Guest Opinion: A modest Republican manifesto

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Democrats in New Hampshire learned from their mistakes in 2002, when they were nearly extirpated en masse because of their public support of an income tax. A Democrat who pledged to veto a sales and income tax is the governor-elect, which marks the fourth time in the last five elections that New Hampshire has had a Democrat governor.

Let’s also face facts. New Hampshire is not as Republican a state as is commonly believed. Tax-phobic, yes. But Republican as in “red state” Republican, no. For example, during the 2002 legislative session, school choice legislation was defeated, while a parental notification law barely passed. And it appears that New Hampshire will become even bluer in the coming session.

Democrats and Republicans-in-name-only, or “Main Street Republicans” as they prefer to call themselves, have functional control of the New Hampshire House as their combined votes constitute a majority, albeit a small one. And although the remaining Republicans number close to 200, it is unclear whether they can form a cohesive opposition, as they split over the choice of speaker.

The Executive Council, which has been majority Republican-in-name-only for a long time, has swung even further to the left as liberal Democrat Deborah Pignatelli defeated incumbent conservative Republican David Wheeler.

While the state Senate remains overwhelmingly Republican in numbers, it re-elected as its president the liberal Tom Eaton. At the federal level, Representative Charlie Bass has been elected leader of the “Tuesday Group,” which is the name that Republicans-in-name-only in the U.S. House call themselves, while New Hampshire’s other representative, Jeb Bradley, regularly attends the group’s meetings. The U.S. Senate appears to be the last bastion of red state Republicanism in New Hampshire.

Unless Republicans, and I’m not talking about Main Street Republicans or Tuesday groupies, want to continue losing ground, they need to change tactics. Here are a few ideas.

First, fix education funding. The way to do this is by passing a constitutional amendment that would ban an income tax. The Claremont case has never really been about education, it has always been about taxes and the ultimate goal of Attorney Volinsky, who always has been the real plaintiff in this lawsuit, is an income tax. Take an income tax off the table, and Volinsky will no longer have any incentive to keep litigating.

When the debate is framed in terms of spending, Democrats usually win because the debate is over which party will give you the bigger free lunch. But when the debate is framed in terms of taxes, Republicans usually win because the debate is over which party will let you keep more of your own money.

Second, support traditional marriage by passing a constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Amendments protecting traditional marriage won in 11 out of 11 states in November, averaging 70 percent of the vote. The measures in eight of these states also banned civil unions. Overall traditional marriage amendments are 17 for 17.

The historic failure of Governor Benson to earn re-election shows that Democrats are able to successfully shield themselves from depiction as tax-and-spend liberals by opposing sales and income taxes. Millions of dollars of media portraying Lynch as proposing runaway spending appear not to have resonated with the electorate. Placing a traditional marriage amendment on the ballot in 2006 would help shift the debate from which party is going to give you the bigger free lunch to which party shares your values.

Lynch, who presumably will be seeking re-election, will have to explain why on the one hand he says he believes that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, but on the other hand he opposes laws saying just that.

Finally, Republicans should eliminate straight-ticket voting because it gives Republicans-in-name-only votes that they would not get if judged on their own merits. Voters voting straight-ticket are presumably voting for the party’s ideology, but the ideology of Republicans-in-name-only is closer to the ideology of Democrats than Republicans.

Ed Mosca is a Manchester attorney and former chairman of that city’s Republican Party.

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