Editorial: Maneuvering for 2008 vote

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 9, 2006

Few people can out-conservative Coy Privette, the Baptist preacher-turned-politician who’s leading the resistance against fellow Republican Bill Graham. A Salisbury attorney, Graham has been exploring a run for governor in 2008, and Privette’s offensive is the kind of reaction a candidate needs to draw out early on. How much of the crowd under the GOP’s “big tent” will support Graham’s campaign? Or is the tent in tatters?

Privette’s www.stopbillgraham Web site is just one sign the 2008 campaign is in “go” mode. To the politically wary, the discussion is about as welcome as Christmas carols in January — didn’t we just finish with that? But in other circles the politicking never ends, and this time the usual behind-the-scenes maneuvering of a new election cycle is moving to center stage.

The American electorate signaled a major shift in direction last month, and that brings new urgency to the election process. The political pendulum is swinging again. If Election 2006 was not a war-induced aberration, the country is moving away from the right. One wonders if the conservative label will be as important or definitive in 2008.

Robin Hayes also may be contemplating the conservative cause and his position in it in 2008. The Concord Republican’s re-election to the U.S. House was not sealed until last week, when a hand count convinced Democrat Larry Kissell to concede. Coming within 330 votes of a seat in Congress is like getting ditched at the door of the prom, ready for the spotlight but left in the dark, and Kissell has already started campaigning for 2008.

Hayes was nearly done in by the same thing that caused Earl Ruth to lose the 8th District seat in 1974 — loyalty to the president. In Ruth’s case, the president was Richard Nixon, and the vote was clear. Hayes has hung in with President Bush to the point of breaking a vow to oppose the Central American Free Trade Agreement, a transgression on par with Watergate to laid-off mill workers. Hayes held on, but he must wonder how to position himself better in 2008 — more conservative or less?

Rowan County has its share of elected representatives championing the Republican cause. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a Salisbury native, headed the party’s oh-so-close effort to hold on to a Senate majority. State Sen. Andrew Brock wants to chair the state GOP, and state Rep. Fred Steen wants to lead Republicans in the state House. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to focus on the people of Rowan rather than the GOP. But Dole et al say buttressing the Republican cause is the best way to protect constituents’ interests.

For those who have causes to champion and issues to present, the current state of flux should offer a greater opportunity to be heard. All political assumptions are off, and campaign 2008 is on. That’s the beauty of democracy — the regular opportunity to shake up the status quo and assert a different point of view. True conservative or not, liberal or progressive, we all have the right to vote and set the country’s course.