Monday, June 05, 2006

The Whole Pig

Pull up a chair. Someone get the popcorn.

The Pennsylvania Legislature is back into session today for the first time since the May 16th primary, when a record number of incumbents went down.

Now, let's watch the ramifactions of that voter revolt, particularly for the Republicans who control the House and the Senate and who suffered serious losses in the election.

For starters, I hear there may be a challenge to leadership of the House Republican caucus, with Majority Leader Sam Smith the most likely target.

Why Smith? Because the newly energized conversatives in the caucus know they don't have the votes and don't have the candidate to oust House Speaker John Perzel.

If they are inclined to go after Perzel, though, the dissidents have more ammunition today, thanks to an article Sunday in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which catalogued some lavish spending by Perzel from his campaign fund -- spending that includes trips to the Super Bowl and Las Vegas and scads of big expense account meals, one of which included $150 bottles of wine.

Very Roman. Very Imperial. Very dangerous disclosures, given the climate in Harrisburg.

In the Senate, Republicans are wondering who will do the negotiating for them on the state budget, which is supposed to pass before June 30.

Should it be Bob Jubelirer and Chip Brightbill? They are the lamest of lame ducks, ousted by voters in their districts in the primary. Sen. Noah Wenger, head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is retiring voluntarily.

Word is the GOP may tap Sen. Roger Madigan as a temporary, de facto caucus leader for budget neogitations. Madigan has no ambitions to leadership, so he's seen as a safe and steady choice.

Meantime, let's look at the current spin on the primary, beginning with Jubelirer, who told the Patriot-News over the weekend that he was felled by "what he still sees as a strange alliance of extreme right-wing Republicans, motivated by pay-raise anger, and a liberal media challenging voters to do something about it."

For an example of what he's talking about, see the Inquirer's recent Citizens of the Year editorial.

How long will that strange alliance last? My guess is: about 15 minutes.

Having attained a piece of power, conservatives are making it clear they didn't run just to pass a few bills on ethics and lobbyist disclosure.

They want to go after the whole pig. State government.

In short, they are looking forward to driving their leaders, not to mention Gov. Rendell, crazy.

This looks like the end of the Era of Pragmatic Partisanship, personified by the Rendell-Perzel relationship.

And the beginning of what? How about a holy war, ala the crusades, with Republicans wearing the insignia of the Club for Growth, which I think is a pair of scissors.

Here is Pat Twoomey's take on the primary -- and a call for action -- in a piece that ran in the Inquirer. Or read Mike Folmer, who defeated Brightbill, in the Wall Street Journal calling for a return to the core Republican values of "lower taxes, less spending and limited government." Finally, there is Louis Petolicchio's blog post on Keystone Review, that crows about the conservative victory on May 16th, and never once mentions the liberal allies (such as Tim Pott's Democracy Rising) that helped engineer the coup.

It you want a taste of what these Republicans would like to see happen, check out the long screed by the Commonwealth Foundation, titled "The Piglet Book" that calls for a Sherman's March through the state budget, with $4 billion in cuts.

The situation reminds me of Theodore White's Law of Unintended Consequences, which states that for every action often is an equal and -- and totally unforeseen -- reaction.


Anonymous GettysBLOG said...

This is more than a little short-sighted.

Where were the Democratic Reform voters in the Primary?

Why are Mike Veon and Bill DeWeese still the party candidates in November?

Why is there a better than 3-1 ratio of defeated Republican incumbents to defeated Democratic ones?

And why are you being so soft on Perzel, a man who is so out of touch with the people he doesn't recognize when he's lying?

Mr. Ferrick, I recognize your liberal roots, and have no problem with that, but Reform in Pennsylvania transcends party politics. The sooner you, and the rest of Philadelphia get on board with that, the sooner your awarding of Citizen of the Year Honors to heroes like Potts, Stilp and Russ Diamond will take on real meaning.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Rep. Mark B. Cohen said...

I dispute that Democracy Rising is in any meaningful way a liberal organization. It's platform of calling for a smaller legislature that meets less frequently in which candidates are to be made more dependent on personal wealth due to restrictions on out of district campaign contributions is hardly a liberal platform.

Democracy Rising has leaders with liberal roots, but they have clearly moved far, far to the right--right of even the Commonwealth Foundation, which does not approve of reducing the size of the legislature.

12:39 AM  
Anonymous GettysBLOG said...

Democracy Rising is an apolitical organization standing for reform. Obviously, Representative Cohen would label them conservative, when in fact, they are not.

They stand for Reform of the legislature, and stopping the gravy train elected officials have been sucking up for years.

Abuse of per diems, buying an enormous private library at the expense of the public, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for a PR firm for leadership people? All these are major abuses at the expense of the people.

It must stop.

These are the things Democracy Rising is fighting.

That does not make them conservative, or liberal.

It makes them correct.

Shrinking the size of the House will save a lot of money. It will also cut the risk of abuse on the part of the elected officials.

Representative Cohen should be concerned with changing out the corrupt leaders of his party and putting people with integrity in their place. He knows who they are.

After all, we don't want any more $28,000 book store bills at the taxpayer's expense, do we?

7:58 PM  
Anonymous johngilb said...

Hey, Rep. Cohen - good to hear from you. Have you read any good books lately (that us PA taxpayers have paid for)? Are you still maximizing your Harrisburg per diems? It's politicians like you sucking on the public teat for so long that make shrinking the size of the legislature seem like such a good idea. My only regret that I can't vote against you this November.

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Tim Potts said...

As an organization, Democracy Rising PA has moved away from taking a position on the size of the legislature and toward advocating that it should be the subject of debate and decision at a Citizens Constitutional Convention, along with other ideas such as a part-time legislature, a unicameral legislature, term limits for those who serve in leadership positions, and a hundred other ideas citizens have for improving our lousy government.

As for the coalition of organizations, we are stronger than ever. Remember that we formed not after the pay raise in 2005 but after the gambling law in 2004. For nearly two years, we have set aside our policy differences in order to work toward a system that has some semblance of integrity, recognizing that without such a system our policy differences matter even less than the Democratic party, which is pretty meaningless both nationally and in Pennsylvania. We continue to disagree about many things, but we continue to agree that our love of democracy makes us citizens first and partisans second.

Progressives worry about the growing influence of conservatives, but they don't worry enough to make the Democrats (or anyone else) stand for the highest standards of public integrity in America and for true public service. Until that happens, future elections will look like past elections -- those who show up will make the decisions.

On issue after issue, most Pennsylvanians agree with progressives, but progressives fail to leverage that advantage because their leadership is so inept. You can't blame the conservatives for that.

If people have a hard time deciding whether Democracy Rising PA is a progressive or a conservative organization, good.

Tim Potts, Co-Founder
Democracy Rising PA

11:21 AM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

Say what you will about your coalition of organizations, but when the turnout for the primary was around 20% that does not exactly jibe with your claims. I believe all the "reform" organizations benefitted for a unique convergence of events. We shall see how events continue to unfold.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous CENTRIST said...

Hey, PhillyDem:

Where were the Reform Democrats in the Primary?

12:45 PM  

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