Thursday, April 30, 2009

What is "Conservative Enough"?: The Great GOP Debate

In the wake of the Arlene Specter scandal (the switch from R to D) journos have been going goo-goo-gaga trying to put their twist on what this means to the future of the Republican Party.

The New York Times wrote a piece, "GOP Debate: A Broader Party of a Purer One?". In the article they ask: "Should [the GOP] purge moderate voices like Mr. Specter and embrace its conservative roots or seek to broaden its appeal to regain a competitive position against Democrats?"

For too long I have felt that the Republican party was slowing moving down a slippery slope, defining, with much precision, what it meant to be a "Republican." I felt it first hand in the immigration debate. The nativists / enforcement only folks wanted to portray anyone and everyone that didn't agree with them 100% as a RINO (Republican In Name Only.) And then I saw it more and more.

For many the word Republican and conservative is interchangable. But they are not. Conservatives are part of the Republican party. The Republican party is a coaliton of center right organizations.

In the conservative movement there are hundreds of groups. Each one thinks they have the formula to define Conservatism and Republicanism. Each organization will quickly (and most assuredly) call you out the minute they don't like what you are doing. With thousands of score cards, ratings and press releases. These conservative groups let EVERYONE know who has been good and /or bad.

With President Bush's declining numbers and elections on the horizon it felt like there was a "RINO flu epidemic." People got scared and tried to "boost" their conservative credentials. No one wanted to catch the "RINO flu."

While I think these score cards and ratings have value. (and believe me I have done but out a few of them myself!) They sometimes measure a particular issue or subject matter. At times they don't do the elected official justice because its such a small spectrum of focus.

What happened to Specter is quite sad (though COMPLETELY selfish). I am worried some activists in the GOP want the party to become more about purity to conservative idealogy, than representing the voters and providing real ideas/solutions.

Politico reported: "Republican Senators .... blamed the Club for Growth for imposing a right-wing litmus test that chased Arlen Specter out of the Republican Party."

Specter's move was all about self-preservation. Toomey, the former head of Club for Growth, was most likely to win the Republican primary. Yet, most pollsters unanimously agree, Toomey can't win statewide in Pennsylvania. The CLEAR reason is he is not representative of the voters of that state, he is seen as too conservative.

So here goes the question, what is more important in a representative democracy?

In the New York Times piece, Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said: “We are not losing blue states and shrinking as a party because we are not conservative enough. If we pursue a party that has no place for someone who agrees with me 70 percent of the time, that is based on an ideological purity test rather than a coalition test, then we are going to keep losing.”

I agree with Senator Graham. You can't have a winning coalition and only allow a small group into the party (pun intended). We do need to stick to our core values of limited government, national security, and personal responsibility. Yet we must realize that in a two party system, in a nation as large as America, there will be differences. You pick the party that has more people you agree with and has less people you'd likely strangle to death.

Yesterday the American Spectator's Doug Bandow put up a post entitled "The Great GOP Debate." Basically the Bandow tries to make make that point that the GOP is not conservative enough.

I think the problem is not that the GOP is not conservative enough. The problem is not only have the Republican strayed away from their principles but they are seen as hypocrites. Even if people agree with us, they don't trust us.

We must stay true to our Republican principles, but more important we must be honest.

If loosing Spector put us on a path to honesty, so be it. But enough with the double speak and the name calling and lets get back to the business and winning back America.

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