Conservatives – A Prickly Lot, Indeed


By: Warner Todd Huston

Conservatives can be a prickly lot. We can be a general pain in the rear, not just for the opposing side, but amongst each other too.

Of course, those on the left have their moments of recalcitrance amongst their own, of late. We are seeing such times right now as the wacko extreme on the left seem to be infesting the internet and guiding the debate for the left with their overheated yammering and their lack of common sense and civility.

But, it should also be noted that these people on the left are the proverbial squeaky wheel. They aren’t entirely representative of the bulk of the Democratic Party and their ideas cannot necessarily be relied upon, and their stranglehold of the internet similarly cannot be relied upon, to drive the Democrats to victory. Ask Joe Trippi about that one!

But, let’s face it, one of the things that makes a conservative a conservative is his rock-sure stance on principle. It is one of our many strengths, but it is also sometimes a weakness, a weakness because all too often that “principle” is a barrier to cohesion and all too often puts a stopper on our working together.

Unfortunately, politics is the art of the possible. And oft times small chinks in the bedrock of our most beloved policies must be chipped away to get what we want in the end – or to get as much as we can get through the art of political maneuver. As the old aphorism goes, it’s better to have half a loaf than no loaf at all. It is also better to at least have a place at the table to partake of that loaf then to be left out of the dinner party altogether.

The trick for each of us is, of course, to be able to find just where to compromise our pet theories or ideas with others to keep everything moving the best way we can toward the right path. This is why politics is so frustrating at times.

Rancor for those on your own side, however, should be minimized to the best degree possible. Remember Reagan’s Law: Never attack another Republican. This is something that the left has learned well amongst themselves and one rarely strayed from excluding these recent internet efforts by the extremists. But, again and again, it is something that Republicans have never been able to grasp.

Being a writer of Op Eds I have been on the receiving end of quite a few barbs, hate letters and attacks by people who would otherwise be on my side in most issues. Of course disagreement is fine, expected, healthy, even necessary, but the hatred and vitriol that I see once in a while is amazing. And it adds to a self-defeating outcome for conservatives.

Just this week, a disheartening email came across my screen that is a perfect example of both an inability of conservatives to work together and a level of vitriol that is utterly uncalled for by people who are so centered on their one idea that all else be damned.

Like all good internet mavens, I operate a blog (Publius’ Forum) as well as write Op Eds and on my blog I have added a section urging Dr. Condoleeza Rice to run for Vice- President. There are quite a few sites and organizations urging the good Doctor to run for elective office with many of them centered on pushing her to run for President.

Dr. Rice, though, has said she does not want to run for President. I believe her. However, I think she would make an excellent VP candidate and, to my knowledge, she has not turned her back on that office. Still, I would support her for President, as well. Either office would be graced by her presence and would most likely further our conservative goals.

So, on my blog I started this page urging Dr. Rice to run for VP. At the tail of this page I added links to other sites, some of them urging her to run for President. And, out of courtesy, I emailed each site to let them know that I have added their links to show support for their efforts.

Here is the ignorant reply I got from one of them:

With all due respect, you do not support our efforts with your blog. Our efforts are directed towards electing Dr. Rice PRESIDENT in 2008. Honestly, I don’t know if you are joking, misinformed, or just “yanking our chain.”

We are not working every day and night into the wee hours to see Dr. Rice become VP. If you’d read some of our recent homepage postings, you’d be aware of that.

We will NOT be reciprocating your link to us. It is a free country. You can link to us if you like, but we’d appreciate your removing your link to us. We categorically reject the premise of your website, and we do not want anybody receiving the mistaken impression that we agree with your position on Dr. Rice in any way, shape, or form.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Dick Brickman
(an alias I made up to avoid further problems, by the way)

No salutation. Dripping with vitriol, attacking my intelligence and so self-centered that it reeks of condescension. And all I said in my email to him was that I support his efforts!

What is wrong with this man? I would certainly support Dr. Rice for president, but if she absolutely declined that honor but was persuaded to be a VP candidate, would Mr. “Brickman” support that? It seems he would not.

In any case, this guy has a major problem playing well with others and is a perfect example of the kind of stiff-necked insistence on it being his way or the highway that all too many conservatives display.

This is why Republicans cannot hold power for too long with our current coalition before being toppled by the Democrats. It isn’t because we are somehow wrong about our ideas and policies, it is because we can never present a unified front that inspires voters to feel safe to continue to vote for the GOP. It always seems as if we are on the verge of collapsing from internal strife.

Democrats may not have good ideas, they certainly have no clue what being American really is, and they absolutely want to turn this country into a Euroesque worker’s paradise, but Republicans can’t even agree to work together much less face the enemy in unison.

This is not a plea of “Can’t we all just get along”. This is a warning that politics is not a game of my-way-or-the-highway, it is the art of compromise and coalition building. And if conservatives refuse to compromise under any circumstances, even amongst each other, they will end up with nothing at all for all their principle and beliefs and the country will continue to veer far away from what conservatives want as people who are able to compromise and build coalitions prove more able to the task.

Principle is one thing. Prickliness is another thing entirely.

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