The essence of campaigning and electioneering is to win, period. It is not to deliver a message of purity while falling on one’s sword but it certainly seems that tenet is foreign to many on the extreme right.
Ken Gardner opined in his article, Why Realism Not Idealism is the GOP Path Forward:
If, as Republicans, we want to govern and set policy, we must first win elections and become the majority party. If we want to win elections, we must expand our political base. If we want to expand our base, we must ditch the ideological purity tests that drive many otherwise persuadable voters away. At the same time, we must find the areas of broad agreement that will attract more right-of-center voters. As conservatives, we are better off winning with someone who agrees with us 80% of the time than losing with an ideologically pure but unelectable candidate.
In response to Ken’s article Stephen Green, on his VodkaPundit blog, wrote:
The first thing you must accomplish in politics is win elections or there’s no second thing you can accomplish.
Our country is more socially libertarian than ever — laissez faire even, if you’ll pardon my French. SoCons can lose on gay marriage as they have been doing, to progressives who are using “the gay agenda” (I hate that phrase) as a cudgel to beat the churches and strip the 1st Amendment of whatever meaning it has left. Or they can lose on gay marriage to small government types, who would get government out of marriage and give it back to the churches where it belongs.
Either way though, they’re going to lose. You can’t fight the zeitgeist. You certainly can’t fight it as a member of the permanent minority.
And with that the firestorm of comments on Stephen’s post was off and running.
We don’t need conservatives who have turned hypocritical, we don’t need “centrists” that have no beliefs beyond the next election, we don’t need holier-and-weedier-than-thou libertarians who can’t abide Christians. We need for liberty-minded people to explain why their ideals should appeal to conservatives.
Exactly. It’s less about expanding the tent and more about having a good carnival barker selling the show inside. And make sure we have a good show.
The problem with the “purity message” strategy is it will not win elections, period.
Gallup’s latest poll, Record-High 42% of Americans Identify as Independents, cites:
Forty-two percent of Americans, on average, identified as political independents in 2013, the highest Gallup has measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago. Meanwhile, Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest over that time span. At 31%, Democratic identification is unchanged from the last four years but down from 36% in 2008.
While an Independent affiliation does not necessarily mean centrist or moderate it also surely does not mean social conservative, and there’s better odds it is the former. Most notable is the precipitous drop in Republican affiliation which has basically been in freefall since 2005.
This is not difficult math, in fact it’s quite simple … the GOP must embrace candidates that are conservative in the areas that truly matter like debt reduction, economic growth, job creation, smaller government and a return to productivity on Capitol Hill.
These are the things that matter to the 42% of self-identified Independents. These are the things that will expand the tent. These are the things that will win elections, without which there will be no forward progress on any of the issues conservatives’ value.
Finally, lest you think all of Stephen’s readers are trapped in delusional thoughts of converting this 42% to their way of thinking, a few rational comments.
Nobody’s saying you need to toss your long-held beliefs, just stop voting based on them. It’s the wrong tool. It doesn’t work. All it does is get vile progs elected, and have no interest in your beliefs – except to use them as weapons to gain more power.
Put it this way — unless we adopt what amounts to a Democrat style circling of the wagons, however distasteful it may be at times, we’re toast. Ten years ago that might not have been an issue, but after eight years of vote buying? I quite honestly weep for the future that some people want to give away so they can crow from the moral high ground.
The challenge as we head into the 2014 elections is for more conservatives to embrace what these last two commenters seem to have accepted. It is time to do the simple math, it is time to expand the tent, and it is time to embrace reality.
It’s time because without all of these there will be no victory and therefore no advancement of any conservative principles.