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Electoral pragmatism reconsidered

October 10, 2007 Washington Times

Tony Blankley -

In my column last week, I argued for electoral pragmatism by my fellow conservatives (e.g. better a Giuliani Republican than Hillary). About two-thirds of my self-identified conservative Christian e-mail respondents strongly disagreed.

That response reminded me of a very shrewd observation several years ago by Robert William Fogel that: "Coalitions spawned by religious movements are more ideological than partisan." The current Republican-conservative coalition that started forming under Richard Nixon and reached its zenith under Ronald Reagan would never have become a national governing coalition without the powerful impetus of the expanding religious movement in America. Without the conservative social-religious faction of the coalition, the remaining fiscal conservatives, free marketers, hawks and country-club Republicans would routinely come up short of a national majority.

But the possible conservative religious resistance to Mr. Giuliani on the basis of his opposition to outlawing abortion at the federal level — and their willingness to accept a Hillary presidency if necessary as a result — points out how little partisan loyalty may have been built up in the last quarter century of the coalition's dominance.

Consider the continued loyalty to the Democratic Party of labor unions (if not always a big majority of their members), which has persisted since FDR's time — now almost three-quarters of a century. Even when Democrats gave them little, they stuck with them — a partisan bond that transcendent not only ideology, but sometimes self-interest.

It remains to be seen whether the bonds that have been formed between religious conservatives and the GOP will partially dissolve in 2008. Clearly, a year before the election some of their leaders are threatening to break. And more than a few of their folks outside of Washington have unambiguously informed me that they share that sentiment.

I still believe that a powerful moral argument can be made for compromising on behalf of one's coalition in politics. I have made that argument, against my own cherished policy goals when I have been inside government in the Reagan White House and as Newt Gingrich's adviser and press secretary. And I plan to continue to make it publicly now.

It is the same argument that Barry Goldwater made so many years ago, when he told the conservatives of his time to grow up politically and not always threaten to walk off with the ball when they didn't like every play their team called. Only a supreme dictator can get everything he wants out of politics. For all the rest of us, politics is a team sport. Even vastly popular presidents — from FDR to Ronald Reagan — had to compromise on things they felt passionately about.

Those of us who have stayed in the fray have had to constantly wrestle with our consciences as to whether we are making a reasonable compromise — or whether we are becoming power mad political hacks. Those arguments went on constantly in the Reagan White House among many of us who came into politics not for power, but to return America to its founding principles, values and greatness.

No doubt there is a danger of becoming precisely the sort of swamp creatures we came to Washington to rid the nation of when we said we wanted to drain the Washington swamp. But perfect purity of principle in application is not a functioning governing process — it is a posture. And whether one is a Washington professional or a citizen voter, anyone who considers himself a person of good conscience, must have the courage to judge whether the net effect of his political decision advances one's moral objectives or not.

It is certainly true that Ronald Reagan had an unerring sense of how far to compromise — and when to stop, come what may. He governed for eight years and never lost his sense of principled direction, while many other principled people have come to Washington and lost their way.

But I believe that people of conscience — very much including voters around the country — have an obligation to struggle with the stress between principle and political pragmatism — even at the risk of failing to make the right judgment.

Politics is the zone where one's religious and ethical habits are not always the only and best guides. We can make a 100 percent commitment to, for example, obey our marital vows, or adhere to the teachings of our church and consciously strive never to fall short.

But in the practicality of democratic elections we cannot make such a similar commitment to every one of our governing ideals. Elections are very specific and limited choices between different outcomes. The decision not to vote, or vote for a third-party candidate with no hope of winning, is itself a moral choice for the outcome such a vote will effectuate. People of conscience will have to decide whether feeling pure by voting "none of the above" is the highest ethical act or not.

Tony Blankley is executive vice president for global public affairs at Edelman International. He is also a visiting senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
 

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"Politics is the zone where one's religious and ethical habits are not always the only and best guides. We can make a 100 percent commitment to, for example, obey our marital vows, or adhere to the teachings of our church and consciously strive never to fall short."

This would be pretty tough advice for someone to follow who, for example, believes that abortion is murder, equivalent morally to the murder of an adult or perhaps even worse. Such an individual would have an easier time breaking his or her marital vows than supporting a pro-abortion candidate. I suppose it would have to be a decision based upon a belief that neither candidate would change the status quo with regards to abortion despite the rhetoric and therefore the issue, however important, would not be relevant to the voting decision.
 

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Wise thought.

I can't understand the "all or nothing" mentality.

What would possess people to give the country to the hildabeest if they can't have a conservative candidate who fills their entire wish list?

My problem with Rudy is that I am basically a straight 2A voter. I can ignore the rest, but don't go messing with my guns. Simple? Yes. But not without reason.

I figure if we can hold on to what few gun rights are left, perhaps someday we may be able to take the rest of it back if (G*d forbid) we have to.

Unlike the sheeple in the UK and Australia, who are now -- undoubtedly -- subjects instead of citizens.

At least in our case it is still arguable.

DD
 

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Discussion Starter #4
As I once said, Giuliani is the best Democrat in the race. But.... IMHO (based on a lot of issues like avoiding a depression) the only Republican worse than Giuliani is Ron Paul.
 

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Ron Paul would be hard to bear :D
 
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