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OUR OPINION: In search of good government

Tuesday's nationwide election returns carried interesting news for North Dakota and Minnesota. But the New Jersey, Virginia and New York results are only part of it. And not even the most important part. The most important part comes from the TAB...

Tuesday's nationwide election returns carried interesting news for North Dakota and Minnesota.

But the New Jersey, Virginia and New York results are only part of it. And not even the most important part.

The most important part comes from the TABOR results -- the votes in Maine and Washington on Taxpayers Bills of Rights.

In both states, the proposals would have limited local and state spending and required voter approval of tax hikes.

In both states, voters turned the proposals down.

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That's not the first time. Maine voters now have had anti-tax measures on the ballot three times in five years. Mainers rejected the proposals each time.

Nationwide, "anti-government groups have made serious efforts to enact TABORs in 20 states since 2004," writes Iris Lay, senior advisor to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank in Washington.

"They have failed every time."

Twenty out of 20 times. That's a record that's hard to ignore, and political leaders in North Dakota and Minnesota ought to pay attention.

What do the results mean?

The answer is clear. The answer also helps explain Tuesday's other election results, especially in the races highlighted in David Broder's column today:

Voters don't want less government. Voters don't want more government.

Voters want good government.

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And they don't think that's a contradiction in terms.

As Broder points out, voters in New York 23 -- a solid Republican congressional district -- rejected the Conservative Party candidate in favor of a Democrat. Why?

Because voters -- make that, a majority of voters -- don't want less government. They want good government.

At the same time, voters threw out the Democratic governors of Virginia and New Jersey and elected Republicans. Why?

Because voters don't want more government. (In New Jersey especially, taxpayers are coping with catastrophic, almost unbelievable deficits that resulted from runaway government spending.)

They want good government.

That's the theme. And its consistency across the returns suggest that neither Democrats nor Republicans were the big winners Tuesday.

Moderates were the winners. In the electorate's middle are the independents. They are the voters who simply are looking for good government and don't care which party delivers it.

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The center holds the key, in this election as in most elections in recent years.

Why did voters reject Moorhead's school referendum?

Because they weren't convinced the school district had done enough to boost efficiency and cut costs. In other words, they weren't convinced they were getting good government.

Why did Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland get elected to a third term?

Because 59 percent of voters felt he is delivering good government.

And so on. The extremes matter in American elections. But the middle matters more.

The "good government" candidate who can capture that middle will win, in 2009 and most other election years as well.

-- Tom Dennis for the Herald

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