Republicans generally articulate positions of less government, less rules (except of course when it comes to our private lives), and less taxes. Again, in a state desperately in need of help with health care, roads, schools and jobs, one would think that any argument for less government would be met with howls and derision here in one of America's poorer states.
But, of course, the reality is that a majority of West Virginians buy into the argument for less government because of their beliefs that our coal industry is under attack from government, that Obamacare is evil, all taxes are bad, and federal spending at current levels is toxic for our state.
I personally believe West Virginia will be much better off in coming years if the Democrat Party controls the U.S. Senate. Does this mean I love everything the Democrats do in Washington? Of course not! Our party has its share of crazies as well as crazy ideas, just as does the Republican Party.
But on balance I believe our economy has generally benefited by the type of federal spending that has averted a second Great Depression. I believe we need federal money to build and repair our roads and bridges and improve our infrastructure. And anyone who remotely understands our Medicaid and health-care situation would be insane to argue that we need less federal help and money for health care.
As for mining, there must be some balance between coal production and environmental concerns, and there never will be a return to the days of unfettered coal production with virtually no environmental regulations. The job of a West Virginia senator is to ensure any rules and regulations are reasonable so as to permit coal companies to continue to mine coal at a profit while reasonably ensuring that our land and our streams remains usable for generations to come.
If the Senate election of 2014 is framed in terms of which party's philosophy is best suited for West Virginia over the next six years, the Democrat nominee can compete and can win. This is not a time for a Democratic candidate to poll our people to ascertain our views so that a campaign can be constructed that attempts to portray the candidate as someone who "thinks like us."
Any election in which the cult of personality takes front and center -- with each candidate advertising how much his or her views align with mainstream thinking (while running never-ending ads that show the other candidate's views and positions "deviate from the norm" of mainstream thinking) -- will ensure a Capito victory.
This election demands a candidate willing to communicate to West Virginians, willing to actually persuade them, and willing to lead them to a better quality of life. The candidate needs to articulate why the Democrat Party philosophy is better for West Virginia and why it is important for West Virginia to elect a Democrat to the Senate.
Wouldn't it be great to actually have an election about ideas and philosophy instead of which candidate didn't pay taxes on the nanny's salary? Wouldn't we all benefit by an election process in which Capito actually articulates why Obamacare is bad for West Virginia while her opponent argues the opposite? We are so much better than the petty politics of the past, and I believe -- given the quality and character of Shelly Moore Capito -- the Democrat nominee had better make this an election about ideas. Or be prepared for another Republican Senate victory next year.
Lees is a Charleston lawyer long involved in reform efforts and Democratic politics.