Top 10 Conservatives of 2011
10. Andrew Cuomo – Yes, really. As I wrote earlier this year, “When Democrats cut spending and refuse to raise taxes, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has—i.e. when they abandon their party’s core philosophy and govern like conservatives—they enjoy skyrocketing popularity ratings and set their constituents on a path to financial solvency.” Cuomo’s late-career, probably temporary, but remarkable conversion followed the example set by New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who also stood up to public sector unions, slashed spending, and held down taxes.
9. Darrell Issa – California Representative Darrell Issa held hearings this summer on the Justice Department’s botched, scandalous Operation Fast and Furious gun-trafficking sting operation, including gripping testimony from ATF officials from Phoenix and Mexico. Recently Attorney General Eric Holder was forced to admit that Fast and Furious was “flawed in its concept and flawed in its execution”—kind of like his boss’s presidency. Along with the Treasury Department’s pursuit of the administration’s tainted $535 million loan to solar energy company Solyndra, Issa’s persistent work erased the laughable notion that the corrupt Obama tenure has remained blissfully transgression-free.
8. Peter King – New York Representative Peter King bucked controversy by holding hearings on whether Muslim Americans were becoming radicalized and linking with terrorist groups to plot attacks on home soil. From my column “Liberals’ Game of Cat-and-Muslim”: “[King] held a hearing on whether al-Qaeda is trying to recruit young Muslims in the U.S. and whether Muslim Americans are sufficiently cooperating with federal officials… [H]undreds of willfully naïve, politically correct New Yorkers gathered in Times Square, steps from where [Faisal] Shahzad tried to kill hundreds of New Yorkers, to protest King’s hearing as racist and Islamophobic.”
7. Mitch Daniels – Second-term Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels navigated such juvenile obstructions as Democratic legislators walking out to protest Republicans’ agenda, and ultimately got the bulk of long-stalled GOP legislation passed in the state. Daniels wowed CPAC with a speech on fiscal austerity that included such zingers as “Our morbidly obese federal government needs, not just behavior modification, but bariatric surgery” and his reference to federal debt as “the new red menace.” One of the only feasible GOP presidential candidates both conservative and articulate, Daniels declined to run this year despite widespread pressure to do so.
6. Pat Toomey – The deficit reduction supercommittee boasted only one reliable fiscal conservative: Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey. All five other GOP members voted for the boneheaded budget bill in August that unnecessarily raised the debt ceiling. Without Toomey, Republican supercommittee members might have caved to Democratic pressure to raise tax rates on high-income earners. The committee failed—which, given Democratic intransigence, is the best outcome we could have hoped for. Toomey’s first year in office after dispensing with Joe Sestak in hostile blue-state territory in the 2010 midterms was a resounding success.
5. Rick Perry – Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry held the distinction of leading the state that oversaw 40% of all new U.S. jobs created since the recovery began, triple the number of the next-closest competitor New York, with over 1 million added since he took office. Texas’s jobs boom resulted not just from rising oil prices—private sector industries such as construction, hospitality, and professional services also saw growth—but rather Perry’s understanding of the hindrance excessive regulation places on incentives to invest and hire. Perry offered a more conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, thus helping push the front-runner to the right.
4. Herman Cain – Businessman, radio host, rocket scientist, and presidential candidate Herman Cain spent the year touting his 9-9-9 flat tax plan, which would gut the federal tax code and replace it with a 9% federal income tax, 9% corporate tax, and 9% national sales tax. Rick Perry produced a copycat plan, and Newt Gingrich revived his old plan, and suddenly the nation began seriously debating the merits of flat tax plans for the first time since Steve Forbes’ last run. And did you know that, back in the day, as president-elect of the National Restaurant Association, Cain was one of the most vocal critics of Hillarycare?
3. Ann Coulter – The left-wing, Obama-endorsed Occupy Wall Street movement that seeped into the national consciousness like a whiff of sewage had no concrete antagonists, just the sorry spectacle of a bunch of hippy retreads and trust fund brats battling hypothermia and body lice in tent cities around the country. Ann Coulter was the conservative who foretold it best, in her bestseller Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America. From the book jacket: “The Democratic Party activates mobs, depends on mobs, coddles mobs, publicizes and celebrates mobs—it is the mob.”
2. Scott Walker – From “Wisconsin’s Government Cheese Revolution”: “Governor Scott Walker… proposed a bill that would… prevent [public sector] unions from forcing members to pay dues, require annual secret ballots on whether to remain unionized, and ask members to contribute a pittance toward their lavish pensions and health care plans.” Walker’s courage in standing his ground in the face of protestors calling him Hitler and Hosni Mubarak, and Democratic legislators fleeing the state to avoid voting on the bill, presaged the guts that mayors around the country didn’t have in dealing with Occupy Wall Street.
1. Michele Bachmann – Minnesota Representative and Tea Party leader Bachmann embodied the best combination of conservative/articulate out of all the 2012 GOP presidential nominees; it’s inexplicable that she isn’t doing better in the polls. From my column “CDC Prepares for Outbreak of Bachmann Derangement Syndrome”: “Bachmann has labeled herself a ‘constitutional conservative’—precisely the correct label to use in this bizarre era of pay czars, light bulb bans, and trillion-dollar deficits… Bachmann [took] leadership roles on… repealing [Dodd-Frank] and replacing ObamaCare with free market reforms.” Here’s hoping she can at least snag the VP slot.