In the Year of the Tea Party, U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick represents the type of middle-course pragmatist who is supposed to be road kill in November. Plus, he’s a Democrat in Idaho.
So why is he doing so well in his race for re-election?
For starters, he is running on a conservative fiscal record at a time when the debt and deficit have become increasingly menacing. And when we say “conservative,” we mean the type who wants to balance budgets, not cling to blinkered notions of never raising taxes. Minnick represents the type of old-school fiscal sanity that can steer the nation out of a mess.
He wanted Congress to start a deficit commission, but that idea became hopelessly politicized. So he endorses the next best thing: President Barack Obama’s bipartisan panel, which is looking at entitlement, defense and discretionary spending and the nation’s tax structure in an attempt to forestall the economic meltdown that will occur if the nation cannot rein in crushing debt.
Minnick advocates heavy spending cuts to achieve this goal, but he hasn’t closed his mind to the possibility of tax increases to close the imbalance between expenditures and revenue. This is precisely the kind of adult conversation the nation needs to be having.
His opponent, Raul Labrador, represents the kind of rigid fiscal thinking that could serve to make the problem worse. Tax increases are off the table, which means he rejects sight unseen any solution that includes them. In fact, he would like to cut taxes even further. But when pressed on where he would come up with the trillions in spending cuts to offset the revenue losses and address the current deficit, he speaks in generalities.
This does not bode well for compromise, and Congress cannot solve the budget issue without both sides giving in. The business community in Idaho seems to understand this, which is why it is largely lining up behind Minnick.
Oddly, immigration has become a big issue, largely owing to Minnick’s attacks on Labrador as an immigration attorney. The ads, however, are misleading and are not Minnick’s finest moment.
When taking a closer look at the issue, the two candidates are not that far apart. Both stress border security and better guest worker programs. Both extend invitations for illegal immigrants to seek citizenship once they “come out of the shadows.” Labrador wants them to exit the country first, though he doesn’t have a specific plan for accomplishing that. Minnick wants them to be punished for violating immigration laws before they can pursue citizenship, but he doesn’t have a credible way to draw them out into the open.
Labrador’s attempts to make this a race against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are comical given the number of times Minnick has bucked leadership and voted with the Republicans.
Unfortunately for the challenger, this is a race between conservatives. We prefer the more reasonable one, and that’s Minnick.