Scott Walker vs. Ideological Purity

In Into the Whirlwind, her classic memoir detailing nearly 20 years in the Soviet Gulag as result of Stalin’s purges, Yevgeniya Ginzburg tells of an episode in a boxcar, in transit from one labor camp to another. Ginzburg was an orthodox Soviet Communist, whose son was taken from her and who was imprisoned solely because her husband, a historian, had unknowingly published an article which deviated slightly from the party line. This happened unknowingly, because the party line changed after he submitted the article to his editor, who proceeded to publish the now errant article (G-d only knows what happened to the editor).

In the incident mentioned above, Ginzburg tells of another woman in the car. She was a prisoner just like the rest, though she had been in custody much longer than most. She was utterly ostracized by the others, and would share nothing with Ginzburg and could only speak to her through gritted teeth. Her crime? She had been a Social Revolutionary, a Menshevik, rather than an orthodox Bolshevik, and she refused to recant her error and repent of her sin.

That’s what ideological purity gets you.

If there is one term I would expunge from contemporary political discourse and cast into the outer darkness forever, the term would be RINO, “Republican In Name Only.” Not least because all of those who use it are ignorant of the history of the Republican Party. Progressivism began in the Republican Party; the first progressive president proudly to label himself as such was Theodore Roosevelt, and unlike his equally progressive cousin Franklin, he was no Democrat.

When we consider the fact that the modern Republican Party is more or less divided into three factions -- one representing the “establishment,” strongest on the East Coast; one conservative, probably strongest in the South and Midwest; and the Libertarian wing, probably strongest in the West -- it behooves us to remember that the latter two are the johnny-come-latelys.

A problem arises when we consider that the Democratic Party is divided into only two factions: doctrinaire, revolutionary Leftists, and brain-dead, largely dependent, useful idiots who vote for them. In other words, party unity, through the process which V.I. Lenin called “democratic centralism,” is relatively easy for them to achieve. It therefore also behooves Republicans of whichever faction to consider what Benjamin Franklin famously said after signing the Declaration of Independence: “Gentlemen, we must all hang together or we shall all hang separately.”

Which brings us to Betsy Woodruff’s recent article in Slate, Why Scott Walker Isn’t a Slam Dunk for Grass-Roots Conservatives.” In her piece, Woodruff focuses on two issues, which she labels “immigration” and “Common Core.” Let’s take them one at a time.

Scott Walker is on record, as recently as ABC News’ This Week on February 1 (as Woodruff indeed acknowledged), as saying that the first priority in dealing with illegal aliens (not “immigrants” of any kind) is to seal the border, to prevent any more from coming in. That done, the government can turn to dealing with those already here. Walker pronounced himself against amnesty, and also said that he does not favor any of the plans that have been suggested.

So what’s the difficulty? Woodruff does not think the word “amnesty” is clear enough: “[T]he definition of  ‘amnesty’ can vary widely from Republican to Republican. As a result, immigration hardliners on the right are often unforgiving of anyone perceived as soft on this issue.”

Aside from her consistent misuse of the term “immigration” here (there are two problems: the most pressing one is dealing with aliens illegally in the country; the second is the crying necessity to reform American immigration laws, since the current mess is a direct result of the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s immigration reform of the mid-‘60s), she doesn’t bother to tell us what, precisely, is the evidence that Walker is “soft” on either matter.

There is, however, some evidence that Walker is serious about dealing with illegal aliens, since the state of Wisconsin has joined with 16 other states in suing the federal government over Obama’s amnesty program, and his unilateral dumping of children who illegally crossed the border in states across the country.

I think that should serve, for now, to explain what Scott Walker means by “amnesty.” If there is anything to be ascertained from Walker’s gubernatorial campaigns, it is that he is a refreshing change from most politicians in that he tries not to make promises which he can’t keep, and tries to keep the promises he does make. The precise parameters of any reform of immigration law will have to go through the legislative branch (remember them? There are three branches of government in this country, in case some of you have imagined that Obama has somehow succeeded in abolishing the other two), and will have to take into account, whether one likes it or not, the realities created by a lot of legal precedent (in my view, erroneous legal precedent, but that doesn’t negate its existence) deciding that the 14th Amendment grants American citizenship to any child born on U.S. territory, regardless of his parents’ status.

The second issue concerns the repeal of Common Core. Walker is firmly on record as supporting the repeal of Common Core legislation in Wisconsin, and in favor of the establishment of state standards to be implemented and administered by local school boards, as provided for in the state constitution.

Woodruff cites a headline on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze in December -- “Scott Walker Dialing Back His Common Core Opposition” -- but then points to a Fox 11 report from January 17 in which Walker once again clearly articulated his wholesale opposition to those standards. She goes on to quote an Iowa “organizer and activist,” Shane Vander Hart: “Iowa voters are about action. If he says repeal but signs into law a bill that accomplishes nothing to get rid of Common Core in his state, that’s going to hurt him.”

If. As a very active member of the Wisconsin Republican Party, I can tell you that if the governor were to do any such thing, he would also greatly disappoint the vast majority of his own party’s base. Outright repeal of Common Core was a plank in the 2014 Republican Party platform, and it almost certainly will be again in the 2015 platform because of grassroots activists in Wisconsin. However, there simply is no bill before the governor to sign yet, and so there is nothing to talk about, either.

It is now February 2015; nobody has formally announced his or her candidacy for the Republican nomination, though there are around 13 reasonably serious people looking at such an announcement -- one of them is Governor Walker. Will all the single-issue advocates please calm down? I agree with Vander Hart; I’m also “about action.” Let us then judge Walker, and every other potential candidate, on the actions which they take, and let us please recognize that any of the possible Republican candidates would be less bad than any conceivable Democrat.

Let us please not make the mistake so many Republican voters made in 2012 with Romney by staying home. Let us please not allow the best on any single issue become the enemy of the good.