beyond what had been predicted shortly before balloting.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Black Bear Burritos Bashed By Feds

Morgantown's Black Bear Burritos must pay over a hundred former employees nearly a quarter of a million in back pay, says the US Department of Labor.

According to the State Journal, the business, which only has two locations, concocted an illegal tip sharing scheme that divided all tips evenly amongst all employees on the shift, including managers and kitchen staff. Black Bear owners used Facebook to apologize to employees and customers, pleading that they made a mistake.

They also explained that the policy was made clear to every employee upon hiring.

While the policy itself was likely not productive (what incentive do servers have if they know they will not get their full tips?) why is a tip distribution plan agreed to by all employees any business of the federal government?

If one does not like the plan and it is fairly explained from the beginning, go work somewhere else.

Black Bear is known for supporting local live music while offering deliciously prepared food and spirits in a relaxed setting.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Calling Out the Mob

Last winter, as biting winds whipped snow around the federal capital, chilling news on energy was released.  The moratorium on coal fired power plants, combined with a number of forced closures, would force energy prices to rise 70 to 80 percent.  The Obama Administration last week tried to cushion the blow of higher prices with an apocalyptic prediction of climate destruction.

Ignoring Congress, the EPA manufactured a regulatory interpretation that allowed them to force plants to use sequestration technology to capture carbon.  This technology does not even exist.  Enforcing this rule will start shutting down plants whose output was necessary to maintaining power levels in the Northeast during the record cold winter.

This is, of course, done to prevent global warming.

The Heritage Foundation's Stephen Moore and Joel Griffith researched all of the climate claims used as "proof" of climate catastrophe.  Every single weather phenomenon was debunked by the article. Temperatures have neither increased, nor dropped on average in ten years.  Tornadoes do not happen with any increasing frequency.  Hurricanes have actually happened less often.

Moore and Griffith also examined Jimmy Carter's own apocalyptic climate report, predicting oil shortages and starvation in 2000.  None of the fearsome claims made by the scientists of the 1970s ever came to pass.

And they wonder why Americans view politicized science with more skepticism now.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ethanol Destroys Small Engines, But Still No Warning

For the last few years, consumer advocates and manufacturers have worked to warn customers of the destructive effects of ethanol on engines.  Yet the federal government has still not mandated a warning at the gas pump.

Consumer Reports in May of last year described how ethanol destroys small engines.  During periods of non use, ethanol separates from the gasoline.  It burns hotter and corrodes vital parts, including the carburetor.  The government issued warnings about the E 15 blend, but most manufacturers now warn that gasoline with 10 percent ethanol can also harm engines.  They recommend special ethanol free gas.

AAA in 2012 issued that same warning about the threat of E 15 to automobile engines.

With warning labels on almost everything these days, why has the federal government remained reluctant to force gas stations to warn about the destructive effects of ethanol?