Foreign Policy

Leaving Wayne's World

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With 98 percent of the votes counted, it looks like Maryland Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, one of a small handful of antiwar Republicans in Congress, has been defeated by the Cockeysville conservative Andy Harris. (Gilchrest's other major challenger, E.J. "Rupert" Pipkin, finished third.) Harris had been endorsed by the anti-tax, anti-spending Club for Growth because of his "consistent track record of fighting for limited government and pro-growth policies." Unfortunately, Harris' "consistent track record" includes his support for an unnecessary war that has already cost over $1 trillion. I have plenty of problems with the incumbent's economic record, but on the most important issue related to fiscal conservatism in the last 10 years, Gilchrest has been right and Harris has been wrong.

It's far from certain that Harris will be able to defeat Democrat Frank Kratovil. The Dems will pour money into taking the district now that their sometime-ally Gilchrest is out of the picture; and Harris, who lives on the western side of the Chesapeake, will have a hard time attracting votes from the Eastern Shore.

The country faces an ugly choice this November: Either elect a Republican president and reaffirm the Bush foreign policy, or elect a Democrat and put both the White House and Congress in the hands of the same party. If the First District of Maryland turns against one of Washington's few antiwar Republicans and then hands his seat to a Democrat, it will have somehow managed to embrace the worst of both worlds.

Elsewhere in Reason: Dave Weigel interviewed Gilchrest last May, and he looked at the congressman's primary fight yesterday.

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  1. That’s why I strongly recommend that people write in ‘NOTA’ on their ballots.

    The politicians can’t claim to have a mandate if they’re all rejected.

  2. How similar is this to Paul’s re-election? Will he have the same fate?

  3. Note the time stamp on the following comment:

    Eric Dondero | February 13, 2008, 6:39am | #

    A look at all the libertarian websites and blogs this morning shows not a single one talking about the Wayne Gilchrist crushing defeat. Nothing up on Reason.com. Liberty Papers, Knappster, Third Party Watch, Nolan Chart, predictably ignore the story.

    Wanker.

  4. Wait, Republicans nominated a pro-war candidate with a better tax and spend record? It’s shocking. I’m shocked. Are you shocked?

  5. joe,

    I guess dondero was unable to find the primary thread posted last night.

    Wanker is an understatement.

  6. What’s particularly wanker-ish, robc, is that Dondero posted that on the Potomac Primary Thread.

  7. Clearly there was fraud involved. No one Reason knows would have voted for the guy.

    Reason certainly wouldn’t have a problem with anti-war folks voting out a pro-war rep. It goes both ways.

  8. The exit polling from last nights demonstrates two things about the Republican primary electorate: it is smaller and more conservative than in 2000 and 2004. The moderates, and even the center-right, is bailing on the party.

  9. Reason certainly wouldn’t have a problem with anti-war folks voting out a pro-war rep.

    If by “Reason” you mean “Jesse,” you’re right. Were you under the impression that I was claiming to be opposed in principle to voting people out of office?

  10. joe,

    I wouldn’t rely on primary numbers to extrapolate to the general election.

  11. “Were you under the impression that I was claiming to be opposed in principle to voting people out of office?”

    No Jesse, I don’t think you object to the principle of throwing out an incumbant. As much as I would like to think this payback for an anti-war Republican, I doubt it was. The fact is Iraq is not that important of an issue for very many people this year. Gilchrest was your typical big spending Republican and people didn’t like that. Most people are not giving free passes for that just because you oppose the war the way Reason is. In the same way, I don’t think supporting the war is going to get you very far if you have pissed off your constiuency about other issues.

  12. Joe: Give McCain a chance to campaign and at least a little credit. As much as it may not feel like it at times, the general’s not until November, and I hear swiftboats can transport things pretty far over 8 months.

  13. Pro Libertate,

    And yet, it does show that primary voters of the democratic side are more interested in their candidates than their counterparts on the republican side. As a barometer, I don’t know because I don’t have data from previous primaries, but I wouldn’t be suprised by a more numerous and energetic democratic bloc creating a blowout in the general election.

  14. My comment was about “the Republican primary electorate.”

  15. John,

    I think you are right. His challenger might not be that much better than Gilchrist, but voters probably didn’t vote him out solely because they wanted a unified “all war all the time” GOP. That’s also why I think Chris Peden is detined to lose to Paul, because Paul is devoutly conservative EXCEPT when it comes to the war (as far as the status quo for the party is concerned)

  16. I simply want to take issue with the assertion that “…but on the most important issue related to fiscal conservatism in the last 10 years, Gilchrest has been right and Harris has been wrong.”, giving the impression that the Iraq war (given the preceding context) is the most important fiscal conservatism isssue of the last 10 years. That’s simply not true:
    AEI report
    (pointed out by Steve Horowitz in a different venue)

    I know most at reason are focused on the war, almost to the exclusion of other libertarian values (can I get a ruling? I’d like to have a drink, but I’m not sure the above qualifies and I need plausible deniability if the boss walks in), but don’t overstate the case. The most important issue for fiscal conservatives of the last 10 years is most definitely not the Iraq war – it’s the Republican parties embrace of big government spending.

    -K

  17. joe,

    I do think its possible to consider extrapulation, considering how far from center the republicans have swung the past 8 years.

  18. L i T,

    The numbers also show that many more independents are voting for a Democrat in the primaries than a Republican, even Maverick McCain.

    Turnout in Virginia – Bush 2000, Bush 2004 – was 2:1 in favor of the Democrats. I don’t see how that goes away.

  19. Karl,

    In dollar terms, I think SS and Medicare are bigger issues than the war. “Big government spending” covers too much to count as a single issue, but I dont think the war is the biggest fiscal conservatism issue of the past 10 years.

    It may be third though.

  20. I think extrapolation is reasonable, too, but that wasn’t what I was doing. I was explaining why Gilchrist lost – because the Republican primary electorate has become much more conservative and pro-war as its centrist chunk has crossed the aisle in the primaries.

    If you ask for a Democratic ballot because you want to vote for Obama, you don’t get to cast a vote in the Republican House primary. That’s what I was saying.

  21. Of course, McCain has the nomination sewn up and the Democratic primaries are still a dogfight. If you’re an independent who likes McCain and Obama, you vote in the Dem primary.

    I think national polls are a better indicator of who’s more popular at this point than turnout tea leaf reading, unexact though they are.

  22. Joe,

    I understand and agree.

  23. Karl: I meant “issue” more narrowly than that. The Iraq war is (among other things) a subset of the Republican Party’s embrace of big spending. It is the most expensive item that the party insists on paying for, currently exceeding even Medicare Part D (which Gilchrest, to his discredit, voted for).

    John: Conservatives in Gilchrest’s district have been grumbling about his liberal ways for ages. It’s widely believed that it was his opposition to the Iraq war that opened the door to a successful challenge. When the only issues on the table were domestic — guns, abortion, spending, gay rights, etc. — he kept getting renominated.

  24. I understand, but my point was that the relative conservatosity of the GOP in certain primaries usually gets damped come the general election. As to your point, with Huckabee so far behind and with Paul a distant third, the turnout should be weak, anyway, and independents are likely to vote in a way where their vote has the most value.

    I’m not a McCain fan, but I think he’s very likely going to win it all. Obama and Clinton are going to look very inexperienced next to him, and I don’t see the media dumping its love affair with the man just because they have leftish leanings. In the end, they generally love a good narrative more than their politics. Makes deadlines easier to meet 🙂

  25. I just wrote:

    It is the most expensive item that the party insists on paying for

    I should clarify: I’m referring to programs that actually went up for a vote in the last 10 years. I’m not including preexisting entitlements.

  26. Pro Lib, Josh,

    Democratic turnout has been swamping GOP turnout since Iowa.

    On Super Tuesday, more Democrats voted than Repblicans in Georgia. Georgia!

  27. The country doesn’t face the worry of putting “both the White House and Congress in the hands of the same party.” It may, however put both the White House and Congress in the hands of Democrats.

  28. joe,

    I know you want to believe that we’re all turning Democrat (and Japanese–you’re an odd duck), but I think the fact that one race is in contention and another isn’t has more to do with turnout than anything else. McCain looked like a firm frontrunner well before Romney dropped out.

    Looks like the Senate jinx is ending, in any case.

  29. No tears for Mr. Gilchrest who is an evil man. He just happened to be right on the war.

  30. Pro Lib,

    Once again, the “one contested race” argument doesn’t work, because Democratic turnout has been swamping Republican turnout all season, even when both contests were close. Look at the cnn.com page for Iowa, NH, Nevada, South Carolina, and the Super Tuesday states.

  31. I know you want to believe that we’re all turning Democrat

    How’s about we save the accusations of confirmation bias for comments that don’t align with the objective, measureable data?

  32. Good riddance to Wayne Gilchrest, an inveterate hater of individual liberty.

    He voted for so much welfare and new entitlements that he actually contributed more to the federal debt in future years than the war that his opponents supported — no mean feet.

    He’s not an anti-war fiscal conservative, like Walter Jones or Ron Paul.

    Gilchrest is a champion pork-barrel spender and money-waster (not to mention a knee-jerk supporter of job-killing regulations).

  33. As a libertarian constituent of Gilchrests, it amazes me that the Reason crowd has embraced him. Gilchrest is about as far from a libertarian as any politician around. His embrace of higher taxes, increased government spending, gun control, and environmental regulation puts him solidly in the statist camp. Even his “anti-war” views are suspect. I’ve heard him speak a few times on the war and he isn’t in favor of pulling out of the country. In fact, he says in almost every speech I’ve heard that it is necessary for us to stay there for a long time. He just wants a change in strategy.

    Jesse, you simply don’t know what you’re talking. Gilchrest wants a change in the Bush foreign policy, sure, but he doesn’t want a more libertarian foreign policy. You are making the mistake of thinking that anti-Bush is anti-war.

    Harris is too pro-war for my tastes but he is very anti-tax and wants to cut spending. He’s also pro-gun. He won’t be a perfect Congressman but he’ll be much better than Gilchrest was.

  34. I’ll go with Dondero is a wanker. I loathe political lapdogs. As for Gilchrest, Ehlrich is still popular on the Eastern Shore (which generally detests the rest of Maryland). The O’Malley tax increases are unpopular. The BGE rate hikes are unpopular. The battle between local governments and the state on growth issues are bitter. Normally, a vote split with Pipken and Harris would have meant a clear victory for Gilchrest. I think the Ehrlich support, Harris’ chest of money and the Eastern Shore discontent did him in. Now, the interesting battle will be Harris, a western shore pol, fighting a pitched battle with the Democratic nominee.

  35. joe,

    Oh, please. No, let’s have a vote. Does joe have an accurate view of the popularity of the Democratic Party? If you think so, please send joe a $1.00.

    You can’t win, joe, because I hate both parties and have the twin powers of schadenfreude and cynicism. [Sounds of maniacal laughter as Pro Libertate returns to his neglected work.]

  36. They won’t dare use outside money and influence to toss out RP in his congressional primary. Loyal RP supporters around the country will go nuts and run Independents against vulnerable GOP incumbents. Go ahead, punks, make my day.

  37. [Looks at PL’s neglected work]

    I think you should come back to commenting, that work is not going to get done.

    And while I don’t feel I’m converting to a democrat, I might just vote for another one this fall if McCain continues down the path he’s set before him.

  38. Democrats are excited about their candidates this year, Republicans are not. I actually have to agree with joe that the turnout is because of excitement or lack thereof, not because one party has chosen a winner.

  39. creech,

    They’ve done it before, they’ll do it again.

  40. Let me just add that anyone how fears a Democratic takeover of the seat because Harris is from the Western Shore is forgetting some key facts:

    1. Around half of the voters in the district live on the Western Shore.

    2. The Eastern Shore votes heavily Republican in almost every federal race.

    3. The First Congressional District was gerrymandered to concentrate GOP voters in it.

    4. The Eastern Shore doesn’t have an issue with voting for someone who is from the West. There are a lot of transplants from other places who live here and they don’t buy into the visceral hatred of outsiders that some seem to think is pervasive here. If a politician from the Western Shore shares the same values, voters here will choose him over a politician from the Eastern Shore who is too liberal.

  41. They won’t dare use outside money and influence to toss out RP in his congressional primary. Loyal RP supporters around the country will go nuts . . .

    Awesome.

  42. Does joe have an accurate view of the popularity of the Democratic Party?

    The comment you are referring to was about the popularity of the Democratic PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES.

    Vote, shmote. Reality isn’t determined by majority opinion.

  43. “Reality isn’t determined by majority opinion.”

    Thank God.

    Wait, I mean Thank Science!

  44. My reality is.

  45. Let me tell you my favorite Eastern Shore joke, Marc. A baby is born in a Baltimore hospital. She is taken the next day to Tilghman Island. She grows up, marries. He has many children and grandchildren. She spends her entire life working in and around the people of Tilghman and becomes a respected member of the community. She dies at the amazing age of 101 years old. The first line of her obituary reads, “A Baltimore woman died last week….”

    The lose of Gilchrest makes the race more interesting. The primary was bloody and brutal and Harris spent a ton of money. The national Democratic party will see this as an opportunity to run against an unknown rather than a long-time incumbent. Harris is pro-war and the anti-war sentiment is strong in Maryland, even with some Republicans (who make up what, a third of the electorate?) I’m not saying Harris is in trouble. I’m saying it’s a horse race.

  46. Before we read the Gilchrest defeat as some sort of vindication for Donderoesque views of the electorate’s temperature, isn’t it worth pointing out that a Democrat primary challenger also managed to unseat 8-term incumbent Wynn?

    I think it’s pretty apparent to anyone who is willing to look and be honest that the overall electorate is on a leftward pendulum swing right now. A conservative insurgent in a primary challenge could win because the Republican party is shrinking and hardening its views [right moving rightward per se, but consolidating around a specific set of protofascist security positions].

    The Republican primary electorate is moving right, and the Democrat primary electorate is moving left. Overall Democrat identification is also growing. I don’t see how to read that data other than to say that the electorate as a whole is moving to the left. They’ve been DRIVEN there by Republican security policies, and unfortunately now that they’re over there we’re probably going to get a big old disgusting dose of progressivism to go with the pretty much inevitable Bush WoT rollback.

  47. Wait a second. Since we’re talking about the outcomes of elections, reality IS determined by popular vote.

    My bad.

  48. Fluffy,

    I don’t know about the Democrat primary electorate is moving left.

    Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both DLC-ish centrists. I consider them both more moderate than John Kerry. John Edwards, the candidate with a genuinely leftish message who was considered a top contender, got smooshed.

    If anything, the Democratic primary electorate is moving towards the center, and centrists and center-rightist are joining it.

  49. I live in the “shit house.” I am a registered Libertarian. Most of the Republicans I know are pro-war and didnt like Wayne. Dems and moderates loved the guy. I backed him for that 1 important reason.

    One thing is telling though. This was definitely ALL about the War. A pro-life lawyer ran as a conservative in 2002, and Wayne defeated him easily. The same goes for State Sen. Richard Colburn.

    This is at least the 3rd time “conservative” challengers have run against Wayne saying he is not conservative enough for the district ( FWIW, in my part of the shithouse almost all mayors, city councils, county commissions, and State Deleg, are mostly/all Democrat. Colburn is just about the only Republican. It aint that “conservative”). They always failed.

    but this time “conservative” apparently ONLY meant “rah rah rah, war, war, iraq, 9/11, bomb Iran.” Much like the POTUS race and the great conservative credentials of john McCain and Mitt Romney.

    But, as I said before I dont think the district is that pro-war or conservative. Maybe the Republican party is. But Wayne enjoyed support of moderates and liberals, and the lack of a serious Democratic challenger. Democrats I know always voted for him, as did Republicans ( especially in the general election, of course).

    It will be interesting to see who votes for Andy harris outside of the hardcore pro-war GOP base.

  50. Can someone please explain to me how the Republicans have become “more conservative”. I mean I’m used to hearing that from NPR commentators, but on H&R?

    The current crop of Rs is all about expanding entitlement programs, trying innovative new methods to make government work, expanding the american empire. What’s conservative about that?

    I thought conservatism was about returning to an earlier golden age of smaller government. Not returning to the 1970s.

  51. matth,

    Think about “the Republican primary electorate” as a line running from the center to the right.

    Now chop off the left-most third of that line.

    What remains is more conservative than the original line.

  52. “Conservative”= hate gays, hate immigrants, pro-war

  53. FWIW,

    Based on normal criteria, I believe Andy Harris also qualifies as conservative. He’s mostly good. He’s just wrong on that 1 important issue- which is IMHo a big deal.

  54. It’s the Club for Growth’s discredited supply-side myopia, which doesn’t actually give a rats ass about spending (military spending never counts) as long as you cut taxes, that is, along with the war, on the verge of wiping out the Republican Party. Of course, maybe that’s the plan.

  55. [R]eality IS determined by popular vote.

    Well, it depends on what you mean by “popular”. With the delegate system or the Electoral College. . .well, I don’t have to tell you about that.

    My reality is determined solely by what I ate for breakfast.

  56. john, the Democrat who will be running against Harris, Frank Kratovil, is against a timetable for withdrawal for Iraq and his position on immigration is pretty much the same as Harris’s. It’s not as if we are going to have a race between a pro-war Republican and a pro-war Democrat. Kratovil is running to the right and embracing a platform that should give libertarians here a problem — continued U.S. intervention abroad, more government in our pocketbook.

  57. Conservatives in Gilchrest’s district have been grumbling about his liberal ways for ages. It’s widely believed that it was his opposition to the Iraq war that opened the door to a successful challenge. When the only issues on the table were domestic — guns, abortion, spending, gay rights, etc. — he kept getting renominated.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the Iraq war is a suicide pact conservatives have made with themselves.

  58. Franklin Harris,

    What’s odd is that the election doesn’t seem to be generally concerned with the war. Maybe it’s due to economic concerns coming to the forefront; maybe it’s just ADD. It’s because of that fact that I think McCain is a lock to win it all. Otherwise, he’d be toast.

  59. joe,

    Except that the current Republican party doesn’t champion any policies that I would connect with the word “conservative”. Except in a Lewis Carrol sort of sense.

  60. Well, hating gays and immigrants could be considered conservative I suppose, since they didn’t exist back in the golden age.

  61. Pro Libertate –

    Once the media had decided that Paul’s antiwar campaign was meaningless, the war had no real role to play in the primary contests in either party. No one really wanted to listen to the Republicans try to parse out whether Romney was pro-war enough, and no Democrat ever successfully differentiated their Iraq position from the rest of the field.

    The media also decided to buy into Petraeus’ “No Showing Bombing Photos” marching orders for a while.

    Neither of those conditions will continue into the general election season. If you don’t think McCain’s apparent desire to bomb every country he can reach and occupy the Middle East for 100 years will be made into a campaign issue every day, I think you’re mistaken.

  62. Fluffy,

    Maybe. I doubt it, though. Not unless things take a serious downwards trend in Iraq in the next six months. And whatever level of recession this cycle is about to reward us with will probably be in full swing by election time, too.

  63. Violence in Iraq is roughly at its 2005-2006 levels. As I recall, it was a pretty big issue back then.

  64. joe,

    No, we need more “terrible sexy measures” before we can get irate again.

  65. Or perhaps if we’re driven back to our womby vaultages, in untranslated Shakespearean speak. I mean, if we’re driven into womby vaultages, I might vote strictly on the war issue.

  66. Terrible sexy measures? Forcing us into a womby vaultage?

    I’ll be in my bunk.

  67. joe,

    The inevitable destination of those who read Shakespeare. Or the Bible.

  68. Joe is correct the democrat turnout has been swamping the republican turnout.

    The republican primary voter is looking at the choices available and deciding maybe the appropriate thing to do is to stay home and drink heavily instead of going to the primary.

    This raises the interesting possibility of a down ticket republican wipeout caused by lack of turnout in the general election.

  69. I don’t think the war played that big a role in his defeat. I think two things defeated him

    1. His anti growth position on economic issues.

    2. The presence of club for growth to publicize his anti growth economic positions and make sure the voters were aware of it.

    Harris Defeats Gilchrest in MD-01!

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