One of ‘Puter’s favorite columnists, Charles Krauthammer, took CPAC to task, referring to its snub of Gov. Christie as a “vast overreaction” and a “mistake.” So too did Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, take the opportunity to recognize CPAC’s snub for what it is: shortsighted and suicidal.
In a similar vein, John Podhoretz wrote a piece for the New York Post earlier this week that struck ‘Puter as particularly insightful. Mr. Podhoretz merely stated the obvious, which was not obvious at all to ‘Puter until Mr. Podhoretz did so. That is, the Republican Party is exactly that, a political party whose sole goal is to win elections. And the Conservative Movement is exactly that, an ideological movement dedicated to “enduring ideas and deeply held philosophical beliefs.” Exactly right.
During ‘Puter’s lifetime, conservatives have existed peacefully (for the most part) in the way-back of the Republican Party’s family sta-wag, and Republicans have been happy to have conservatives along for the ride. Republican and conservative worldviews were largely the same: pro-gun, pro-life, pro-Israel, pro-family, pro-military, anti-Communism, small government, low taxes. However, since the fall of the Soviet Union and the slow suicide of mainline Christian denominations, Republicans and Conservatives have become increasingly at odds, with disastrous consequences for both.
Republican candidates cannot get to a general election without conservative support in the primaries, but Republican candidates cannot win general elections without the support of America’s vast, squishy middle of low information voters.
And conservatives don’t have much of a national voice without high-profile officials holding federal office. Without the Republican Party’s support for conservative candidates, there would be exactly zero conservative politicians of note.
‘Puter can hear the caterwauling now. “You’re so wrong, ‘Puter! You just don’t get it! You’re probably one of those RINOs, like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan! We are totally going to form a third party and throw you and all your RINO buddies overboard! Without those stupid RINOs, America will surely realize how awesome our platform of zero immigration, no abortions ever and zeroing out the welfare state is!” Uh, not exactly, dipsticks.
Despite conservatism’s delusions of grandeur, it is not now and will never be a viable third party. Here are the hard truths.
First, there are too few conservatives to win large scale national or even statewide elections. Even if ‘Puter were to grant this conservative third party pipe dream for the sake of argument, such a party would never be a majority. A conservative third party would have to govern in coalition with another political party. And ‘Puter finds it exceedingly unlikely there’s a bunch of rock-ribbed conservatives champing at the bit to align with their BFFs, the Democrats. So conservatives are right back where they started: de facto members of the Republican Party.
Second, if polls are to be believed, America’s pretty much sick and tired of the conservative positions on most social issues, which taints America’s view of the parts of the conservative worldview it agrees with.
Look, ‘Puter’s more conservative than most Republicans and even he thinks conservatives need to stop being such giant asshats. We conservatives should make our points. We should fight the good fight. But there comes a time for us conservatives to shut the eff up and sit the eff down, even if it means accepting a less than perfect candidate. The alternative is to cede the field to the Democrats, and you can see how well that’s worked for America.
Even conservative sweethearts like Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker know this. There’s a time when you take the best you can get and move on, living to fight another day. Over time, this principled but incremental approach results in a statewide or nationwide conservative shift. Conservatives must tolerate the manure spreader’s stank in the fall if we want to harvest the winter wheat come spring.
‘Puter’s not advocating for conservatives to roll over and be the Republican Party’s bitches, like the media is for President Obama. ‘Puter’s point is this: conservatives must decide which of their ideals are non-negotiable and learn to tolerate (not to love, or even to accept) heterodoxy on the less important points. Conservatives must stop making the perfect the enemy of the good.
So what’s non-negotiable in ‘Puter’s view? To ‘Puter’s, there are precious few non-negotiable conservative points.
· Protection Of Life At All Stages
This means that a candidate must be committed to advancing pro-life issues where possible, resolving the tough calls in favor of life.
This means a candidate should vote for a law that presumes the Constitutional right to an abortion if it means making abortion less available overall.
This means a commitment to preserving the idea behind the welfare state, which is deeply conservative: America helps those who cannot help themselves, and everyone else should get to work.
This does not require preserving current programs; in fact, it requires the opposite. This requires overhauling systems devised in the 1930s and 1960s that are ill-suited to meeting the actual needs of the truly needy, systems that currently serve only to enrich undeserving Democrat constituencies such as public sector unions.
This means standing against ObamaCare and its insistence that government determines the quantum of care to which you are entitled, which is nothing more than government authority to determine when and how you die.
This means taking seriously our obligation to ensure the reasonable health and safety of the imprisoned, including stamping out prison rape once and for all.
This means an absolute obligation to ensure that no innocent person be put to death by the state, even if that means forgoing the death penalty altogether.
· Fiscal Responsibility
This means government should not spend more than it takes in, in all but the most exigent circumstances, such as global war or worldwide depression.
This means that if government spends more than it takes in to meet an exigent circumstance, it repays its bondholders at the earliest possible opportunity.
This means government ensures all citizens, rich, middle class and poor alike, pay a fair share of America’s upkeep.
· Protection of Constitutional Rights/Rule of Law
Government should be no larger than it must be to ensure our Constitutional rights. All our Constitutional rights. Even the Constitutional rights with which conservatives disagree, such as abortion.
This means treating even made-up Constitutional rights, when settled, as worthy of respect and protection.
This means permitting the states to handle matters on their own, in their own ways, according to the will of their citizenry, so long as states’ chosen paths do not impair Constitutional rights. A few examples are: education, insurance, drinking ages, and firearms regulation.
This means reining in administrative agencies and Congress’ delegation of its Constitutional duties to unelected busybodies with lifetime tenure.
This means insisting that the executive and judicial branches do not exceed their Constitutional authority even when – no, especially when – the results benefit conservative ideals.
This means insisting America enforce its laws, whether we agree with them or not, until such laws are changed, repealed or superseded in accordance with the Constitution’s provisions.
These are, or should be, conservatism’s non-negotiable points. All else is well and good, but the above are essential. Note well that agreeing on core principles does not mean we will all agree on the best way to achieve these goals. It means that conservatives will continue to struggle, to argue, to fight and to scream about specific issues like gay marriage and gun control. And this sharp-elbowed debate is good. Conservatives need voices of principled dissent to hone our arguments and test our policies before we try them out on the country.
So back to CPAC and Gov. Christie. Is Gov. Christie ‘Puter’s idea of an ideal conservative candidate? No. But what Gov. Christie is is ‘Puter’s idea of an extremely electable Republican candidate. ‘Puter also believes that Gov. Christie meets the conservative litmus test he details above. Gov. Christie is pro-life, fiscally responsible and a defender of our rights. Sure, most of us wouldn’t choose the programs or paths to get to these ends Gov. Christie has, but lockstep adherence to conservative dogma of the day isn’t on ‘Puter’s checklist.
CPAC and many conservatives today would do well to remember Ronald Reagan’s wise words – “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.” – and comport themselves accordingly.