Ronald Reagan Weighs In on Delaware, Washington State.

In Elections on September 14, 2010 at 9:46 am

In the weeks leading up to today’s primary election in Delaware, great gigabytes of bloggity attention has been devoted to weighing the merits of Republican Christine O’Donnell vs. Republican Mike Castle.

Jim DeMint, Sarah Palin and Tea Party groups in general favor O’Donnell’s espoused positions as more conservative. The thinking is “principle trumps popularity,” at least as far as the general voting public of Delaware goes.

Others, both within conservative circles and among “establishment” Republicans, view it as an issue of electability. The logic here is that, while Castle’s votes as Delaware’s sole House Representative were largely in line with Democrats’, he’s more likely to be elected in that blue state. The advantage, they say, is that at least there will be an “R” in that seat that will sometimes vote with the party. Further, dare we hope, Castle might be the butt in the seat that gives Republicans a Senate Majority.

Washington State is in the midst of its own Republican vs. Republican drama. Tea Party favorite Clint Didier took third in Washington’s “top two” primary in August, sending Republican Senate hopeful Dino Rossi up against Democrat incumbent Patty Murray.

In a blue state like Washington, Didier’s 12% is respectable, especially in light of his Republican opponent’s name recognition (Rossi twice ran for Governor of Washington state). But as time ticks away to the November election, Didier is holding his supporters hostage, refusing to endorse Rossi unless the Republican candidate agrees to sign a pledge to introduce anti-abortion legislation.

Hopes that Didier’s supporters will see past their candidate’s childishness and do the right thing fade as one reads through comments on Rossi’s Facebook page where “I will not vote for the lesser evil” is the calling card of the Didieite.

Ronald Reagan’s thoughts on conservative principle vs. ideological purity, given in a speech to the 1977 CPAC Convention, are relevant to both races. Quoth Ronaldus Magnus:

I have always been puzzled by the inability of some political and media types to understand exactly what is meant by adherence to political principle. All too often in the press and the television evening news it is treated as a call for “ideological purity.” Whatever ideology may mean — and it seems to mean a variety of things, depending upon who is using it — it always conjures up in my mind a picture of a rigid, irrational clinging to abstract theory in the face of reality. We have to recognize that in this country “ideology” is a scare word. And for good reason. Marxist-Leninism is, to give but one example, an ideology. All the facts of the real world have to be fitted to the Procrustean bed of Marx and Lenin. If the facts don’t happen to fit the ideology, the facts are chopped off and discarded.

I consider this to be the complete opposite to principled conservatism. If there is any political viewpoint in this world which is free from slavish adherence to abstraction, it is American conservatism.

Let us lay to rest, once and for all, the myth of a small group of ideological purists trying to capture a majority. Replace it with the reality of a majority trying to assert its rights against the tyranny of powerful academics, fashionable left-revolutionaries, some economic illiterates who happen to hold elective office and the social engineers who dominate the dialogue and set the format in political and social affairs. If there is any ideological fanaticism in American political life, it is to be found among the enemies of freedom on the left or right — those who would sacrifice principle to theory, those who worship only the god of political, social and economic abstractions, ignoring the realities of everyday life. They are not conservatives.

via Reagan 2020 – Ronald Reagan – The New Republican Party.

  1. That’s an excellent quote from Reagan. I can’t believe that after all these years the GOP is still pre-occupied with the size of its tent. Regardless of how any primary turns out, it is incumbent upon those of us on the right to rally around the victor – ideologically pure or not. Why? Because the alternative to doing so resulted in what we have now. Liberal Democrats all over, drunk with power, running everything and not caring what people think.

    Rabidity + purity don’t make winning as feasible as purity + pragmatism. Whomever it was that said they’d take 30 Rubios over 60 Crists has proposed for us a false choice.

    What about 30 Rubios and 30 Crists? Or 45 Rubios and 15 Crists? At some point the math just starts to make sense. With 45 Rubios and 15 Crists wouldn’t it seem completely feasible to think that on a given vote we can persuade or even count on 5 or 6 of those Crists to be on board this time? Looked at another way 30 Rubios and 70 Pelosis is a really bad choice. Hell – we’ve pretty much got that now.

    Everyone wants 60 Rubios but you can’t get there in one single step.

    • Reagan’s quote demonstrates “Pragmatic Conservaitsm”.

      Elections, politics, is not just about sticking fanatically to one’s guns.

      It’s also about working out one’s ideas into realistic programs, which requires politicians’ on one side of the aisle to making some concessions to the other side.

      Consider Welfare Reform in 1996. Bill Clinton working with a Republican majority in Congress succeeded in ending a wasteful and demeaning entitlement, which ultimately encouraged impoverished families to overcome their squalor.

      For a more recent example, consider Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Big, burly, and blunt, Christie understands the importance of working with a Democratic legislature to pass prudent fiscal policies. His ability to persuade those with opposing views has assisted him, and the citizens of New Jersey, immensely.

      And going back to Ronald Reagan, he worked with a Democratic house, headed by Tip O’Neill, to help lower taxes and increase military spending. Working with Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, he made strides in human rights legislation which pushed the USSR into dissolution, thus brining an end to the Cold War.

      If these three examples demonstrate one thing, it is that reliable conservatives can work with members of the other party to accomplish worthwhile conservative ends.

      If they can accomplish these ends with Democrats, then all the more Republicans should be willing to tolerate moderates who will all the more likely vote with their agenda.

  2. P.S. Love the new blog layout!

  3. Great post Arthur. One can have firmly held beliefs and still be willing to compromise to ‘accomplish worthwhile conservative ends’. Reagan understood that, and no one can doubt his conservative credentials.

    The challenge in these times is that the liberal agenda has become so polarizing that a backlash was inevitable. The backlash just needs to be managed effectively if we really want to secure those conservative ends. It will take steps. It will take time. World War II wasn’t won in a single battle, it took many battles to win. People forget that the lessons of the past still apply today.

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