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.