Purity or Strategy: The Debate We Need To Have
Last week, there was one of those mommy-and-daddy-are-fighting moments on Fox News as two powerhouse conservatives debated one of the most important issues facing the right. In one corner, was the dagger-sharp and stunningly beautiful and did I mention beautiful Ann Coulter. In the other corner, was the valiant, good-hearted and, you know, perfectly presentable in his own way Sean Hannity. No one can doubt either the patriotism or the fearlessness of these two. You may sometimes disagree with one or the other, that's fine, but it seems undeniable that both have the good of the country first and foremost in their minds. Plus Ann's really attractive.
You can watch the video to hear the whole thing but the gist is this. Ann thinks we have to stop "shysters" who pretend to represent the Tea Party from luring us into endless primaries against "establishment" Republicans. The thinking behind this (as I've heard her say elsewhere) is that there is only so much campaign money to go around and it needs to be focused wholly on defeating Democrats, winning a Republican majority in both houses and using that majority to "repeal Obamacare, repeal Obamacare, repeal Obamacare."
Sean took a more purist Tea Party line, saying there are some Republicans who "should be defeated," and endorsing the idea that we should primary the RINOs where we can and — my words here not his — we should end the civil war within the Republican Party by winning it for the true conservatives.
Just to let you know where I stand emotionally, here's a true story. The first time I made a speech before a Tea Party crowd, I felt as if I were floating two feet off the ground. I respected, admired and agreed with the Tea Partiers so completely, that my heart rose up and I began to believe that despite the Obama debacle, the country would ultimately be fine. As I was leaving the rally, I got a call from a friend asking me to come by for a drink with a couple of the highest-ranking Republicans in Washington. It was me and them, having a glass together, eye to eye. By the time I left that gathering, I was so depressed by the establishment GOP's blindness and philosophical corruption I could barely see straight. I phoned Andrew Breitbart for moral support. "I've just had a drink with [blank] and [blank]," I began. And he responded immediately, "Are they ***holes or what?"
All my sympathies, in other words, are with the Tea Party. And I would truly love to see the RINOs skewered on their own horns.
And yet... In general, Tea Party candidates tend to do well in congressional races where small, homogenous districts are in play. In Senate races where you need votes across an entire state, a primary victory for someone like Christine O'Donnell or Todd Akin may briefly fill the conservative heart with joy, but the loss of a Senate seat that could have been won is simply too high a price to pay for that momentary triumph.
We need to talk this out with good sense and without pompous ranting. Politics is the art of the possible. Writing belligerently purist articles, blog posts or comments is relatively easy. Winning elections is hard. Barack Obama is one of the most destructive presidents this country has ever seen, but a talented politician. If stopping him in his tracks requires stomaching some RINOs here and there, it seems a no brainer: It must be done. Ann may have put her case a little too forcefully in the debate above (she's not exactly given to dithering!), but surely she's right in the general principle that strategy — and victory — have to come before purity.
I'd rather put up with frustrating RINOs than continue in the minority with our country under attack from within. But let me know what you think.