by David Safier
You may have heard that Sen. Al Melvin received the lowest rating among Republican senators
from The Pachyderm Coalition, a very conservative organization. He was one of only three legislators in both houses to earn the dreaded RINO (Republican In Name Only) label.
Yes, that Al Melvin — proud Minuteman, Reagan Republican, righteous defender of all things conservative. I practically got whiplash from the double take I did when I read the news.
It turns out his ranking is the result of some "nanny state" bills he sponsored. According to the Capitol Times:
One bans texting while driving. Another penalizes smoking while in a car with a minor. The third bill prohibits driving a pickup truck with someone riding in the bed.
The Pachyderms think this is Melvin giving himself some moderate cred to help him fend off the ultra conservative label in 2010. And they may be right. Melvin and his campaign manager, Constantin Querard, did a masterful job of making Melvin's positions look moderate while painting his opponent, Cheryl Cage, as a wild-eyed, radical lefty. (Reality check: I know Cheryl Cage. Cheryl Cage is a friend of mine. And Cheryl Cage is no wild-eyed, radical lefty.)
But there may be more to this than posturing. True, Melvin is a solid economic conservative. He promises to vote against all new and returning state taxes*. He wants to squeeze government programs until they scream. And he's a solid social conservative — life begins at conception and ends at a natural death, and so on. But it may be that he's not fond of the libertarian part of current Republican doctrine that proclaims, "It's my choice if I want to endanger myself on the highway, along with my family, friends and complete strangers." In other words, he may be a nanny state conservative who believes it's OK to protect people from themselves, and protect innocent bystanders from other people's foolish actions.
On the other, more cynical hand, we've seen these bills before, and they always get voted down. Maybe Melvin is proposing them, knowing they'll go nowhere. No harm done to other Republicans who get to cast their usual No votes, and he earns bragging rights with the moderates back home.
*My first every footnote on the blog: I was careful to say that Melvin promises to vote against state taxes. the fact is, he didn't take the No New Taxes pledge this time around — he took one in 2006 — because he was for the road improvement taxes in Southern Arizona. His reason:
". . . we have these lousy roads compared to Phoenix with those great roads."
From this point forward, we shall refer to this as the Melvin Exception. If he feels a few bumps on his backside while he's driving down the road, that's a problem he understands. We need new taxes to take care of those nasty potholes. But if other people's kids have to ride a bumpy, hazardous road on their way to adulthood due to underfunded schools and holes in the social services safety net, that's not his problem. It's not his backside that's getting pummeled. Those kids had better not come whining to him, looking for a tax hike and a handout.