PJ Media

Poor, Poor, Put-Upon Moderates

I’m tired of Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Tom Ridge, and the rest of them. I’m tired of the pontificating. I’m tired of the holier-than-thou bearing. I’m tired of the self-important smugness. Most of all, I’m tired of losing big elections  and being lectured by the losers about how to win.

And I’d just like to say this to moderates feelings tweaked in the current Grand Old Party: get over it.

Rick Moran says the following in his latest Pajamas Media colum:

Eh … OK. Everyone can come in and sit down for the feast but if you are pro-choice, or pro-gay marriage, or pro-amnesty, kindly realize that no one is going to listen to you so you might as well keep your mouth shut. Meanwhile, your cousins and other relations can publicly chastise you for your different opinions, actively seek to undermine your re-election by running a primary challenger against you, deny you party support, and will stay at home on election day so a Democrat will probably defeat you anyway.

An exaggeration? Not by much if you listen to many conservatives on talk radio and the internet. For these activists, war has been declared on those they consider “establishment” Republicans or “elitists.” Just what makes these animals dangerous is never articulated to a satisfactory degree. Sometimes, the transgression is as small as praising President Obama for something he’s done. More serious violations include working with Democrats in Congress to solve problems, being pro-choice, or daring to say that the party has become too ideological and even too conservative to win in many states and districts around the country.

Activists and ideologues will tell you that they want candidates to adhere to “first principles” and that anyone who strays from their narrow interpretation of those principles should be shown the door. But is our understanding of these principles an intellectual monolith that brooks no deviation and no independent thought about what they actually mean? Can Republicans from differing parts of the country define these principles in different ways and still be thought of as party members?

There is so much in these three paragraphs that irritate me I don’t know where to start.

1. John McCain, moderate to the stars, won the Republican primary.

2. The moderates in the Senate ran things with all their brilliant and self-adoring compromises and Republicans lost. Big. Twice.

3. Moderates in the House and Senate are the most selfish beasts. They don’t recognize how their strategies may be a win for them personally, but kill the brand generally.

4. Find me one rational person who expects a Maine Republican to be the same as a Kansas Republican. No one expects that.

5. Is the Republican Party now the party of gay marriage, abortion, anti-law and order (amnesty), and lax national security?

On #5, I just want to do a gut check here. Because those values are very Democratic.  A big tent implies that there are common core beliefs but that those with a position straying from the party planks are also included. That is what a big tent means. What are the Republican core beliefs?

  • Freedom and personal liberty: As in, “I know what’s best for me more than the government knows what’s best for me.”
  • Small government: Small government means small taxes, which also means economic freedom. If a Republican does not believe this tenet, why is he a Republican?
  • God, Family, Country: That is, traditional values. The building blocks of society. Patriotism. No apologies for the greatness of America, etc.
  • Life. Protecting and promoting it — from the weakest unborn child and the equality of minorities to the protection of democracies everywhere.

Now, just to stop here for a moment, I’d like to talk about nuance. I am ardently pro-life. I’m also a realist. I know too many women who’ve had abortions. I know too many men who’ve encouraged wives and/or girlfriends to abort to believe it will ever be illegal. And in the case of the mother’s life being in danger, I don’t think abortion should be illegal. So my thinking is that abortion needs to be restricted as much as possible. Morning-after pills seem like a good option. Waiting periods and required ultrasounds — those sorts of things are fine. Still, my philosophical home is the Republican Party. Why? Because I believe that innocent life should be protected and I am concerned about the civil rights of the unborn child who is helpless at the whims of the parents.

Here is what I wonder about the moderates: does even one core belief mesh with the party? Good luck finding a fiscally conservative moderate. Find me one. If a politician who identifies as Republican can’t even see the point in a balanced budget and loves pork, why, pray tell, is he a Republican?

This is the problem right now. Being a Republican means nothing. Well, according to the Left and the disgruntled moderates, it means closed-mindedness. What is especially galling is that moderates continue to attack what they say is their own side when it’s impossible to differentiate them from the Left.

I might disagree with Glenn Reynolds on social issues, but as long as he’s fighting tooth and nail against big government intrusion, taxation, and pork barrel spending, I consider him a friend and ally.

I might disagree with Ann Althouse on nearly everything (actually we agree more often then not), but as long as she values the security of America and values America for it’s own sake, I consider her a fellow patriot. (After the pain of having voted for Barack Obama, I hope she’ll come back into the Republican fold.)

Allahpundit and James Joyner might be agnostic/atheist, actually, but as long as they promote freedom, small government, and security, they are full members under the big tent.

Still, for all of the above people whom I respect, admire, and consider friends and fellow warriors on a mission to make America great, I do not believe they fully represent the Republican platform. And I don’t think any one of them would say that about themselves, either. Many have voted for Democrats when they have felt a Democrat better represents their belief system, because their belief systems does not fit easily within either party. These same people should have a voice at the table — but they should not be the only ones listened to. Otherwise, we end up looking like a mess — a confused hodgepodge of conflicting ideologies. Republicans then look weak and dither on every issue, which is exactly where the Republican Party is right now.

The Republican Party needs a Reagan-like communicator and connector — someone who articulates the conservative message and reveals it to be the friendly, life-affirming, freedom-loving, optimistic, America-building philosophy it is. The core Republican values are timeless and resilient. They are what made America great and what will continue to make America great.

There will be those who differ policy-wise. There will be party planks that won’t work in Maine, for example. Those on the Right — most of them and perhaps enough of them — understand this reality. However, what those on the Right won’t understand is a senator who sponsors a bill limiting free speech (McCain). They also won’t understand a senator who signs onto the biggest spending bill in history (Collins). Why be a Republican if you can’t even agree with free speech and fiscal responsibility?

So, yes, in situations like this, moderates feel the wrath of the base in the party because the base wants the party to at least stand for something. And what moderates just can’t seem to fathom is that while pork for the home state is great for that senator’s reelection bid, it kills the whole Republican brand and relegates Republicans obsolete because they stand for nothing.

I don’t need to be lectured by moderates about electoral realities. I see them. And I’m right there with them when it comes to issues of messaging and packaging. But when it comes to a party platform, Republicans need to stand for a couple key issues or else they’ll be seen as a confused mess.

Moderates need to take some responsibility here and acknowledge that they have had the power in the Republican Party over the last 10 years and it hasn’t helped. We’ve lost two election cycles now. Don’t be surprised that conservatives want a big tent and moderates dancing on the fringes and not being the center of attention.

Conservatives know something about branding that the moderates can’t seem to acknowledge: Packaging a message is easier when it’s clear and simple. It is easier to win when there is something solid at the core. Republicanism has to have a core or else it ceases to be a party.