The RINOs charge: Republicans’ return to the middle signals hope for infrastructure funding

Updated Nov 7, 2013

With Chris Christie easily winning his second term as governor of New Jersey and Bradley Byrne winning his first election to the House of Representatives from Alabama’s District 1 yesterday, pundits on the left are hailing the resurgence of what they see as moderate republicans.

If this is the beginning of a trend, it may presage a better chance getting a better highway bill through congress and more funding for infrastructure in the next few years.

One thing we can be certain of is that if it were up to the Tea Party, infrastructure spending would be cut to levels below what we have today. In all likelihood the Tea Party’s solution to highway funding would be to privatize it all and let giant conglomerates, many of them foreign owned, run our roads and charge whatever they want.

Because in their eyes, government is always bad and private enterprise is always good. But in that notion lies the death of the Tea Party.

Ronald Reagan commented once that government isn’t the solution, government is the problem thereby launching one of the foundational principles of modern republicanism. There is a grain of truth to that statement, but it is only a partial truth and much damage has come from people who think it’s the whole truth.

The whole truth is that there are some government agencies that function well and some that don’t. The Federal Aviation Administration, for example, handles an enormously complicated task with admirable efficiency. Remember in the late 1980s when microburst downdrafts from thunderstorms were grinding big jet airliners into the ground with alarming frequency? The FAA figured out the problem, found and implemented a solution and air traffic has never been safer, thank God.

When you look at the government agencies that have the most problems it seems that they are the ones that suffer the most from political meddling. EPA—highly politicized. Health and Human Services—run by lobbies. Maybe what Reagan should have said is: “Government isn’t the problem; a government run by meddling by self-seeking, score settling, headline grabbing, self-aggrandizing politicians is the problem.” The democrats are as much to blame for this sorry state of affairs as the republicans.

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Much as the Tea Party would like, we can’t shrink the government to zero. The issue then becomes how much government do we need and how best to manage that? Addressing these two issues requires competence, professionalism, a high level of managerial involvement and a willingness to let go of pointless ideology.

Can the Tea Party find and promote candidates with these qualities? If not then it is probably doomed. So far, the Tea Party has only come up with the nickname RINO, or “Republican In Name Only,” for such candidates.

I can’t speak for Christie, but Bradley Byrne is a smart politician. He’s not as liberal as I suspect many of the liberal pundits think. He has taken on the education lobby in Alabama and successfully tackled some thorny problems for his state.

Byrne also has the endorsement of the Associated Builders and Contractors, which counts for something in the construction world. His district, Mobile, is one of the top job-creating industrial powerhouses in the Southeast.  And let’s not forget this is the most conservative state in the union.

The Tea Party opposed him and lost. Blame the big money if you will, but there are still people who remember what the Tennessee Valley Authority (a big government program if there ever was one) did to bring electricity to every corner this once poor, rural state. And nobody here wants to go back to candles and kerosene lanterns.