Making the GOP Conservative Again, Vote Against Them
By: Warner Todd Huston
To start off with the first part of the title of this piece is a lie. Well, more an untruth than an intentional lie. You see, the Republican Party has never been a “conservative” Party, so we cannot make it conservative “again”. In this age of the wild spending GOP controlled Congress I am seeing all sorts of Op Eds presenting ideas and plans to “return” the GOP to its conservative status. But, it just isn’t true that it ever was a solidly conservative Party. With that being true, there is nothing to “return” it to. Rather, we need to make conservative principles more viable, more pervasive within the Party.
Let’s face it, Lincoln’s GOP was definitely not a conservative Party. In fact, it was rather radical. The 1850′s and 1860′s GOP wanted to divert tax money to improve roads and canals, were heavy on protective tariffs, and wanted to eliminate slavery which was a constitutional right previous to the Civil War. They wanted a more vigorous Federal government in an era of heavy interests in Stateâ€™s Rights. Lincolnâ€™s GOP had an agenda that is anything but conservative in the context of its time.
After the war, the GOP settled in as a friend to big business, not the average citizen. They were still high on protective tariffs and did all they could to allow big business to make profits. And into the 20th century, that big business focus is one of the main reasons the GOP was in the minority for nearly the entire century! About the only Republican president between Lincoln and Reagan that made any attempt at all to reform things with an eye towards the average American was Teddy Roosevelt.
It wasn’t until Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964 that the GOP began to excite the interests of average Americans. His ideas of limited government brought common Americans to him in droves. Then, Ronald Reagan came and cemented that outreach to the average American with his folksy, wise leadership.
But, along with Reagan’s common touch came dozens of former Democrats that had found, like Reagan, that the Democratic Party had become a Party of freaks and geeks. The Party had left them as it had left Reagan.
So, a conservative Party emerged from the efforts of Goldwater, Reagan and later Newt Gingrich. It was no longer the Party of Lincoln, McKinley, or Hoover but had become a working man’s Party, a Party of the average Joe interested in less government interference, low taxes, American traditions and common sense. It was a new Party, partly subsuming the backbone of America that used to be Democrats and partly offering a hand to big business.
Today’s GOP is still a coalition Party, truly a “Big Tent”, whether we like it or not. But it was never wholly a small government, constitutionally minded, individualist’s Party. It was never wholly a conservative Party. The conservative elements of the GOP are, in fact, rather new in the GOP’s history. And for conservatives not to realize this is dangerous to the Party’s health as well as the frustration factor to the true GOP conservatives that do exist in the Party.
Far too many pundits and grass roots organizers say that the Party has somehow drifted from conservatism and that is a canard that will merely upset conservatives that are unaware of the Party’s history as opposed to “fixing” anything. It will frustrate Party members unduly who are falsely led to believe that the Party has been ruined or has somehow been dragged away from its roots. And, when things aren’t “fixed” quickly enough for these impatient Party operatives, they feel that the Party should be abandoned imagining that it is no longer what it was… even though it never was in the first place!
That leads to the second part of the title; Vote against them.
Imagine a weight lifter that just cannot seem to get his left arm as bulked in muscle as he has gotten his right arm. Now imagine that same weight lifter chopping off that left arm to “teach it a lesson”. That is what you get when you decide not to vote for the GOP over pique at it not being conservative enough.
Yes, it is frustrating to see the Congress spending like drunken sailors. Yes, it is horrifying to see the size of government swelling each and every year. Yes, we need to stop both outrages. However, voting against the GOP out of anger is cutting off your nose despite your face.
Remember, real conservative Republicans number but about 1/3 of the Congress and never have conservatives comprised a larger block within the Party. That means we have to keep up the good fight, but absolutely must realize that we cannot win every battle for the conservative cause. Sometimes we will lose a fight to the more liberal wing of the GOP.
Politics is the art of the possible and is rarely a game of pure principles. And populist single issue voting is not only a bad idea as far as representing the entire country goes, but simply cannot garner enough interest to win the day for very long. Compromise, much as it feels like a dirty word, is the order of the day, every day. In fact, it is the very basis of our system.
So, sometimes we must accept a half a loaf in politics. We can push as hard as we can to get our ideas through, we can rant and rave, we can stand on housetops and yell at the top of our lungs but to turn our backs on the only Party which will give us a seat at the table to partake of that half a loaf is just plain stupid.
Furthermore, to vote against the GOP to “teach them a lesson” is dangerous for the country. Voting against the GOP will raise taxes, destroy the economy, force us to lose the Global War against Terror, as well as subvert our Constitution and turn our sovereignty over to international bodies like the fetid UN. So, if your momentary anger at the GOP is enough for you to vote against your own interests, if your turning your back on the GOP would lend to destroying our very way of life, then you really have no right claiming you have “principles” in the first place.
After all, if you are willing to see the things you claim to stand for placed into the hands of people who have proven since the 1960′s that they will destroy your every ideal, what GOOD are your principles in the first place?
Yes, we need to fight for our conservative principles. We need to keep the GOP on the conservative track. But to turn our backs on our only outlet to get any of our conservative ideas into law is foolhardy in the extreme. Conservatives are logical, sensible people. But acting solely out of emotion makes us no better than a leftist who â€œfeelsâ€ their way through every political issue.
The solution is not to quit, but to try harder, to elect conservatives at the local level, to send your money to proven conservatives on the national scene. Ours is not to support the GOP blindly and without question, but to get involved and push our cause. But, the ONLY way you will make any headway is to work within the system, the only way to make a difference is to stay involved.
Vote GOP, or accept the destruction of our country and accept that you stood by as it happened and did nothing to stop it.