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links for 2010-09-20


Principle or Party?

Protestors at the Philadelphia Tea Party on Ap...

Image via Wikipedia


The Tea Party movement has claimed victory over several GOP mainstays, including Rick Lazio in New york and Mike Castle in Delaware. Castle I don’t care that much about, but it sure would be nice to have that seat in GOP hands. 

What I do care about is the fact this new movement cares more about holding strictly to certain principles over the political realities of different districts. 

All one has to do look to the opposition party and see the value in choosing candidates that can win in tough districts. The Democrats, in 2006 and 2008, sported scores of conservative or moderate candidates, most of whom were military vets, most of whom were pro-gun, many of whom were pro-life, and a few who were fiscal hawks. Basically, they ran anti-war Republicans who would vote Democrat for speaker, and otherwise not be especially strong in their bread and butter liberal issues. 

And look what the consequences were: the Democrats were able to spend a trillion bucks they didn’t have; pass, despite ridiculously strong and loud opposition from everywhere, a large healthcare bill; and reform the financial industry. 

None of these things had anything to do with the primary issue in 2006: the Iraq War. And the primary 2008 issue, the economy, has seen almost no growth since Obama took office. 

No matter what you think of the Democrats, you have to appreciate the fact they’ve accomplished some substantial legislative victories, and they’ve done so on the backs of dozens of conservative and moderate Democrats new to the legislature, circa 2006 or 2008. The legislative agenda is built by the political party in power, not by the ideological stalwarts in the minority. 

Conservative pundits, riding high this election, are proud of the fact the Tea Party types are cleansing the party of less-than-ideological candidates. However, there is more than this election to think about. 

Even if Christine O’Donnell wins this year in Delaware, she will lose re-election (and I say this with confidence). Even if Sharon Angle wins in Nevada, it will be a tough bid for her in 2016. The same for Tom Emmer in 2014. 

By going with the more conservative candidates now, we are sacrificing seats and legislative agendas in the future. 

This is above and beyond the fact the GOP is, probably, already giving away seats this election cycle. 

Rick Lazio’s loss in New York is especially painful, and I do hope he stays on the ballot for November (he’s endorsed by the NY Conservative Party, and they need a certain number of votes to preserve their ballot access). Lazio was a good candidate, with experience in statewide races, who would have been a tough opponent. Lazio would have forced money into the NY gubernatorial race that can now escape to other districts. So going with the more conservative candidate in New York will hurt other conservatives elsewhere. 

Rigid adherence to a political ideology has to be seen as a mental disease. There’s nothing wrong with having an ideology, a preferred way of looking at the world, but religiously holding to those principles is idolatry. Conservatism is not a dogmatic philosophy. It’s not a philosophy at all. It is a loose assortment of traditions, principles, philosophies and empirical truths; all of which are, at their core, pragmatic. 

Rush Limbaugh, in a broadcast I listened to recently, tried to do away with William F. Buckley’s rule (Buckley said to vote for the most conservative candidate who can win the general election in a primary) by saying this rule requires clairvoyance. 

But it doesn’t. We have tools, generally effective, that can tell us the likelihood a candidate can win an election in a given year in a given region. They’re called polls. And those polls show the GOP making things hard on themselves by picking bad candidates. 

In short, electability has to be part of the discussion whenever choosing a candidate. Even, or I would say especially, in years where conservatism is riding high. 

Without principles, a party has no meaning. Without a party, principles never get instituted. A political movement must understand this or face extinction.