A few days ago, I posted a video of Ronald Reagan addressing the Young Americans for Freedom.
A particular point he makes can be found at about 4:15, as he starts to describe the blurred line between the Democrats and the Republicans. He was absolutely correct on his analysis. Furthermore, there are a number of events that have happened since that speech, that can be used as lessons. Surely, an encyclopedia of Republican “moderation” could be written from only 35 years of government expansion, (since the video was made) and intrusion into our lives that offers as proof, a failure to stand on principles.
How DOES the line get blurred though? What is it that brings about a change in a person elected, whom might well have spoken solidly as a conservative during the election cycle, and then seemingly wavers from principle unexpectedly?
Having beaten an incumbent in the primary, who I believe strayed from conservative principles I may be able to offer a bit of understanding. Realize of course that my position, should I win in the general Nov 02, is not one of great significance to the country, nor is it one that would write me into the history books as a notable elected individual, but it carries its own weight locally, and on how I react to certain issues, and circumstance. The elected candidate might well seem different from the trying to be elected candidate.
Of course having the “elected” part to go, I am willing to assume a little room in my thesis.
WHY someone runs, might well have a number of answers. In my own case it was the phone calls from a number of folks who know me, have read some of my work, know I am solidly conservative, and appreciate some of the principled stands that I take. The requests came continually enough, and alongside the natural instinct of wanting to have things done MY WAY, I reluctantly agreed to engage.
I knew there were problems I might be able to solve or at least affect positively. But at first, I wasn’t sure if I even WANTED to win. It wasn’t that big a deal. Mentally I was geared towards state and federal issues, and even with a reasonable knowledge of the shenanigans in county government I wasn’t too sure I would be effective. Add to this, having never run for office I was out of a comfort zone.
It changes fast enough though.
How easy it becomes when the ego is stroked by people actually volunteering to go door to door on your behalf. A self discovery that you might actually have an message to deliver, that is important enough to warrant people dedicating their time for what YOU believe in. Before long, a relative indifference changes to a commitment to invest your own time and energy into the process. It becomes more important as you see its value through the efforts of others. YOU become more important as they tap into your desire to convert YOUR opinion into action.
In a way, to become leader you must first follow the lead of your supporters, but where it goes from there can become altogether different.
At what point does an opinion of self importance transform into acting contrary to principle?
It can happen at the same time one finds a willing ally to fight for him. At the same time someone commits to assisting you, it is all too easy to ignore the minor differences you might have. EVEN IF those differences run in opposition to your core beliefs. It becomes harder to speak out against what is WRONG, if you feel you will offend the belief set of someone who has “for the most part” taken up your banner to get you elected. That loyalty, even in a misplaced condition is a conservative trait.
It can also happen when faced with an electorate that is perceived to be in opposition to your core principles. When you are right in “zigging,” but conventional wisdom says “zagging” is the best tactic to become an office holder. Whether it is the media, or public policy groups, or even a bought and paid for rally by big labor, “group think” has its effectiveness. One of my good (conservative) friends said to me about his election strategy:
“you know I’ll have to campaign a little to the left.. once I get beyond the primary”
I asked him why. I KNEW the answer, but wanted to know if it was what I was assuming.. That the voters are used to a “moderate” voice.
He thought he would lose because his conservative beliefs would be seen as maybe a little to extreme. So instead of advocating the positions he himself held personally, he was willing to put a stamp of approval on a compromise of his principles. His fear of outright rejection by some, diluted his message. It weakened his own personal resolve at the same time. He wanted to WIN! I understand that too.
Unless you win, its hard to effect change.. RIGHT?
Maybe there is too much consideration for “winning” being the leading indicator versus the end result of a good message.
Maybe its possible to win WITHOUT selling out your principles.
Reagan, pointed out in his presentation that there are people waiting to be involved. That they have given up because they saw no difference between the parties. There was no reason for them to pick one side or the other. When confronted with 35-40% voting rates, it seems he may be on to something. In fact, its one of the main arguments the Libertarians have made for a couple of decades. I would argue there is a difference, but it has not been one that is clearly defined, if only demonstrated by the inability of Republicans to use the majority in both houses ALONG with the Presidency to lower the deficit spending and restore our liberties that have been removed piecemeal from us through the last several administrations.
They had their chance to redeem themselves. But some Republicans have been comfortable with Democrat lite or “moderate” voting records that keep them safely in office as long as the rest of the population stays home. Now all of a sudden, those previously silent voices are being heard, and the cheese is being moved. Losses by entrenched Republicans with quite moderate stands are being thrown aside. Those who have participated in the quickening removal of our liberties by the current administration are finding out their “safe” stands on some issues are NOT acceptable to people who expect them to behave like Republicans.
They are discovering that the “winning strategy” of moderation is a loser after all.
The Tea Party events have changed the game to be sure. Conservatives found their voice, and discovered kin, both inside, and outside the Republican or Democrat parties. But the conservatives are savvy enough already to realize a third party solution gets them nothing.. So it was a natural fit to push the most conservative candidates, EVEN IF they might have a seemingly uphill battle. And EVEN IF it seems that the stark contrast between ideas brings about the bigger question of electability in November.
The question of course always coming from the capitulating weenies on the Republican side who are worried more about the WIN than what is right. The question coming from those who have never stopped to think that maybe instead of bashing that which they claim to represent, they should teach it. There is a disconnect because of ego. Of course you cannot spend time teaching it, and risk alienating others to the cause because they will think it proselytizing. Better to let those people who might be WRONG, or at least misinformed to continue being so. They might not like you…
But there is also an industry built around keeping incumbents and “expected” nominees in place. Those folks who have little concern about the general welfare of the nation, or the direction it is heading, feed the head. The self importance already built in through the (sometimes repeated) election process is further reinforced by those who give great amounts of money (and plenty of free advice) with daily visits, luncheons in a politician’s honor and a guidance that is hard to overcome with a letter or two of hope or wishes from someplace so distant as home.
Vanity serves the office well. Did we not see a perfect example of this in the defeat of Mike Castle by a presumably conservative Christine O’Donnell?
The media, the lobbyists, the Republican elite guard, and those who thought Castle had the best odds of WINNING in November all wanted Castle to win in the primary. Never mind that he votes consistently with the other side in his current position. He was ENTITLED. He was special. And NOW he has a purplish bruise all over his EGO that can be seen several states away. He hasn’t even congratulated the winner. Everyone TOLD HIM HE WAS IT.
Everyone was wrong. So.. Now they roll out the “Buckley rule”
No less than Charles Krauthammer whom I agree with most often, complains that the Buckley rule; “Support the most conservative candidate who is electable” was violated. Even Krauthammer sees the WIN as the end game so effortlessly, that it is likely to promote such behavior into the future as well. However, this is so different a time, that egos, winning, and status quo cannot be accepted. From this point forward, the conservative’s national strategy MUST be to roll back the clock a few decades.
And it won’t happen with self absorbed politicos.
“As one would expect from a tactical guideline, the Buckley Rule’s ambition is limited. Tactics are not strategy. They are what you use to succeed within a given strategic framework. If you don’t have a strategy, tactics become a poor substitute for thinking. If you have the wrong strategy, tactics are only the means by which you will fail to achieve your highest interest — because you have miscalculated what your highest interest is. “
And what is our highest interest?
Some in the GOP seem to have forgotten. Not for long though.