How Conservatives Are Being Told to Throw Away Principles


By: Warner Todd Huston

It is getting tiresome already, but we are starting to see a new kind of story on this issue of McCain and his tiff with the conservative wing of the GOP and that is the shut-up-and-take-it style of commentary, the style were conservatives are told to throw away their principles and just vote McCain anyway.

I am sure that you all have noticed that John McCain is not the conservative’s hero? There has been story after story expounding on how McCain has a lot of cajoling to do before principled conservatives will vote for him in November. He hasn’t made those efforts yet, at least if looking at the primaries and caucuses that have occurred since McCain became the “presumptive nominee” — at least according to the media — are concerned. These last few early February events did not make him look much like an obvious winner, either. Even president Bush has said that he has some convincing of conservatives to do before he could expect their vote. All this clearly shows that McCain lacks serious conservative credentials.

A recent editorial by former Scripps Howard News Service editor Dan K. Thomasson serves as a perfect example of this sort of wrist slapping that conservatives are increasingly receiving from so many quarters, both from the left and their own reputed party members. Thomasson even takes it a step further by positing that conservatives should act like John F. Kennedy who allowed Lyndon Johnson to become his vice presidential pick even though they were rivals for the Democrat nomination for president in 1960. Similarly, he says, conservatives should accept the ideologically impure McCain and then work with him to put one of their own guys on the ticket in the second spot.

All of these stories have a singular concept underlying them and that is that conservatives should throw away their principles and vote for McCain without a whimper. In other words, the press imagines that conservatives should rather be more interested in a White House win than in upholding their principles. But this raises an interesting question: where were all the stories that chided Dail Kos, netrooters for holding to their principles by attempting to take over the Democratic Party during the 2006 midterms? Far from scoffing at the netrooter’s too stiff spines, they were praised for their campaign to force the Party into going their way.

In any case, the argument against conservative principles is laid out fairly well by Thomasson who sets the perfect pitch in scoffing at the conservatives that have the audacity to feel that principles mean something. He starts out by setting a negative tone.

“The current position of conservative ideologues on Sen. John McCain’s worthiness to be the Republican presidential nominee reminds one of the young man who threatens to punish a strict father by joining the Army. The result is likely to be far worse than accepting the fact that not everyone is as philosophically perfect as one would like. Thank the good Lord.”

You see, conservatives are “ideologues” and are like petulant children running away from their father (presumably McCain is deemed the grown up in Thomasson’s opinion). Obviously, Thomasson does not think much about conservatives and this fits well with the flogging that the MSM and moderates are handing conservatives over their lack of support of McCain.

Thomasson goes on with his dismissal of conservatives by wondering if there is any moderation in the GOP at all.

To keep from having to stay home from the polls in November if McCain is nominated, the purists on the right end of the party — assuming the spectrum doesn’t just go from right to right — want to certify the conservative credentials of anyone he picks as a running mate. Actually, they want to have a say in the selection. Otherwise, they profess at this stage, they will do the ideologically honorable thing. They will cut off their noses to spite their faces.

As Thomasson decries that the party goes “from right to right,” intimating that there is no moderation there, he seems to be suggesting that the party constitute itself in precisely the opposite terms. If he doesn’t imagine that the right side of the party should be allowed to have a say in what the party does, then he is directly positing that there BE no right end of the party. After all, why have a wing of the party that has no say, no power and no seat at the table? Obviously, Thomasson (and like minded pundits now chiding conservatives over their deserved pique at McCain) thinks that a large section of the party should forever just shut up and do what the left-wing of the party demands that the party do.

Thomasson also seems to fall for the same misconception that many others have been. Saying, “The party’s hard rightists seem to favor former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney,” Thomasson imagines that the newest, new Mitt Romney is the real conservative here. But Thomasson and many others are really missing the point of the late surge in support by conservatives for Mitt Romney. It isn’t that Mitt is suddenly so conservative, but that until he left the race, he seemed the only one able to take out McCain. Conservatives, by and large, did not support Romney during 99% of his campaign for a reason… he isn’t much of a conservative.

Then, Thomasson goes for his JFK analogy:

McCain and Romney showed a considerable amount of acrimony toward one another in the long run-up to this point in the nominating process. But one could draw an analogy here involving John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson in 1960. There was little love lost between the Kennedys and LBJ. But this didn’t keep JFK and RFK, the top adviser on his brother’s campaign, from inviting Johnson to join the ticket in a bid to improve the chances of winning the election — nor did it stop Johnson from accepting.

What Thomasson misses is that there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between Kennedy and Johnson’s positions in 1960 in comparison to the differences between McCain and conservatives now. On the main issues, Kennedy and Johnson were on the same path. However, on the main issues today McCain and conservatives are walking down increasingly divergent roads.

Lyndon Johnson, however, had no such major differences from Kennedy, only a different base of support. Johnson commanded the old-line, southern Dixiecrats and felt he had the Senate so in his iron-fisted rule that he could easily take the nomination. For his part, Kennedy represented the eastern, intellectuals and did not have the same support from among the southern Democrats. But neither candidate had wildly divergent ideological positions. LBJ didn’t waste much time on platforms and issues as he geared up to run for president, and there was little by way of ideological debates between he and Kennedy. So, in the end, between Kennedy and LBJ was more power play than ideological battle.

The same is not true at all between McCain and conservatives. There are many major differences between McCain and conservative voters. McCain stands on the opposite end of the issue on the some of the chief issues conservatives care most about. Just to name a few, McCain is for stem cell research, conservatives are not. McCain is for open borders, conservatives are not. McCain voted against tax cuts, conservatives are for them. McCain is a fool for the myths of global warming, conservatives stand against that foolishness, etc., etc.

This goes to prove that Thomasson’s point is rather empty of any meaning. It was far easier for Kennedy to take on LBJ as a VP since neither of them had any major policy differences than it is for conservatives to acquiesce to supporting McCain as those two have major differences.

Thomasson next takes on the major item that keeps moderates and the leftist mainstream media form understanding why conservatives despise McCain, and he them.

Another problem conservatives seem to have with McCain is his ability to work closely with some Democrats, a trait that any thinking person would believe is a major asset at a time when the government is all but shut down because of virulent partisanship. What the purists don’t mention is that some of these centrist stances and his penchant for working with the opposition to break the frequent gridlocks that stall the legislative agendas make him more attractive to independents and increase the likelihood that he could attract Democratic crossovers.

No, Mr. Thomasson, conservatives don’t “seem” to have a problem with McCain’s pandering to the Democrats, they have a major problem with it. They have a problem with it because McCain does not merely work with Democrats utilizing the art of compromise, McCain runs screaming into their arms to give them all they want without giving his own side even a few scraps from the table. Conservatives wouldn’t be so wounded by McCain’s penchant for “working with” the Democrats if they felt he attended at least to some of their needs. But, McCain has consistently kicked his own side in the head, climbing over them in his efforts to be loved by the other side of the aisle as well as the press. McCain has done all he can to let his own side know that he distrusts them, disdains them, and does not think they are important.

Then comes this late lovefest he is offering the right. Suddenly McCain is captain conservative. Needless to say, no conservative believes his sudden feigned claims of love and most know that McCain will go right back to being McCain the second he wins his campaign for the White House.

Then we come to the final point, and it is one that is constantly made by those who cannot “get” why conservatives are still resistant to the Media’s candidate, McCain.

Besides, what choice does the right have? Well, they can fix McCain by staying home and end up like the kid who joined the Army to show his parents he couldn’t be shoved around, or they can put aside their animosities, strive to elect their party’s candidate and work on things from the inside instead of pressing their noses against a White House window.

Thomasson assumes that conservatives would have to just stay home and not vote at all if they don’t like McCain. But there is a third and fourth choice: not voting for president but voting the rest of the ballot or voting third party. Further, Thomasson and like-minded scolders in the press assume that winning the White House is surely more important to conservatives than standing up for principles if he imagines they can so easily vote for McCain if he is the GOP nominee. So, yes, conservatives do have a choice. Like I said, though, that does not mean that conservatives must “stay home” and not vote at all.

Lastly, there is a consideration that many pundits and MSMers simply reject out of hand and this also precludes them from understanding the principled position of many conservatives. Conservatives are in this game for the ideas and policies that they hold dear. These ideological positions lie in a plain above mere parties and candidates. So, the Republican Party is only “their party” by virtue of default not by virtue of first choice. If another viable party were better on their base ideals, they’d abandon the GOP in droves. So, not to vote for the GOP nominee does not cause many conservatives as much heartburn as those who don’t understand conservatives think it should cause. Many don’t understand why folks like conservatives would hold to principles over winning elections and that is mostly because, unlike conservatives, they don’t hold to any true principles themselves.

Of course, there is a lot to be said for accepting half the loaf, voting for the less than “pure” candidates, just to keep a conservative seat at the table. In normal times, this is a sensible thing to do, and certainly the art of compromise is the American way. But, again, compromise means that each side gets a little something. However, conservatives have been getting exceedingly less from McCain’s ideas and policy mingling with Democrats since being defeated by George W. Bush in 2000. And, with a major Democrat sweep about to befall the country, now is the perfect time for the conservative movement to stand up and say, “not one inch further left. ”

Who can deny that a full-throated support of John McCain by conservatives would be interpreted by McCain as an excuse to indulge his constant reaching across the aisle as well as encourage his further drift left. He will imagine he is being excused for it and encouraged to be even more like John “the maverick” McCain. Worse, it will mean the rise of even more moderate, left leaning candidates all down the line in emulation of McCain the winner of all that adulation and support.

If conservatives mean to make their ideas and policies meaningful in the party again, there has to be some reason for the rest of the party to take them seriously. If conservatives are going to loudly proclaim their druthers yet meekly vote for apostates to those ideas anyway, not a single candidate will have any reason to expect that conservatives are serious with their ideas in the first place. Conservatives will become the boy who cried wolf. Winning is nice, but if there is no consequences for politicians who eschew conservative principles, eventually there won’t be any reason to even mouth conservative principles — even if only to ignore them later.

Now is the time to rebuild the party and reassert conservative principles. That alone is enough reason not to support any of the last three “top tier” Republican candidates.

And that is why moderates and their pals in the MSM don’t get it.

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