The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

August 13, 2012

Anson Burlingame, guest columnist: November is looming, so let the political rhetoric begin

JOPLIN, Mo. — Here we go into the race for U.S. Senate. It is pure tea party versus Democratic Party.

Incumbent Claire McCaskill and Democrats around the state will pull out all the stops to paint Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Akin as the “most-red neck politician” in Missouri, not just the “most conservative” one that he claims to be and has been from what I can tell (that’s conservative, not red-necked).

I would offer this perspective for reasonable people observing the senatorial campaign now that the two real opponents are clear. Actually, I offer a question for responsible Missouri voters.

Is there, in America today, such a thing as a “mainstream” tea party?

I believe the answer is yes. Such people exist in Missouri and elsewhere. I just have no idea how big that segment of voters is.

By “mainstream” tea party, I mean those who firmly believe our federal government has, for a long time now, reached far beyond what it can be expected to accomplish. Many folks, myself included, believe the scope of responsibilities assumed by our federal government must decrease. Some, myself included again, believe the Constitution must be the basis for the assumption of federal responsibilities, not some wish list of what should be.

Want to assign more responsibilities to the federal government? That’s fine with me, as long as we comply with the broad responsibilities envisioned by our Founders and the changes made to the fundamental contract between American citizens and the government we elect.

Any government we elect to guide this country must stick to the original contract, set in place 237 years ago, as a matter of first priority. Stated slightly differently, just follow the law, Mr. Government, no matter the party.

A political belief system that calls for following the law is very mainstream to most Americans. I don’t believe many Americans think an executive order directing law enforcement agencies to ignore a law meets constitutional muster. If a president doesn’t like a law, then change it, democratically, with all the political power that can be mustered. I may or may not support such changes when I vote, but that makes no difference at a fundamental level. The first priority is to follow the law, period. Do it faithfully and honestly, with no spin attached.

The ultimate control of the U.S. Senate may well hinge on the McCaskill-Akin election in this state. All the financial stops will be pulled out by both sides to try to get their way in this very crucial election.

I make no predictions for the Missouri Senate election. McCaskill ran a smart campaign in 2006 by eating away at strong conservative support in rural Missouri for Jim Talent. She will also do everything possible to build her urban base in areas like St. Louis and Kansas City, and will win those areas by a sizable margin in all likelihood. But she must know that the nation in 2012 is far different from the one in 2006.

Akin, on the other hand, will do everything possible to garner overwhelming support in places like Jasper County and other conservative areas of the state. His challenge is to decide if 2012 is different from 2010 in terms of election proclivities.

If the race was just between the “mainstream” tea party and a “moderate” Democrat, my guess is Claire McCaskill would win the election. Non-tea party conservatives and independents might well shy away from the conservatism espoused by Akin. I could easily be one of those conservative voters, frankly.

But the Senate election is only one check on the ballot come November. We will also be voting for a new president. The presidential election could well swing this state’s Senate election to whichever side wins the race for president. If Mitt Romney pulls out a strong conservative and independent base in Missouri, then it could mean congratulations for Akin come Nov. 7.

For what it is worth, my vote for our next senator from Missouri is to be determined, for now. Come January 2013, I already have a clear idea of how McCaskill, if re-elected, will vote on such pressing matters as tax reform (tax the rich only), health care reform (press on with Obamacare), cutting defense funding and other national matters.

On those top-level national issues, I can support how I believe Todd Akin would vote as well. But it is Akin’s philosophy driving other votes that scares me. He would vote to drastically reduce the size of the federal government very quickly and not raise taxes, not even by a nickel. Such a philosophy is far too radical and dangerous in America today — economically and socially.

So, I am open to campaign rhetoric for our Senate race.

McCaskill has her work cut out for her. So does Akin as far as I am concerned.

Anson Burlingame lives in Joplin.

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