Scott Tibbs
Published in Hoosier Review, 08-16-2002

Back to opinion page.

Conservatives defeat their own agenda
by voting Democratic

A common tactic of Indiana Democrats in many districts is to run candidates who appear to be "conservative" on fiscal or social issues, or both. Indiana has been a Republican state for many years, and has not voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate since 1964. Liberal ideology does not win elections in most of the Hoosier State. But Evan Bayh managed to win two terms as Governor, with Frank O'Bannon following with two victories of his own, campaigning on many conservative ideas. Many "conservative" Democrats have won legislative seats, especially in the State House. Indiana Democrats have been very effective in siphoning off conservative voters from Republican candidates.

But conservatives who vote Democratic are damaging the prospects of their own views being promoted in the state legislature. Instead, conservative voters who vote Democratic are voting for an agenda opposite of their views to be passed. Even if a "conservative" Democrat votes in a conservative manner in Indianapolis, (and many don't) they give the Democratic leadership control of committee chairmanships and the Speaker's chair, thus allowing liberals to control the agenda. Conservative voters who sent "conservative" Democrats to Indianapolis in 1998 and 2000 also effectively voted for the liberal Bloomington Democrat Mark Kruzan, who is finishing his term as House Majority Floor Leader.

Pro-life voters who vote for "pro-life" Democrats have seen this phenomenon in action. Both the Pharmacist's Conscience bill and the Informed Consent bill died in committee, and a ban on human cloning also failed to pass the Indiana House. The killing of the Pharmacist's Conscience bill by the Democratic leadership is especially ironic considering a Democrat introduced it. A Republican-controlled Indiana House would likely have at least allowed these measures to come to the floor for a vote, which the Democratic leadership denied.

Meanwhile, a liberal Republican, even if he votes against the wishes of his conservative constituents, is actually better for a conservative agenda than a "conservative" Democrat would be. Even while voting against fiscally or socially conservative legislation, a liberal Republican would vote to put his party's leadership in power. Putting the power of the Speakership and committee chairmanships in GOP hands would ensure that a conservative agenda moves forward on the House floor.

Conservatives must also consider the mess that state government is in when considering voting for a "conservative" Democrat. We have seen a $2 billion budget surplus evaporate indo a deep budget deficit under the leadership of Democratic Governor Frank O'Bannon. The Build Indiana Fund scandal also happened under the Democrats watch. The Indianapolis Star reported in the summer of 2001 how BIF money was spent not only on projects outside its legal mandate, but also on projects that never actually existed at all.

Conservatives who consider voting Democrat must also consider the massive tax increases passed during the special session and signed by O'Bannon. Republican House members held the line on taxes for much of the session, enduring criticism that they didn't "do their job" by fixing the budget deficit. In fact, the Republicans were doing what they were sent to Indianapolis to do: protect their constituents from excessive tax increases proposed by the Democratic House leadership and a Democratic governor.

Why would conservatives vote for a "conservative" Democrat, ensuring continued rule by the same leadership that spent us into a huge deficit and then passed repressive tax hikes to "fix" the problem? Why should conservatives vote for "conservative" Democrats to continue with the same leadership that has proven with their mismanagement of the Build Indiana Fund that they cannot be trusted with our money? Clearly, conservatives cannot vote Democrat after an objective evaluation of the consequences of that vote.

While some conservatives cannot in good conscience vote for a Republican that is not pro-life or a supporter of the right to keep and bear arms, voting for a "conservative" Democrat is not a solution. If conservatives must withhold their vote from a Republican, a protest vote for a pro-life Libertarian is a much better choice than a so-called "conservative" Democrat.

The Democrats have shown that they are leading Indiana in the wrong direction, and unfortunately it is many conservative voters who have helped them into their position of power. Let us hope this trend is reversed in 2002.