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Marti Halverson

Marti Halverson: There Is No “Big Tent”

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By Marti Halverson, guest columnist

History:

The Big Tent idea started in the mid-1970s, spearheaded by Ronald Reagan as he sought the presidency in 1976 and 1980.  At the time, Reagan led a fragile right-leaning coalition that ranged from the Christian right to libertarians, and Goldwater Republicans to northeastern old-establishment Rockefeller Republicans.

Reagan won in 1980, and then won a landslide in 1984.  The ideological Big Tent held again in 1988 with the election of George H. W. Bush.

However, in 1992, the Republican “Big Tent” was showing signs of disintegration.  President G. H. W. Bush became known as the “establishment,” “country club,” “Rockefeller Republican” who broke his “no new taxes” pledge.  Ross Perot attempted to pick up the conservative tent shreds.  Bush and Perot garnered 56% of the vote, while the moderate Democrat Bill Clinton won with only 43%.

Then, in 1994, Newt Gingrich came up with the conservative Contract with America and Republicans took the US House for the first time since 1952.  Now that Republicans had found a way out of the wilderness, Gingrich completely abandoned the Big Tent notion, and ran Republicans on a solid conservative Contract.

The establishment moderate Republican Bob Dole was defeated in 1996, failing to learn from, and capitalize on, the winning conservativism of 1994.  The please-everybody Big Tent folded for good in 1996.

George W. Bush ran as a conservative in 2000 and prevailed.  There may have been a wink-wink to the old Party establishment, but conservatism won the day at the polls.

After eight years of Barack Obama, Donald Trump picked up the traditional conservativism banner, stuck his finger in the eye of the big tent, moderate establishment and scored a huge electoral victory. 

Today:

The few Republicans in 2021 clinging to the notion that there is still a “Big Tent” are living in the past

In 2021, there is no big tent of ideologies.  In 2021, the country is totally polarized – progressive or conservative.  Any leftover “moderate” “establishment” “big tent” Republicans better pick a side.  There is no mushy middle anymore. 

President Trump personified an insurgent, anti-establishment rage against establishment “politics as usual” and the Republican Party’s “big tent” of the last century.

The only thing that has survived the 1970s and 1980s is Reagan’s 80/20 rule.

Today, the “Big Tent” is a Republican Party that has room for many people as they seek a home in a solid, anti-progressive, anti-socialist, small government, freedom-loving party – but, not for the varied and various, please-all ideologies of the 1970s and 1980s.

Republicans no longer need to, or should, dilute our principles to gain members and votes. That will cause the Republican Party to fail, as any entity that abandons its core principles fails.  It is about delivering mainstream conservative values to benefit every American – low taxes, less government regulation, and less government in our daily lives.  The last vestige of the big tent concept in 2021 is the broadening support for Republican, conservative values as more and more disenfranchised and disenchanted Democrats and Independents join us in the tent.

The term “Big Tent” no longer means that we welcome a broad spectrum of views.  Following Ronald Reagan’s 80/20 rule, we Republicans welcome those who might disagree with a few platform points but agree with us on most of the others.  And, the Party grows. 

For many years, the pro-choice standard bearer in the Republican Party, Ann Stone was given podium time at Republican national conventions, despite the party’s pro-life platform planks.  Because, in every other aspect, Ann Stone is a good, solid, highly respected, Republican woman, working hard for her party.

In 2018 and 2019 the Democrats successfully purged the last of their pro-life members.  Today, in the US House, there is not a single pro-life Democrat left.

In contrast to the 80/20 Republican Rule, the Democrats demand 100% conformance with their platform.  Even when Democrats met in Philadelphia, the Democrat, pro-life governor of Pennsylvania was not permitted to address the crowd.  There was not a dime’s worth of difference among the 2020 Democrat primary presidential candidates on abortion-up-to-birth, tax increases meant only to punish success, socialized medicine, unlimited immigration and open borders, hatred for big corporations, and the open disdain for religious Americans.  There is no diversity of opinion permitted or tolerated in that party.

The Republican party does, indeed, tolerate Republicans with small differences with its platform.  The 80/20 rule of thumb permits Republicans to disagree on 20% of the Platform, while “substantially” upholding the rest.  It is no coincidence that the GOP Platforms of 1860 and 2018 conclude with “Finally, having thus set forth our distinctive principles and views, we invite the cooperation of all citizens, however differing on other questions, who substantially agree with us in their affirmance and support.”  Our Party Bylaws define the Role of the party as “to achieve the election of Republican candidates who substantially uphold the platform of the Wyoming Republican Party.”

The anonymous WyoRINO.com uses a lower bar of 70% agreement with the Platform to distinguish “Republicans” from “Republicans in name only.”

Those who claim that the Republican Party is “inclusive” are right only 20% of the time.

Since 1854, the Republican party has been relatively exclusive.  If you supported slavery and the slave trade, you were not welcome in the new Republican Party.  If you supported the dissolution of the Union, you were not welcome in the new Republican Party.  If you supported the “extravagant and corrupt” federal government over the sovereignty of the states that created it, you were not welcome.  If you opposed the Homestead policies and a coast-to-coast railroad, you would not have been happy in the new Republican Party. 

In 2021, if you support a bloated state government to be maintained and sustained with more and higher taxes, and restrictions of the free exercise of religion, and abortion on demand, you might not be a Republican. 

If you think Wyomingites are “freeloaders,” you might not be a Republican.

If you support socialized, government-run health care, and gun control, and federal jurisdiction over 48% of Wyoming’s land, you might not be a Republican. 

Even if you are pro-life and pro-traditional social values, but you deny the sovereignty of the state of Wyoming, bending to the whims of an unelected federal and state bureaucracy, and the opinions of federal courts, and the demands of powerful unions and other special interests, you might not, actually, be a Republican.  If you support group rights over individual rights, you might not be a Republican.

Republicans can be all over the map on the issues of drugs and criminal justice reform, for example  – the Platform takes no stance on these issues.  Clues might be found in the party’s Resolutions wherein we take stands on the issues of the day.  But, those are temporal, timely issues – not the bedrock principles that distinguish us from the Democrats.

The history of the Republican Party shows that the more variances on our principles we tolerate or embrace, the more the party suffers.  Grass roots Republicans abandon the party when we get squishy on the issues that used to unite us and distinguish us from the Democrats.  In 2015, the Republican Party was losing its focus.  Then we developed the conservative 2016 State and National Republican Platforms.

In the last five years since 2016 two things have happened since the Big Tent of the 1970s:  the Republican Party has come home, or gone back, to its conservative roots; the Big Tent is now a people tent – not the tent of diluted, squishy, moderate ideologies crafted only for the hope that people will like us.  Folks are returning to the Republican Party with cries of, “It’s about time the Party stood on its principles!”

Marti Halverson: I Strongly Oppose a Convention of States

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To:  Senate Minerals, Business & Economic Development Committee

From:  Marti Halverson

            Re: Senate Joint Resolution 2, Convention of States-2

Gentlemen –

I strongly OPPOSE this Resolution and urge your NAY vote.

My testimony against Senate Joint Resolution 2, calling for a Convention of States, comes from the perspective that our current Constitution is pretty darn near perfect.  I don’t think it needs amending.

The three calls:

1.  “. . . impose fiscal restraints on the federal government . . .”  This is an admirable goal, but it is beyond naïve to think an amendment to the Constitution is going to restrain any administration with a currency printing press at its disposal.  The Office of Management and Budget, House and Senate Budget Committees, House and Senate Ways and Means Committees, and other actors involved in this country’s fiscal and budget policies, are capable of such smoke and mirrors that any “restraint” imposed by the Constitution will become just another minor hurdle to work around.  A recent example is President Obama’s claiming the PPACA (“Obamacare”) was “paid for” – while hiding $750 million stolen from Medicare to pay for it.  Crafty government officials and congressional staffers can spin a budget to fit any restraint a convention fantasizes it can impose.  And – do not doubt this – any new attempt to fiscally restrain Washington, D.C. will be the excuse any administration needs to impose massive tax increases.

2.  “. . . limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government . . .”  The power of the federal government is already limited by Article 1, Section 8 of the original Constitution, plus the Ninth Amendment and the Tenth Amendment.  I can’t imagine what amendment could be brought that is more explicit, or include more limitations than those.  As the federal government has, for 200 years since Congress first proposed an unconstitutional Transportation Department, felt unlimited in its power and jurisdiction, aided and abetted by a complicit judiciary that finds the rights to “privacy” and “dignity” in our Constitution, no amendment could possibly overcome congressional compulsions to act for the “general welfare” – even though that is only in Preamble, not the Constitution itself.  (And, make no mistake – there is vigorous debate that the clauses of the Preamble are NOT part of the Constitution.)  Finally, for those who think, however mistakenly, that the Supreme Court of the United States is the ultimate authority, remember that its Chevron deference gave all the power to the unelected agencies to interpret the laws as they see fit.  The states and we citizens of those states don’t have a chance of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government as long as that ruling stands.

3.  “. . . limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”  This is an especially egregious call, in my opinion.  Our US senators and representatives are the only members of the federal government that come home to face the voters.  I stipulate that many of them are part of the numerous problems that have plagued our relationship with the federal government, but they are only one cause of the very serious congressional and governmental dysfunctions.  The others are:

• the REAL “permanent political class” that are long-serving, partisan, unelected bureaucrats at every level who cannot be fired;

• long-serving, powerful, partisan unelected congressional and congressional committee staffers;

• long-serving, unelected, powerful highly paid special interest-lobbyists who write the bills for the long-serving, unelected, partisan congressional committee staffers;

•rotating, highly paid academic and crony-capitalist contractor consultants;

• wealthy, partisan, issue-oriented foundations that work with and influence the administrative, rule-writing, unaccountable bureaucracy, today commonly referred to as the “fourth branch of government,” a branch that is neither Constitutional nor democratic.

What amendment, or amendments could a convention possibly bring to fix all this?

“Officials” who are political appointees are already serving at the pleasure of an incumbent President.  As a matter of fact, they are the only government officials that are “term limited.” 

Most of the employees of the federal government are protected by the 1883 Civil Service Act, enacted in the Progressive Era, and strengthened regularly since, and their unions.  Witness the efforts of two Presidents and the many years it took to finally fire the director of the Veterans Administration.

Our country’s earliest document, The Articles of Confederation included term limits, known at the time as “rotation” but were omitted in the 1789 Constitution in favor of frequent elections.  Those who stood against term limits in 1789 argued that regular elections by the people could be a better check on corruption than constitutional limits, and that such restrictions would create their own problems.

On the other hand, long-serving representatives and senators use their tenure to more effectively advocate for constituents who need to deal with the deep-state bureaucracy, recently called “the federal colossus,” of the Social Security Administration, Medicare or Veterans Affairs, just to name three, than new congressmen who arrive in Washington, D.C. with expiration dates stamped on their foreheads.

Please know that the average tenure of a US Congressman is 6.5 years.  The group US Term Limits lost in the United States Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision (US Term Limits v. Thornton).  A Constitutional amendment is their final recourse.

Exactly WHO is driving Term Limits?  And, exactly, WHY?  Exactly WHO is so invested in limiting the terms of the only people that have to “go home” to face the voters, and to assess, first hand, the impact of their decisions, that so much money and effort has been poured into this terrible idea?  Term limits may add “rotation” to the legislative branch, but it will only cede additional power to a permanent, fourth branch of government – bureaucratic staffers who do not stand for election.

In summary: 

It is naïve to expect any amendment to the Constitution to impose fiscal restraints on a body whose livelihood depends on unrestrained financial largess; “ways will be found” to circumvent any restraints imposed by an amendment.

Many states, including Wyoming, are now developing mechanisms by which the power and jurisdiction of the federal government may be limited.  One mechanism is Thomas Jefferson’s “rightful remedy” – nullification.

One only needs to look at California to see Exhibit A of the utter failure of term limits and its consequences.  Term limits is the ultimate dream of the unelected bureaucracy.  Without those pesky electeds to deal with, that “fourth branch” of powerful, rule-making, regulation-imposing, can’t-be-fired, actual powers-that-be will be unfettered in their tyranny.

Please vote NO on SJ2, calling for a convention of states.

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Marti Halverson: Censure Of Elected Republican Officer Warranted

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Guest column by Marti Halverson, Etna, Wy
(State Representative, 2013-2019)

The Cowgirl Run Fund was the bipartisan brain child of several Wyoming women.  In principle, I support civic engagement in almost every form.  But one of the founders is an elected officer of her county’s Republican Party, and, as such, a member of the Wyoming Republican Party’s Central Committee.  

As a Republican, I find the funding of a Democrat woman over an incumbent Republican man by a Republican woman in party leadership offensive on many levels.  

Also offensive is the funding by JoAnn True’s PAC of the House Minority Floor Leader Rep. Cathy Connolly of Laramie, who is unopposed in her race.  So offensive, in fact, that True was censured by her colleagues on the WRP Central Committee on Sept. 12.  

Cowgirl Run Fund makes the assumption that women can serve in the Legislature more ably than men can serve.  This is inherently a sexist notion and is rejected by the Wyoming Republican Party, which promotes values over gender.

Having served in the Wyoming House for six years, I can attest that women are superbly represented.  The men are husbands, sons and fathers of daughters, and they hear from the women in their lives frequently on the issues before the legislature.  “Woman’s issues” are always well addressed.

Cowgirl Run Fund has succumbed to the gender-shaming heaped upon Wyoming by the mainstream media and progressive, so-called “woman” organizations that bemoan the small number of female legislators and other elected officials in this state.  Knuckling under to outside gender pressures is neither good policy, nor does it necessarily result in the best elected officials.

True and her Natrona County partners on the State Central Committee were absent from the meeting where the decision was made to censure her, which was unfortunate.  I would like to have heard a defense of her activities on behalf of Democrats and against Republicans.

Speaking only for myself, this woman has no place on the Central Committee of the Wyoming Republican Party and ought to step down immediately.

The Wyoming Republican Party is under attack from all sides, and from within, as mainstream Wyoming Republicans demand that the party become more principled on its return to its conservative roots.  

In my role as Wyoming’s National Committeewoman, I spent eight years traveling the state.  The complaint I heard consistently was about the party permitting Republicans-who-should-be-Democrats to ride on the Republican brand. 

In 2016, the Wyoming Republican Party and the Republican National Committee both adopted the most conservative platforms that either entity had seen in decades.  I am proud to have been part of both efforts.  Many other states are following suit.

Subsequently, we have seen a revolt by actors and factions that want the GOP to be all things to all people, and by Republicans who want Democrats to like them.  

Now that we are standing on the solid, timeless, conservative principles that have defined the GOP since its founding, the old guards like Mitt Romney, John Kasich and Jeff Flake find themselves more allied with actual Democrats and Progressives than with the Republican party they claim to have been serving all these years.

I am saddened that a member of the Wyoming Republican Party Central Committee, and a Republican leader in her own county, does not see fit to support incumbent Republican legislators, but rather to generously fund their Democrat opponents.

Her censure was appropriate.

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