Lingle steers middle road in right-lane party
A SELF-DESCRIBED "bleeding heart conservative," Gov. Linda Lingle has found the sweet spot in local politics as a not too flamboyant moderate.
In a recent interview, Lingle ticked off her own principals for governing and leadership:
» Decisions should be made "as close to the people as possible," meaning home rule, local -- not state -- control of education, zoning, water and government.
» People should be encouraged to be self-sufficient and independent. Homelessness is an example of where government should help to get people on their feet and in their own homes, and not be dependent on the state.
» Government should "try its best to not overtax people."
Lingle then puts her own moderate spin on the role of government.
"My personal concept is that government can be an important force for good. Especially in how it relates to those who can't help themselves, the mentally ill, the homeless and the lowest wage earners," Lingle says.
Sentiments like that aren't going to get TV news crews to do remotes from your front lawn. The interest is in what Lingle doesn't include in her list of core beliefs.
There is no talk of creationism, no rapt discussion of abortion as an evil as opposed to a woman's right, there is no mention of forced school prayer or campaigns against homosexuals or even labor unions.
In an interesting reflection on her own position heading up a liberal state with a super-majority of Democrats in the Legislature, Lingle says she likes Vermont's Gov. Jim Douglas.
Like Lingle followed liberal Gov. Ben Cayetano, Douglas followed the bellicose Gov. Howard Dean. Can a Lingle moderate exist in the conservative Republican national party?
It is a question that worries Christie Todd Whitman, Lingle's buddy, former New Jersey governor and former Environmental Protection Agency director.
In an interview reprinted on her Web page, "It's My Party Too" (www.mypartytoo.com), Whitman says the ultra-conservative forces within the GOP are a problem for leaders such as her and Lingle.
"Unless we change the party from the inside and from the ground up, those people who will be making determinations when it comes to convention time -- a Rudy Giuliani, a Tom Ridge, or Gov. Linda Lingle -- they wouldn't get through. Even John McCain, who is pro-life, would have a hard time because he's not rigid enough for the social fundamentalists," Whitman says.
Conservative Wall Street Journal editor John Fund called Lingle a RINO, "Republican in name only," last year, after she approved a tax increase, even though the money was for low-cost housing projects.
The problem with moderates, however, is they go down the middle with both flanks exposed. As Lingle worries the right wing, University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato observes: "Hawaii almost reflexively votes Democratic, and no GOP candidate -- even a popular incumbent -- is ever safe here."
writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org