By Kirkwood Callahan • Guest Columnist
Two years ago, America’s newest political superstar, Barack Obama, walked across campaign stages to thunderous applause. Today he is the object of derision from fellow Democrats fighting for their political lives.
“When you are wrong, you are wrong!,” says West Virginia’s Gov. Joe Manchin, the Democrat candidate for the U.S. Senate. He disagrees with the president on “issues that we believe in dearly in West Virginia.” The governor opposes the Cap and Trade bill, and criticizes his party’s “wasteful spending.”
Manchin’s efforts to distance himself from the White House epitomize Gov. Haley Barbour’s (R-Miss.) observation that Democrats were running from Obama “like scalded dogs.”
Others, too numerous to list here, have detached themselves from Obama. These Democrats know Obama’s coattails were sheared after Obama-backed candidates in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts fell before Republicans. Even after these defeats, the Democrats’ super majorities in Congress gave him big legislative victories, Obama-Care being the greatest prize. Now the political bill has come due, and the cost is very dear.
Some powerful congressional Democrats saw the writing on the wall and retired — Sens. Chris Dodd, Conn., and Evan Bayh, Ind., and Rep. David Obey, Wis., among them. Powerful members who chose to stay in the race — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nev., and his colleagues Barbara Boxer, Calif., and Russ Feingold, Wis., face formidable opponents.
What explains this change in political fortunes?
More voters now understand what Obama meant by “hope and change” but reject it. However, a more comprehensive answer lies in understanding the transformation within the country’s conservative ranks.
Many conservatives felt let down after the GOP’s humiliations in 2006 and 2008. The fallen party had lost its way as it dispensed earmarks and spent money. A year ago, I wrote that many considered a new party combining the energies of independents and other disaffected groups to find a way out of the nation’s morass. But a third party did not come to pass. Instead, the GOP had a house cleaning.
Conservatives coalesced into various Tea Party groups and similar organizations like Haywood’s 9-12 movement. Many put their energies to work within the Republican infrastructure, which is essential to conservative victories. Their message was clear: get back to conservative basics — the principles of limited government and fiscal restraint. Sarah Palin gave liberal pundits heartburn as her endorsements catapulted challengers to primary victories.
Veteran GOP politicians who strayed from a starboard course met defeat. In Delaware, Christine O’Donnell’s victory over nine-term Rep. Mike Castle for the U.S. Senate nomination was the most recent.
Incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a member of an established political family, fell in the Alaskan Republican primary to Joe Miller. In Utah three-term Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was denied re-nomination by his party’s state convention.
In response to the political season, Republican House Leader John Boehner has announced “A Pledge to America” that will control spending, create jobs, repeal and replace Obama-Care, and maintain American security (see www.gop.gov).
The North Carolina GOP has announced a policy platform for winning control of the General Assembly. Boiled down, the platform pledges fiscal responsibility, exemption from the mandates of Obama-Care, encouragement of private-sector job growth, a lifting of the cap on charter schools and property rights protected by an Eminent Domain constitutional amendment. An “Honest Election Act” will require a valid photo ID to vote, and integrity in government will be restored. (See www.ncgop.org/)
Close to home, the battle wages intensely. Congressman Heath Shuler, who voted for Obama’s Cap and Trade bill, avoided open town hall meetings with his constituents. The man who voted twice to seat Nancy Pelosi as speaker is facing a challenge from Hendersonville businessman Jeff Miller who offers a common sense conservative approach to governing.
Sens. Joe Sam Queen and John Snow, whose districts cover Haywood County, are in a fight for political survival. Ralph Hise, Spruce Pine’s mayor, and Jim Davis, Macon county commissioner, challenge the incumbents’ failure to improve the region’s economy and will pursue more jobs and adherence to traditional values.
In the Haywood districts for the N.C. House, Sam Edwards and Dodie Allen challenge Ray Rapp and Phil Haire, veteran legislators who have served as taxes rose and state budgets swelled. Edwards and Allen have promised strict fiscal conservatism. At the courthouse level, three Republicans — Denny King, David Bradley, and Tom Freeman — challenge two incumbents, Kirk Kirkpatrick and Bill Upton, as well as one new office seeker, Michael Sorrells.
Haywood Republicans will hold their Annual Harvest Dinner this Saturday evening, Oct. 2 ,at Tuscola High cafeteria. The keynote speaker will be North Carolina’s senior U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. Other candidates will speak also. For details call 828.246.7921.