Thursday, November 5, 2009

Losing is Winning

That's the refrain from the hardline conservative base following the defeat of Doug Hoffman in NY-23.  The transcript from Rush Limbaugh's show yesterday was entitled, "Conservatism Didn't Lose in NY-23."  Michelle Malkin summed up the prevailing view on the right,
Hoffman may have lost narrowly, but NY-23 is a much broader victory for conservatives who believe the Republican Party should stand for core limited government principles ...  Moreover, NY-23 is a victory for conservatives who refuse to be marginalized in the public square by either the unhinged left or the establishment right.

There's only one slight problem with this attitude. It's a denial of reality. Back in the real world the GOP lost a formerly safe Republican seat, and another Democrat went to the House, adding to the already large Democratic majority. But conservatives sent the national party a message. Wow, what an accomplishment.

Here's something the conservative base simply refuses to understand. They are not the Republican party, and they don't get to decide who is and is not a Republican. We have a two party system with a pair of broad-based political parties. Each party contains a spectrum of views, and that includes the GOP. Trying to exclude moderates and even liberals from the party shrinks it and makes it less effective, not more. There is no addition through subtraction, as others have pointed out. By supporting third-party candidates and attempting to expel anyone they see as a RINO, the base is weakening the GOP and assisting Democrats.

I know this is difficult for some conservatives to grasp, but there are simply areas of the country where strongly conservative candidates, especially social conservatives, are just not welcome. They aren't going to win in certain districts. The only way for the GOP to win those districts, barring some highly unusual circumstances, is to run more moderate candidates that appeal to the voters in those areas. How does the base respond to this point? They argue that they don't want RINOs. RINOs weaken the GOP and give cover to Democratic policies. They'd rather have the open opposition of Democrats.

That attitude is a recipe for permanent minority status, and completely ignores the fact that moderate and even liberal Republicans often vote with the party line, and can be allies on issues important to the base, even if they defect on certain other policies. It is better to have more Republicans overall, even if some of them are moderate and liberal, rather than allow Democrats to control the government in order to remain pure to conservative principles. Having a large national party requires compromise and alliances. This is another element of reality that much of the base thinks they can deny. The GOP has never been a purely conservative party, where everyone has to meet a litmus test of issues in order to run for office.

I'll close by using myself as an example. I'm a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Republican. Just those two issues automatically brand me as a RINO to much of the GOP base. But I'm not a RINO. I'm a rock-solid, reliable vote for GOP candidates from the national level, right down to local races -- because overall, the Republican party represents my attitude toward policies far better than the Democratic party. My voting record makes me every bit as strong of a Republican as Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, or any other conservative who thinks they should own the GOP. And there are plenty of others out there like me.

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