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Bill James: The Anti-Conservative?

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If Commissioner Bill James finds historical records of voting and advocating for public television station WTVI reasons that his Republican primary opponent Ed Driggs is not a “real conservative,” then the record needs to also show that by the same type reasoning, Bill James is not a fiscal conservative.

In my possession is a copy of the debate held by WTVI for the 1997 School Bonds, where former Commissioner Joel Carter and I sat on one side of the argument (against) and former Commissioner Becky Carney and Bill James sat on the other side (for). At that time James proved that he was not a fiscal conservative. Anyone who joined with Becky Carney could not possibly be fiscally conservative, as she is the epitome of spend-and-then-tax politics. So since first joining the board of commissioners, James was never a fiscal conservative. However, he is a social conservative, and the two should not be confused.

In fact, one of the reasons for the demise of many fiscal conservatives on the board of commissioners in the late 1990’s were the social conservative issues that James brought to the fore. From this decline, the Republican Party in Mecklenburg County has never recovered and as long as people such as Bill James are in office it never will. In fact, one of the major problems of the Republican Party today is the catering to social conservatives. If there were no other reason, that alone would be an excellent one for Republicans to vote for Ed Driggs. But there are other reasons, some of which have already been delineated by Driggs on the campaign trail.

James was first elected to county office 16 years ago and has held his commission seat ever since. It is time for him to move up or move on. No one is that important to the citizens they represent; they are only that important to themselves. This is true at the local, state, and even national level, where people like Sue Myrick have been in office all too long. They represent two good reasons for terms limits, but there are many more.

Leadership on this issue has been shown by others in the same position as James. Former Commissioner Darrell Williams first comes to mind. A strong Democrat representing District 3, he had a very safe seat. Yet he decided to run at-large, to move up or move on. He lost and moved on. Becky Carney ran at-large and then moved on to state government, as many do. Former Commissioner Jim Puckett, a Republican, had a safe seat in District 1, yet attempted an unsuccessful at-large bid. I argued then and again now that Puckett’s association with social conservative issues did him no favors. Pat McCrory should have run for higher office years ago instead of inflicting himself on the people of Charlotte for decades. There are others and Bill James should join them.

But back to the fiscal conservative/social conservative divide. Social conservatives have nowhere to go but the Republican Party. There they try to control those who are fiscal conservatives with various litmus tests of “How Republican is (s)he?” In so doing, they drive many away from the party who don’t want to be associated with those social issues; but neither do they want to be Democrats, where the Plunderers reside (see Bastiat’s “The Law”). Bill James is a social conservative, but not a fiscal conservative. Certainly, he will vote on the county commission against the plunders of Leake, Roberts, Dunlap and Clarke (all of whom should follow Roberts lead off the board, as they too are excellent examples of the mistake of long-serving representatives.)

He votes against the socialism of the board’s progressive Democrat majority. But that vote is not necessarily a vote for fiscal conservatism, but only for fiscal moderation, which often passes for fiscal conservatism in Mecklenburg County these days. So long as James’ social conservatism drives the voters away from fiscal conservatives, he retains his seat and doesn’t have to concern himself with that issue.

Thus I must support Driggs in his attempt to wrest the position of representative of the people from Bill James. Perhaps Driggs is not as fiscally conservative as I would like – few are; but if he leans that direction and is of a type who welcomes fiscal conservatives who are socially liberal to the party, we will all be better off.

When I was a Republican and running for an at-large seat on the county commission, Jim Puckett, in speaking of me, said to James, “his reasons for voting against certain things – social issues – are not the same as yours; but the result is a vote against, nonetheless.” A fiscal conservative, in other words, may not give money to issues or programs that social conservatives oppose, but for different reasons. The result is the same, so what is the difference between the vote of one and the next? The holier than thou proselytizing that goes with it.

It is time for Bill James to move on. Others should have the opportunity to serve. Certainly the voters could do with the change.

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