Today’s Washington Post endorsement of Democratic Virginia senator Mark Warner is not surprising, but the editorial board’s case against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie is a revealing window on how people think in the city that takes what America makes:
We understand that Mr. Gillespie, who faced a competitive GOP primary, is loath to alienate Republican hard-liners. Yet his opposition to any new taxes — read: any compromise — is exactly the sort of promise that produces congressional paralysis and would defeat a bargain to cure the nation’s fiscal ills . . .
Mr. Gillespie, a former lobbyist, national and state GOP chairman and top adviser to President George W. Bush, has deep political and policy experience. Unlike many Republicans who have been content to attack Obamacare, he proposed an alternative — albeit one that would offer far less protection to vulnerable patients.
Mr. Gillespie has the skills to be a bipartisan player in the Senate, as Mr. Warner has been. Yet by promising never to compromise on taxes, he has taken himself out of the hunt for an exit from America’s fiscal impasse.
If only the voters — who are constantly telling pollsters that they’re fed up with Washington business as usual and forcing lifelong politicians to make improbable claims to “outsider” status — were as reasonable as the Post’s editorial board. The argument seems to be that what’s good about Gillespie is that he is another get-along-go-along pol; but unfortunately, he’s not quite as easy as Warner.
The equation of “new taxes” with “compromise” — which the paper should really be embarrassed to make after the stunning non-apocalypses of the budget sequester and the partial shutdown of some non-essential government services last year — also elides a point the two campaigns have been arguing over. Though Warner claims Gillespie signed the tax pledge created by Americans For Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, and his campaign even flooded the press room with literature to that effect at Monday’s debate, Grover himself has shot that story down. As Post Virginia reporters Jenna Portnoy and Laura Vozzella point out, “Norquist tweeted late Monday that Gillespie did not sign the pledge: “Gillespie told me he would not sign pledges. He didn’t. He told the people of Virginia he wouldn’t raise their taxes. He won’t. Warner did.’”
Gillespie told me he would not sign pledges. He didn't. He told the people of Virginia he wouldn't raise their taxes. He won't. Warner did
— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) October 14, 2014
The ed board’s case for Warner also mentions his successful governorship, “ability to cross partisan lines,” and the fact that many people still think he’s John Warner. (OK, not that last one.) But the only case against Gillespie is his opposition to “new revenue” to “tackle the nation’s fiscal problems in a balanced way.” In fact, as Ohio University economist Richard Vedder demonstrated in a 1980s study that has been repeated with the same results many times since, every dollar of tax revenue raised leads to more than one dollar of new spending by Congress. Studies of revenue-based deficit reduction efforts in other countries have shown the same.
Gillespie has closed some of his very wide polling gap against Warner, but other than a September Quinnipiac poll that showed him trailing by nine points, he has never come within double-digits of the incumbent. But the power of incumbency is not a ratification of bad math. Raising taxes only makes the country’s fiscal problems worse. Americans know that. Washingtonians don’t.