Sunday, August 15, 2010

Can We? Yes

David Stokes

Congressional job approval continues to tank, with now more than 70% of Americans decidedly less than enamored of the men and women who were once at least popular enough to win an election or two, or—if you’re Charlie Rangel—nineteen. People regularly use terms such as “dysfunctional,” “corrupt,” “self-serving,” “inept,” “confused,” “incompetent,” “ineffective” and “lazy” to characterize members of the House and Senate in general.

Therefore, all signs point toward a major house-cleaning this November. Some are predicting a Republican retaking of the House of Representatives and significant gains in the Senate. But it’s not just incumbent Democrats at risk—even some long-standing GOP members are running scared.

But there is one thing that needs to be noted now and remembered after the mid-term elections this fall. Americans—especially those who are on the verge of voting for authentic change—will be watching carefully, closely, and even impatiently for a new group of promise makers to actually follow through.

Last month, a contributor to the Christian Science Monitor expressed confusion that Congress is so unpopular in light of the fact that the current session has been “one of its most productive in decades.” The writer just couldn’t figure out how Americans were so disaffected when “Congress succeeded in passing sweeping reforms in the health care and financial industries.” The conclusion drawn in that piece of brilliant, yet clueless prose was that “the public has not felt the effects of any of those reforms passed by Congress yet.” Our problem, it turns out is “instant gratification.”

Yep. We’re a bunch of ungrateful babies and we’re not giving the wise and wonderful people in charge sufficient time for their really neat ideas and all the money being thrown around to actually work. Of course, the problem is that there will never be enough time or money to turn lead into gold—all governmental attempts at political alchemy notwithstanding.

Recently, Terry McAuliffe, former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and failed candidate for his party’s Virginia gubernatorial nomination last year, talked about one congressional district and race of particular importance. He went so far as to predict that if the Democrats cannot hang on to the seat in Virginia’s 11th Congressional District, “we will lose the House.”

Worth watching.

The current occupant of that pivotal seat is Democrat Gerry Connolly, former Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Prior to his election in the Obama sweep of November 2008, Republican Tom Davis had represented the district since 1995. In both 2000 and 2008, the 11th voted (barely) for George W. Bush.

Connolly has, since graduation from college, worked in and for government—local and federal. He is the consummate insider and a virtual poster child for professional political operatives trying hard to be statesmen. He has followed the Obama/Democrat agenda almost without deviation and is a formidable campaigner.

Running against Connolly is the man he defeated in 2008, businessman Keith Fimian, Chairman and Founder of U.S. Inspect, LLC, the nation’s largest provider of residential and commercial property inspection services.

Connolly demonized Fimian in that race as being “too extreme.” As evidence, he cited Keith’s opposition to embryonic stem cell research and abortion. He also mocked Fimian for not being an experienced politician.

That was then.

Now comes the rematch. This time around, President Obama has no coattails. In fact, the emperor of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. seems to be shedding more clothes all the time. The world of 2010 is very different from just two short years ago. It is more dangerous, though the victors of 2008 seem determined to ignore that. The economy has not improved, in spite of the greatest government intervention in American history.

We’ve been served up bailouts and boondoggles. Health care reform has only made an admittedly broken system worse. And new regulations on everything from banking to business have continued to stifle productivity, risk, investment—you know, the stuff that actually creates jobs.

Nearly fifty cents of every dollar the federal government spends is borrowed. And a child born today will owe more than $180,000 in his or her lifetime over and above regular tax payments in order to service the debt we are passing along.

President Obama loves to mention the credentials of some in his cabinet and larger orbit. PhD’s abound. But it reminds me of something the late Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn, said in 1961, when someone was swooning on about all the brilliant brains the new President, John F. Kennedy, had on his team. Rayburn complained, “Yeah, well, I sure wish one of them had run for sheriff somewhere at least once.”

Even a casual review of the highly placed resumes in power these days will yield a startling fact—there is no one in a key position who has ever had to make a payroll or run a business (a real one, making something other than money). That’s right, we have lawyers, people with fancy doctorates, think-tankers, community organizers, and professional politicians in abundance –but not a widget maker or seller to be found.

That’s where, I think, people like Keith Fimian have an opportunity. Remember Ross Perot (OK, OK, not my favorite fellow—a bit of a loon, actually) and the whole “checking under the hood” analogy back in 1992? He was popular for a short time (until his meds wore off) because people saw him as someone who had done something, built something, and who knew how to solve problems instinctively because of his business experience.

It’s going to be interesting to watch the race in Virginia’s 11th district, because the contrast between the candidates couldn’t be more dramatic. On the one hand, there’s an incumbent who will be unable to actually campaign on his pro-everything Obama voting record because it’s, well, very unpopular, likely to go into scorched earth attack mode. And then you have a challenger who represents traditional values and has a head for business.

Fimian says, “Washington is broken because its bond to the American people has been broken. What goes on there is no longer about us—it’s about them.”


If Keith Fimian and other like-minded challengers around the country find themselves victorious this November, one thing is certain—they had better resist the temptations and trappings of incumbent power and move swiftly to turn back the swelling and smelly tide of statism and elitism.

Personally, I find myself thinking—Can we? Yes!