From the Washington Post's story this morning on the Virginia tax deal:
In effect, some politicians and observers say, there could be three parties in Virginia: Democrats, Republicans and anti-tax Republicans.
The Virginia tax deal is quite a remarkable story, and the Post story is worth reading. As tax analyst Bob Zaharadnick wrote in an e-mail yesterday, "passage of the Virginia tax plan was remarkable from a political perspective, impressive from a revenue adequacy standpoint, and could have done more in terms of improving fairness." It is mostly made up of sales tax increases, cigarette tax, and adding means-testing to the state's deduction for the elderly. While it is not as progressive as an upper-end income tax increase would be, it does include a state Earned Income Tax Credit that helps families just above the poverty line.
This is the country's future. It's ugly and painful for everyone, but I'd rather be a Democrat than a Republican in either faction. Going back to what I wrote in my earlier post on Kerry's predicament if he wins, I think he has no choice but to try to split the Republican party in the same way. If I were Kerry, I would devote every breakfast, lunch and dinner to meeting with every Republican who's willing to break bread with him, from the true moderates like Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Snowe through the old-timers like John Warner and Pete Domenici and the mavericks McCain and Hagel, and asking every one of them, "We don't have to agree, but are we here to govern this country, or wage ideological warfare?" And slowly, as they all understand the long-term fiscal crisis and the consequences of the Bush mania, just enough of them will decide they're here to govern and begin to work with Kerry. The solutions won't be to everyone's liking. They won't float Max Sawicky's or Jamie Galbraith's boat. It will feel a lot more like the first Bush Administration, with endless, unsatisfying budget summits at Andrews Air Force base. But they just might ward off disaster and make it possible to do something more constructive with government in the future.
And, possibly, just as in Virginia, they just might destroy the Republican Party. That's the choice these Republicans will face as they decide whether to align with the Republican Party or the anti-tax Republican Party. (Or, as I would call them, the Conservative Party or the Nihilist Party.) If they join the effort to find a compromise, they will find the Club for Growth, slowly prying their fingers away from the brink of their own party, as it almost did to Specter and will now do to some Virginia legislators. But if they join the Nihilist Party, what will they have to show for it?
And if the Virginia moment doesn't happen in 2005, it will come soon enough. The seeds of a political party or ideology's demise are always sown at its moment of seeming invincibility.