The duo, Jim Pfaff and Sean Duffy, represented opposite ends of the debate on one of 2006’s most
Duffy calls himself a “pro-life, pro-gay” Republican, jokingly claiming that he’s been kicked out of the Republican Party multiple times only to come back for more abuse. You may remember him as the right-hand man of former Gov. Bill Owens, a conservative Republican.
“At the end of the day, as Republicans, we should all just want the government to leave us alone,” he told me.
And Pfaff, while frequently identified by his ties to Focus On The Family’s Dr. James Dobson and his commitment to “life” issues, says he wants to work with Duffy and other libertarian Republicans to begin rebuilding the Republican Party in the West after years of Democratic gains. In the last few years alone, five traditionally Republican Western states have elected Democratic governors. Pfaff is passionately eager to work through differences because he says he wouldn’t want to live in a pro-life socialist America. Socialism, he says, ultimately leads to a loss of all freedoms.
Over pints of Guinness, the two tell the story of the mutual admiration for each other. If this was your snapshot of the Republican Party’s two leading ideological factions, you’d have to wonder: What’s the problem?
The problem is huge. Republicans are facing an identity crisis of immense proportions. And social issues like gay rights and abortion are only the beginning. With George W. Bush at the helm, the federal government has maxed out our collective credit cards to continue funding the expansion of entitlement programs and an unpopular — but difficult to end — war.
For Republicans taking a stand against such reckless governance, they risk getting slapped with an “extremist” label. It’s no wonder so few of them are willing to stick their necks out.
It’s a reality already playing out in the early stages of Colorado’s closely-watched 2008 U.S. Senate race, where Bob Schaffer, a former Republican Congressman from Fort Collins, is taking on sitting U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs. While Schaffer should be given a gold star for his six years in Congress, he is being viciously attacked by liberals as a result of his fiscal restraint.
This is a man who fought consistently for a balanced budget, introducing a constitutional amendment to require such. Also a strong supporter of innovative education reform, Schaffer had the courage to vote against the unfunded mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, reform legislation championed by many in his party, including George W. Bush. His efforts fell on deaf ears under the modern re-election formula that requires little more than bringing massive cash infusions from Washington to one’s home district. Schaffer kept his promise of a three-term limit pledge, returning to Colorado after serving in Congress. He now serves on the state’s Board of Education, most recently calling for transparency in board member spending, requesting that all reimbursement requests by board members be posted online for the public to see.
A March 9 Denver Post report suggests that Schaffer’s record makes him extreme, with the article relying on an analysis of congressional records done by Keith Poole, a University of California political scientist, who according to the article “has created a more comprehensive picture, analyzing every roll-call vote in the U.S. House and Senate since 1937, ranking each of 3,425 lawmakers relative to one another on a scale from most liberal to most conservative.”
But how do you define “conservative” and “liberal” in today’s political environment? Washington would be a better place if only we could elect more people dedicated solely to voting against spending increases. Amidst concerns about rising inflation and unemployment, and coupled with the fact that the average American works until May every year just to pay his or her tax burden, a little tax relief could go a far way.
How does a candidate earn a “moderate” label? Most likely by supporting just enough spending increases to make Democrats play nice. It’s not a world I want to live in when we have a federal deficit that spins out of control and a Colorado state budget that legislators are still struggling to balance even in the aftermath of Referendum C’s nearly $6 billion tax increase.
Conservatives and libertarians should follow the lead of Pfaff and Duffy, putting aside their differences on social issues to elect viable candidates dedicated to protecting the working families and small business owners who suffer most when government spending expands. Now, after years of watching Republicans falter, here’s something I can toast to.
Editor’s note: Jessica Peck Corry’s weekly blogs are part of NewWest.Net/Politics’ “Diary of a Mad Voter” feature, a group blog, published in partnership with the Denver Post’s Politics West intended give a glimpse into the hearts and minds of several independent-minded voters and thinkers in the Rocky Mountain West in the ’08 election cycle. For more columns check in with www.newwest.net/madvoter. And for more information on each of the bloggers, click here.