Are McDonnell, Other Republicans Committed To Small Government Principles?

Brian Gottstein
Brian Gottstein

I was worried about Governor-elect Bob McDonnell’s lack of small government, free market credentials long before election day.  Although he had a mostly conservative track record as a state legislator and attorney general, his understanding of our constitutional rights concerned me when he voted to restrict our Second Amendment rights with the one handgun per month law, supported a weak eminent domain reform bill that was written by the very developers who use eminent domain laws to take away our homes and businesses, stated in his college thesis (which he wrote when he was 34 years old) that the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize contraception for Americans was taking individual liberty too far, gave his legal opinion that the state was allowed to create unelected taxing authorities that could raise taxes for roads (this was later declared unconstitutional by the Virginia Supreme Court), and refused to take a pledge to not raise taxes in a state that ranks as the sixth highest taxed state in the nation, where government waste in the billions of dollars has been identified.

Then McDonnell openly ran his campaign for governor as a moderate to get votes from moderates and independents in Northern Virginia and Tidewater.

Now that he is denouncing a proposed “conservative principles test” for candidates who want to run under the Republican label, I fear we have someone in office who is not completely dedicated to smaller government, free markets, and free people.

A few members of the Republican National Committee recently proposed a 10-point checklist on issues such as government-run health care, cap and trade, gun rights, illegal immigration, smaller government, lower deficits, and lower taxes.  If the checklist is approved, Republican candidates would have to sign on to supporting at least eight out of the 10 principles on the list.  Those who do not would not receive endorsements or funding from the national party.  The resolution does not say these candidates can’t still be Republicans, it just says they won’t be eligible for national party money or endorsements.

McDonnell warned Republicans last week about the danger of creating an ideological “purity test” to weed out moderate candidates.  This is because, as a politician, he feels Republicans can’t win elections unless they court independents by touting moderate policies during their campaigns.

“To the degree that we have covenants of limitation which exclude people, we’re going to have a hard time attracting independent voters in the future,” McDonnell told reporters. Independent voters swung 2-1 in favor of McDonnell over Creigh Deeds in the gubernatorial election.

Instead of courting moderates with bigger government policy ideas, McDonnell should take a lesson from colleagues like Ken Cuccinelli, his running mate and Virginia’s attorney general-elect, by framing small government, free market principles in a way that appeals not only to conservatives, but to most moderates, as well.

Now, I don’t agree with all the elements of the proposed test, (I am a Libertarian, so I don’t have to) but I think it’s a darn good idea to have one. We have to remember that this is merely a proposal by a few members of the Republican National Committee. The 10 principles outlined in the document will likely get amended before the resolution actually is voted on by the entire committee. Additionally, the principles test would not even ask candidates to agree with all the principles, so if a candidate had a problem of conscience with up to two of them, he would still be eligible for financial support and an endorsement.If you don’t agree with most of the basic principles of an organization of which you are a member, and an organization that you will represent as a candidate and an elected office holder, why should you expect money and an endorsement from that organization?

The idea of a principles test in general is long overdue for the Republican Party, which has talked about smaller government, but in the last several years, has only created bigger government.  If an organization’s trademark is its set of principles – yet it keeps endorsing people who have no intention of sticking to those principles – it loses its trademark.  I commend the committee members at the RNC for at least proposing something to try to get their trademark back.  It makes me wonder what those who oppose it are afraid of.

By Brian Gottstein