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5/5/2009
DEBUNKING MYTHS ABOUT MODERATES: 1) MODERATES HAVE NO PRINCIPLES

From long time commenter and center left Obama lover Michael Reynolds left on my post yesterday about Reagan’s toleration for moderates in the GOP:

Rick, you’re an atheist living in sin. You’re a rational man. You believe in evolution and understand that gay rights are coming, like it or not. You don’t think torture is fun. You’re not ant-intellectual. Why are you a Republican?

Seriously. Why are you a Republican?

Rick, I don’t think “Republican” means what you think it means. Maybe it used to. But it doesn’t anymore. Your “Republican” is dead and buried. You’re part of a small and despised minority within what used to be your party. They hate you worse than they hate people like me. They want you to go away. They want you out of their party.

You can’t toady them enough to make them love you. You can abuse liberals all you like, it won’t make any difference to the wingnuts because they are fanatics and you are not and they will never, ever, ever accept you back into what used to be your party but is now theirs.

Face it Rick: you’re not a Republican.

You would get no argument from half (or more) of the commenters who shared their thoughts with me on that post. But allow me to answer that and several ancillary questions while debunking some surprisingly ignorant myths and suppositions about what moderate conservatives believe.

First of all, let’s dispense with the term “moderate.” I much prefer “pragmatist” or even “rationalist” although the latter is a belief system all its own and not generally applied to a set of political precepts or principles.

“Realist” doesn’t cut it either because I think that a lot of conservatives are “realists” in the sense that they have created a false reality and define their politics according to a skewed and often paranoid world view. Please don’t try to tell me they don’t exist because they pollute the comments section of this and other blog sites with their “Obama is deliberately tanking the economy so he and his communist friends can establish a dictatorship,” memes.

If you can’t see that’s a false reality which is a little twisted and paranoid, you need a new pair of glasses.

A related question to Michael’s query is why bother? My demise as a blogger and as someone who has lost even the minuscule amount of notoriety as a political commenter that I once possessed can be traced directly to my calling out conservatives for being too rigid, too ideological, and beholden to who I refer to as “pop conservatives” of the Rush, Glenn Beck, and Ann Coulter variety.

To my mind, I had only one choice; fight for what I believe to be the correct course for conservatism and the GOP. There simply isn’t an alternative. There might be a half dozen Democrats in the country I could ever vote for so switching parties is out. And I am not one to throw away my vote and cast a ballot for libertarians who I find remarkably obtuse anyway. So it’s either shut up or fight. I chose the latter.

So let’s go with “pragmatist” to describe the kind of conservative who I believe is in big trouble in the Republican party. The reason? A lack of “fire in the belly,” when it comes to the ideology espoused by many on the right. It’s not enough to agree with these conservatives; you must “believe” wholeheartedly and beyond that, attempt to destroy your opponents. “No retreat, no surrender,” is their motto and if such an attitude results in harm to the country, so be it.

Now I like a good cock fight with a liberal any day. And frankly, they present such a lovely target most of the time that it is sometimes impossible not to make fun of them - their “riot of conceits” as R. Emmett Tyrell refers to their own ideological excesses. But I have come to realize that neither ideological extreme has a corner on truth nor do the ideological right and the left understand that there is more to politics than the exercise of raw power.

Politics is a means to an end. And for me, that end is applying broad conservative philosophical principles to the art of governing so that a just and moral society is created, which is adequately protected from those both at home and abroad who would do it harm, and that those unable to fend for themselves are cared for.

That last doesn’t sound very conservative. But we as a nation rejected social Darwinism during the last great economic upheaval 80 years ago. Overturning the New Deal (or some of the social programs initiated over the last 40 years) may be the goal of some of the radicals on the right but it will never, ever happen. I firmly believe that most social programs that aid the poor can be improved immensely by applying conservative principles like prudence, self reliance, and fiscal discipline to their operation. Other government assistance programs can devolve to the states where they can be run more efficiently.

Is that apostasy? Or simple pragmatism?

I want a government as conservative as can realistically be achieved without destroying it. And frankly, there are some on the right who scare me with their callous disregard for the effect on ordinary people some of their plans to dismantle the welfare state would bring about.

As a conservative, I don’t think that government should be “empathetic.” It should, however, work as well as any utility we use such as phone, electric, or gas. (A government that operated the way my cable company is run would have experienced several bloody revolutions.) Recognizing that the state has a role to play in the economy, in maintaining social stability, in protecting the weak from society’s predators - all of this fits very comfortably into a pragmatic conservative’s worldview.

We live in a nation of 300 million people - the majority of whom do not agree with many conservative ideologues who think the government is the enemy and should be dismantled to effect what Jefferson wanted; a “government that governs least governs best.”

The Sage of Monticello said that at a time when there were barely 6 million Americans (2 million in bondage). There was no IBM or AIG or any other multinational corporation whose interests sometimes conflicted with those of the American economy. There were no companies who deliberately poisoned the air and the water. There was little crime. There were no unions to hold up small businessmen or companies that would knowingly place their employees in dangerous situations because it was cheaper than protecting them.

There are a million reasons we need government and conservatives rarely offer any rationale for it beyond national defense. Some, like my friend Ed Morrissey, wish to establish some kind of “Super Federalism” where states could handle environmental concerns, workers’ safety, aid to the poor, road building, and other government functions currently handled from Washington.

In principle, I can’t disagree - especially if there was even a chance of it working. But as a practical matter, most of Ed’s vision is unattainable. Certainly a much better effort should be made to find those federal government functions that the state’s could take over. Some programs that aid the poor would no doubt be more efficiently run at the state level. But in the end, most federal programs are run out of Washington because the states are unable or unwilling to take the responsibility.

This is not to say that you cannot apply conservative principles to manage the behemoth. And recognition of that singular fact is what separates the ideologues from the pragmatists.

To say that moderates or pragmatists don’t have a set of principles that guide their politics is just plain wrong. The same principles that animate the ideologues inform the opinions of pragmatists as well. The difference is in how one interprets those principles as they relate to one’s worldview, which is informed by different criteria for all of us. Our own life experiences shape the interpretation of principles and, depends on temperament, personality, and perhaps even how open we are to new and different ideas.

I am not saying there is “flexibility” when it comes to principle in that they are at the core of all of our beliefs and in a semiotic way, their meaning is set in stone. But I think a pragmatist has a more expansive view in relating those principles to how the real world works. Principles are not meant to engender absolutism but ultimately, that is the trap into which the ideologues fall.

I have said before (and will keep making the point) that there is a difference between ideology and philosophical principles. Excessive ideology leads to putting those principles in a strait jacket, where all issues and personalities are judged according to a very rigid set of definitions. When reality proves elusive to these definitions, the rationale to describe them stretches beyond comprehension. Hence, both right and left ideologues are constantly forced to twist themselves into logic pretzels to defend themselves.

We have been taught since high school civics class that compromise is necessary in a democracy. But there are some issues where no compromise is possible; abortion, gay marriage, perhaps war and peace, and certainly most of the statist, collectivist solutions this administration is trying to implement in order to “fix” the economy. For conservatives, those issues are “no go” zones and I agree that a stand must be taken and battles fought to preserve a free market economy not to mention simple, human liberty.

But to posit the notion that no rapprochement with the opposition is ever possible, that compromise is a dirty word akin to being a traitor, and working with your political enemy is a sign that you aren’t a real Republican is ridiculous - as is the idea that if we let liberals get everything they want and the country goes to hell, conservatives will be swept back to power.

That is fantasy, of course. Some Republicans have to act responsibly and help govern the country. Otherwise, you end up with a situation such as we see with the “climate change” bill with the far left trying to compromise with the not so far left and everybody loses.

You don’t win by not playing the game. Yes, there will be instances where the Democrats shove the efforts at bi-partisanship back in the GOP’s faces. So what? And what do I care that the Democrats have fewer pragmatists or “moderates” than the GOP. What has that got to do with anything? Do you want to ape the absolute worst qualities of your opponent? Not smart.

If nothing else, you can recognize the fact that whoever you define as “moderate” (with obvious exceptions) have principles they adhere to just as conservatives do. The ideologues and close minded galoots will never understand this because they “mirror judge” everyone, holding the glass up to see if their own ideology reflects back at them. But for the rest of you, I would hope that you grant us pragmatists the benefit of our convictions.

By: Rick Moran at 11:05 am
32 Responses to “DEBUNKING MYTHS ABOUT MODERATES: 1) MODERATES HAVE NO PRINCIPLES”
  1. 1
    funny man Said:
    12:23 pm 

    That was an excellent article which with I wholeheartedly agree. Beyond all ideology there still is a country out there that needs to be governed and protected. If you always dream of the revolution tomorrow (that might never come) you forget to do what is necessary today. Extremists on both sides will ALWAYS put their ideology before the welfare of the country because it’s their way or the highway. Yes, Rick I also agree we have to make a stand for our pragmatist view for the benefit of the country. Welcome to he barricades, it’s going to get rough!

  2. 2
    Foobarista Said:
    12:30 pm 

    I think you’d be better off walking past these “meta-arguments” and putting specific policy suggestions on the table. One thing I’ve always been hugely disappointed with the right blogworld is its love of meta-arguments and its lack of policy specifics. I’ve tried some discussion of this sort of thing on my pathetic little blog - and in blog comments - but much of the blogworld is devoted to bashing the other guy and “criticism”. Critics are important, but they no staying power without viable alternatives.

    Things that are interesting:

    1. If you were God-Emperor, what would you do with social security, Medicare, etc? How about health care generally?
    2. If President Moran had a willing Congress for an afternoon, how would you handle the banks, foreclosures, etc?
    3. How about tax policy? Personally, I’m becoming more of a fan of the “Fair Tax” or something like it, because the sheer complexity of the tax code allows for a dangerous level of opacity and “free-lunch-ism”. For my part, I believe taxes should be visible, at least partially paid by everyone, and should smack you upside the head whenever you pay them, and be not buried in the price of stuff (or an “off-balance-sheet” element of your compensation package, as is half of SS and Medicare).

    Things that arent:

    1. Any discussion of “RINOs”. Purists are so boring.
    2. Pretty much any gay-related social-con issue that will be dead in a decade anyway, along with most of the people who care about them.
    3. For “concern troll” lefties, accusations of hypocrisy of the “where were you when Bush did this or that” variety. I thought being progressive meant focusing on the future! Also, the “you” you’re addressing may actually agree with you about Bush and the un-lamented Republican Congress, but likely opposes the “solution” tabled by Obama as well.

    Things that are marginally interesting and a bit painful, but probably need discussion:

    1. How do you sell conservative principles to kids on the coasts who are social liberals, but often have quite libertarian instincts?

    2. How do you fight free-lunchism?

    3. What to do with so-con concerns? Part of the reason de-federalism is appealing to many is it’s a way to acknowledge the reality that anti-gay and pro-life stuff won’t get done at the national level, especially at the Constitutional level where it will outlast a particular President’s executive orders. So, you de-federalize and let local communities be as so-con as they want to be.

    4. What about immigration, both legal and illegal? It ain’t going away, and “fences and enforcement” won’t help much.

    I often think we should steal an idea from the UK and have a “shadow cabinet” where we talk about alternatives and policy ideas that are temporal. The discussion needs to be somewhat detailed, but not excessively think-tankey. Talking about policy isn’t quite as fun as ranting about the latest leftie outrage, but someone’s got to do it, and putting ideas on the table is the only way to show that the left-liberal approach isn’t the only approach to national concerns.

  3. 3
    A Stoner Said:
    12:57 pm 

    The federal government should do one of two things. What is explicitely stated it’s duties are in the constitution. Amend the constitution to include all the things it is doing now that are not explicitely stated are it’s duties.

    The states can pick up what ever is left over. People will vote in people who will act in their interests. The closer those elected officials are to the people, the better they will handle the duties.

  4. 4
    GW Said:
    1:48 pm 

    Well said, sir.

  5. 5
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    3:02 pm 

    I often think we should steal an idea from the UK and have a “shadow cabinet” where we talk about alternatives and policy ideas that are temporal. The discussion needs to be somewhat detailed, but not excessively think-tankey. Talking about policy isn’t quite as fun as ranting about the latest leftie outrage, but someone’s got to do it, and putting ideas on the table is the only way to show that the left-liberal approach isn’t the only approach to national concerns.

    An interesting idea, Foobarista. I for one would support opposition parties having a Shadow Cabinet because it would force them to carefully think out and articulate party platforms and new ideas rather than hand policy debates over kooks and schemers. (Of course, this could just as easily apply to the Democrats when they are the party out of power.) An advantage of this is that the media would be greatly inclined to cover “Shadow Press Conferences” and other such events, thus bringing another point of view and proposals to the national table. Another good thing is that the said kooks and schemers would be forced to moderate or get out of the GOP, thus saving the Republicans from themselves. Finally, this would make politics ever so more interesting and may well end up igniting participation and activism amongst the non-involved citizens of our country, thus prolonging the great experiment known as the USA.

    Wishful thinking perhaps, but seeing where the Republicans are now, it seems more likely to work than anything else proposed by them. (That is, unless Michael Steele lets Rush pick the Shadow Government!)

  6. 6
    bsjones Said:
    3:04 pm 

    Foobarista Said:
    Interesting comment.

    One point of interest. I have lived for over a year in both Britain and Australia. Both countries have shadow cabinets. Unfortunately, shadow ministers NEVER offer specific alternatives. They are involved in the same kind of ankle biting you see from out of power American politicians.

    Not offering alternatives is seen as wise politics for obvious reasons. The most important, perhaps, is it gives voters no RATIONAL means for selecting between candidates. This is something politicians and their P.R. spokesman want. Real politics must not be discussed rationally. For them it is better that you “identify” with a party or ideology so the real work that politicians do can take place behind a curtain.

    By the way, my ideology says you are not like me and I wouldn’t want to have a beer with you. Besides, I can’t stand your pant suits. NO VOTE FOR YOU!!

  7. 7
    SJ Reidhead Said:
    3:21 pm 

    Welcome to my world.

    If we can get more reasonable conservatives to stand up for the GOP and the idea of actually winning elections we might get somewhere.

    Funny thing, I’m considered “moderate” but have the same ideals and philosophy I did when Reagan was in office. Then I was “conservative”. Something has happened with conservatives and it isn’t good.

    The talking heads appear to be on the cusp of starting a civil war within the GOP - probably for ratings and money. I wonder how “conservative” they would be if they weren’t making tons of money being “conservative”.

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

  8. 8
    funny man Said:
    3:45 pm 

    Pink Flamingo,
    found that at your website. GREAT! LOL

    http://www.nytimes.com/1987/12/20/weekinreview/the-nation-is-reagan-now-less-hard-on-communism.html

  9. 9
    c3 Said:
    4:36 pm 

    Rick, you’re an atheist living in sin. You’re a rational man. You believe in evolution and understand that gay rights are coming, like it or not. You don’t think torture is fun. You’re not ant-intellectual. Why are you a Republican?

    Rick;
    I’m a married Christian, yes even an evangelical Christian. I believe I’m a rational man. I don’t see incompatability between evolution and my Christian faith (and yes I get some flak about that from some of my Christian friends. I believe “gay rights” are here. Now as for gay marriage that will be a state-by-state decision. My stance is not based on my faith. I don’t agree with torture. Rick, I’m glad you’re a Republican. Now what’s funny about this is I’ve heard a similar conversation that goes something like this:

    Joe, You’re a christian. You believe in the sanctity of life, including that in the womb. You believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. You send your kids to a Christian school. Why are you a Democrat?

  10. 10
    yoyo Said:
    6:06 pm 

    But in the end, most federal programs are run out of Washington because the states are unable or unwilling to take the responsibility.

    Just a first comment, portfolios like environmental protection cannot be run by the states because the resources are not limited within state boarders. One state could choose to thoroughly pollute a river that feeds into another state for example.

    More generally, all I read from the repub thugs these days makes it clear to me that M Reynolds (a fellow liberal) is right, there is no space in the tent for republicans like yourself. I’m australian and our liberal (conservative equivalent) party also took a jump to the right although in a way that would look rino-ish to you guys and was wipped out in the last round of voting. people do not want to see old people starve or their children exploited at work or their neighbour deported. I would agree with you tho the vestigal farm communities will always be far more conservative on most issues however there are not enough of them to build a government with.

  11. 11
    Joe Said:
    7:24 pm 

    good article Rick,as a loyal Democrat I still feel bad that you’ve been freezed out from your party.Its so ironic because today Rush said moderates had no true beliefs and conservatives didn’t want moderates or independents in the party. From what I see, you can’t be a true blue conservative if your critical of conservatism (according to rightwing radio)Thats messed up.Didn’t Steele just say the other day,”c’mon all you moderates, with the caveat, your okay as long as you accept our beliefs. Thats more like a cult than a political party.Hang in there.

  12. 12
    dmirishman Said:
    10:32 pm 

    Speaking as one of those “thugs” who is trying to close the flap on the republican party tent, I read posts like this one and the accompanying comments and have so much to say in response that it is hard to know where to begin. To put it bluntly, you hear the anger but you are so caught up in labeling yourselves as moderates that you do not hear what is being said. You focus only on those that you describe as paranoids with an unrealistic world view or as ideologues and present them as the dominant view. You are missing the point, the republican party has consistently nominated candidates who believe in pragmatism and compromise and who say that they want a government as conservative as possible.Those candidates have received the support not only of moderates ,but of more conservative voters as well because most people, even “pop culture conservatives”, recognize the realities of the electoral process. The problem with many of these candidates is not that they are moderates willing to compromise, but that once elected they could not seem to find any “no go” zone where a stand could be taken. I am not talking just about legislation, but about letting liberal democrats dictate the terms of the debate on every single issue from climate change to illegal immigration. To apply conservative principals to our problems you have to promote them and sell them first. Our form of government is not possible without reasoned, objective, informed debate on the issues where one side either persuades the other or a compromise is reached. The leadership of the democrat party and those who fund it are not interested in objective debate. They declared debate over on climate change and republicans speak only to one another letting skeptical scientists go unsupported and compared to holocaust deniers. Democrats call investigation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac racist and republicans back off and watch the mortgage bubble burst. I could keep giving examples, the point is, other than Senator Specter, I cannot say whether elected republicans lack principle or lack courage. The democrats play dirty, the media is unfair and being a conservative in congress is no doubt difficult, but everyone on the right knows this when they run for office. Robert E. Lee was no doubt a skilled, daring tactician who led an outnumbered, poorly equipped Army of Northern Virginia to victory after victory over the Union Army in the first 30 months of the Civil War. His job was made much easier by Generals McClellan, Pope, Hooker, Burnside and Meade who always seemed to find an excuse why the time was not right to fully deploy their superior force and bring Lee to battle. General Grant on the other hand had a simple strategy, find the enemy, fight the enemy, win or lose chase him down and fight him again. As much as anything else the nation survived because Grant chose to fight. The survival of our nation as we have know it is in doubt. It is not a question of adapting individual rights and freedoms and the idea of limited government to a nation of 300 million people, but one of unlimited government slowly taking away our freedoms while General McCain, General Hagel and the like look to fight another day. The tea party movement and the backlash against this mind set is not about a complicated litmus test on conservatism, but about finding generals who will fight.

  13. 13
    yoyo Said:
    11:22 pm 

    once elected they could not seem to find any “no go” zone where a stand could be taken. I am not talking just about legislation, but about letting liberal democrats dictate the terms of the debate on every single issue from climate change to illegal immigration.

    I actually think you have made a good point here, but as a liberal by your terms i have four questions in return, 1. where are the republican alternative policies? 2. are your issues with climate change sceptisim, ecconomics or greed? and 3. why do you keep choosing personal “moral” issues as your litmus test - gay marriage etc and 4. how far do you think you can get with anti intellectual as your representatives eg M Bachmann?

  14. 14
    yoyo Said:
    11:40 pm 

    I think andrew sullivan, someone who has been pushed out of the tent says it clearly

    If today’s “conservatives” spent one tenth of the time saying what they were for rather than who they’re against, they might get somewhere. But the truth is: whom they hate is their core motivation right now. That’s how they define themselves. And as long as they do, Americans will rightly and soundly reject them.

  15. 15
    Dwight Said:
    11:44 pm 

    A thoughtful and commendable post. But I take issue with a few things, or at least they concern me.

    But there are some issues where no compromise is possible; abortion, gay marriage…For conservatives, those issues are “no go” zones and I agree that a stand must be taken and battles fought to preserve … simple, human liberty

    I hope you’ll agree with my extraction of pertinent parts. I tried to not take anything out of context and if I misunderstand you then please correct me. I see a huge flaw in these being “no go” zones, as being places without “compromise”. Or at least places without room for common ground and agreement outside the standards I’ve seen far too much of. Certainly not that I’ve seen clearly articulated outside a few “Blue Dogs” and other Democrats like the Catholic Joe Biden who have personal views about those matters. In truth it has been the Republican Party, for decades now, that has been willing to take positions that sacrifice liberties in pursuit of their stances on these two items. That has been willing to vet and nominate Supreme Court judges to screen out judges that are predisposed to lean towards protection of privacy and individual liberties in hopes of overturning Roe v Wade and hold the line on legal standing of homosexuality, because when it comes down to the brass tacks of the objective evidence requires such for the outcome of cases to match the GOP policies.

    Until the bulk of the GOP, leadership and members, comes to grips with this and adopt appropriate policy stances they will continue to isolate themselves from both truly standing for individual liberties and from national office.

    Perhaps you understand this I have just read you post wrong. If so my apologies.

    And what do I care that the Democrats have fewer pragmatists or “moderates” than the GOP.

    I find this judgement highly suspect. At least looking at Congress. What of the Blue Dogs? What analogue is there within the Republican Congress? In the Senate perhaps 3 members … until in the last week there were 2. Oh, it isn’t just the GOP that vilifies those walking the tightrope between the extremes. Arlen Specter is vilified by those within the Democratic Party, too. Somewhere along the line attempting to represent the whole of your constituency rather than just the 50%+1 (sometimes less than 50%) that voted for you [in the general election] became equated to “weasel” and “unprincipled”.

    But the marked difference is that Specter wasn’t forcibly shoved out [yet]. Contrast that with Lieberman, whose sins include a very public endorsement and campaigning for the Republican Presidential candidate. Yet he’s been accepted back into caucus.

    There may or may not be more “moderates” in the GOP verses the Democratic Party. But among national elected members and those in positions of leadership, those with the hand on the rudder? The evidence clearly speaks to the opposite.

  16. 16
    Gayle Miller Said:
    6:56 am 

    The only flaw in your logic Rick is that we are a REPUBLIC, not a democracy. And the current programs to “help the poor” are an insult and a detriment to them. Most of the “helping” programs are set forth to perpetuate their poverty.

  17. 17
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    9:50 am 

    Gayle Miller said:

    Most of the “helping” programs are set forth to perpetuate their poverty.

    You know what Gayle, just because some people have found ways of gaming the system does not even come close to the conspiracy theory you’re spewing.

    So, what proof do you have of this? Is this some Democratic conspiracy to keep poor voters voting for them?

    Public safety nets are a GOOD thing. They promote a larger, healthier middle class, despite some of the loopholes that exist.

  18. 18
    Tom Snow Said:
    10:26 am 

    I understand your argument, but disagree with it. If I understand you correctly, your view is that you need to be pragmatic to get your conservative initiatives through by compromising with the liberals. It’s a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” approach to governing that the American people find repulsive. But beyond that, you argue that some good conservative initiatives would flounder unless you got support from would-be opponents. The problem there is that now, instead of one bill, voted up and down, with attendant costs, you now have two (albeit in one bill). The founders viewed a limited government was best. The idea was that congress would spend so much time telling each other no, that nothing would get done. That was the goal. The government shouldn’t do anything outside of the scope of the constitution, national defense, judiciary, etc. If you can’t get some conservative initiative passed because of opposition, it shouldn’t be done.

    But to point to an example of your approach, let’s look at GW. I think all can agree, liberal and conservative alike, that he did keep the country safe after 9/11. He did this by engaging the enemy on its home turf in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as homeland security initiatives and other such security issues (FISA, etc.). The liberals hated all this, but they were willing to look the other way if they got their initiatives through. So whenever an appropriations bill for the wars was put before him, it was filled with pork from the opposition in order to buy their vote and he signed. He did this when the Republicans owned both houses. It got worse when the Dems took over. I ask you: how did that strategy work out? Bush’s overriding goal of his administration was to thwart enemies of our country that would do us harm. He did so at the expense of domestic conservative principles. The Republicans were soundly punished in 2006 for this and 2008 was a rout.

    What the Republican Party needs to realize is that there are two types of conservatives. There are those of us who vote for our core principles and those who don’t vote because of apathy. Reagan secured the first and brought out the second.

    You don’t need to be pragmatic to do the right thing. The right thing is obvious to most. If it isn’t obvious, then it probably isn’t something that should be taken up by the federal government. Slavery wasn’t ended as a result of the Missouri Comprimise. It was ended when Lincoln and the Republicans proclaimed the practice was not right and needed to end. We faught a civil war on this principle. We are a Republic, not a Democracy. A Republic is a nation of laws and this is why slavery had to be abolished. A Democracy is rule by majority and since a majority of the populace endorsed slavery, Democracy would have perpetuated slavery.

    The lesson learned is to stand on your principles. If they do not prevail and nothing gets done, so be it. At least we aren’t wasting money. That is much better than the current option in which every whim of Obama is being thrust upon us.

  19. 19
    michael reynolds Said:
    10:50 am 

    Tom:

    You have a rather naive view of American history. Lincoln did not fight the war to free the slaves, he fought the war to prevent the extension of slavery — and more importantly the political power of slave owners — into territories we had recently stolen from Mexico: AZ, NV, NM, CO and above all, CA.

    The reason we had to fight that fight was precisely because the Sainted Founders had set aside principle by compromising on slavery to begin with. But we also managed to declare independence because we violated principle.

    While we’re at it, we violated our principles wholesale in pushing the Indians off their land, taking Mexican land, grabbing Hawaii. We violated our principles in central America and the Philippines at will.

    We won WW2 by violating principle and allying ourselves with the USSR and fighting on the side of several colonial empires while we ourselves enforced racist laws and denounced the Nazis.

    And one more: which principle was Ronald Reagan upholding when he skedaddled out of Lebanon after terrorists murdered 241 Marines and Reagan then sent the Iranians a cake and a bible and spare missile parts?

    It’s good to have principles. But don’t kid yourself that we got where we are because mythic heroes stuck to their principles. It was a long and twisted road that got us here. None of which is an argument for abandoning principle, just a reminder that real life tends to be complicated.

  20. 20
    c3 Said:
    10:54 am 

    Here’s an article that gives an example of how the Christian Right is not as “monolithic” and “lock step” as one would suppose.

    http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctpolitics/2009/05/wi.html

  21. 21
    Foobarista Said:
    12:16 pm 

    Even though I’m generally moderately inclined, one danger for “moderates” is a desire to appear “reasonable”. This gives those who have the ability to define “reasonableness” great power.

    One thing I’ll concede to lefties is their notions that words and ideas are malleable, and can be hammered into right shapes if you work hard enough. The whole idea of “moderation” and “reasonableness” are extremely malleable, given that it is hugely context-sensitive. There’s a sense of “splitting the difference” that concedes the field to the person defining “reasonableness”.

    Obama understands this - he always sounds reasonable and takes great pains to avoid sounding like a leftie fanatic, and works hard to keep a distance from the weird left.

  22. 22
    David R. Block Said:
    3:28 pm 

    Moderate. What does that really mean? Arlen Specter? Probably not, he goes whereever the wind blows at the moment. I don’t really think that he has any principles beyond keeping his butt in office.

    Arnold? Again, I’m not sure what principles he can be said to have judging by what has unfolded in California. He seems to lack the clout to get most anything through the California legislature, whatever principles he may have.

    So, in a way, I echo #21. “Moderate” is slippery. I would disagree that Obama always sounds reasonable. The bailout of the UAW, I mean Chrysler, isn’t moderate. It goes against years of bankruptcy law in theory and in practice. Bondholders always came first, and stockholders always came last. Employees were somewhere in the middle. Except that the UAW is a lock-stock-and-barrel Democratic Party constituency and they are obviously getting special treatment. This should be unconstitutional and almost RICO actionable. Demonization of AIG and the bond holders of Chrysler means that I want no part of helping Chrysler.

    The UAW now has a stake in saving Chrysler, and will probably have a stake in saving GM. In so doing, they will also have a stake in screwing over Ford. Which I expect them to do with the help of this corrupt administration.

  23. 23
    Foobarista Said:
    3:30 pm 

    There’s a difference between “sounding” reasonable and “being” reasonable. Obama is surprisingly good at the former.

  24. 24
    Sal Said:
    4:01 pm 

    The problem I have is that the Democrats do NOT want to compromise. Where we end up is more towards their way of thinking because we DO try to compromise and work together. For example, I am unabashedly pro-life. I would be happy to have the abortion question decided by the states, or to have some reasonable restrictions, but Democrats want unrestricted access to abortion, no questions asked. Where is the compromise from their end? If you compromise with those who have shown the consistent unwillingness to compromise, then all you do is slowly move the country in their direction.

    The funny thing is that much of this talk of “there’s no room for moderates in the GOP” comes from the Specter flap. Specter is neither a moderate or a pragmatist, he is an opportunist. He voted for the stimulus because he thought it would work out for him, but couldn’t even answer basic questions about the bill when pressed. Now that the vote has caused him trouble in his primary (and what’s wrong with that, if the Republicans in PA don’t want his representation any more? Why do we have elections, then?) he switches parties for no other reason than he wants to get re-elected.

  25. 25
    Foobarista Said:
    5:47 pm 

    This is the game-theoretic problem for political moderates. If one side is open to compromise, and the other is not, the stubborn side wins. Often, all it takes is the appearance of “listening” (and ignoring as far as policy goes).

    This is also why dictatorships often out-negotiate democracies. The dictator has no internal pressure to compromise, and often powerful incentives not to, while the democracy and its leaders really want “a deal” to make the problem “go away”.

  26. 26
    michael reynolds Said:
    9:34 pm 

    Sal:

    That is simply not true. I’m a pro-choice Democrat, but I’m willing to outlaw almost all 3d trimester abortion. And I’d like to minimize unwanted pregnancies, which would cut the number of abortions.

    You want it handled at the state level? Really? You want gay marriage, assisted suicide and marijuana legalization decided the same way? Maybe we’d have a compromise there.

  27. 27
    bsjones Said:
    12:35 am 

    MORE NEWS FROM THE FRINGE:
    Does the possibility exist that a homosexual could be qualified to sit on the Supreme Court?

    Minority Whip John Thune (R) does not seem to think so.

    http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2009/05/thune-gay-and-lesbian-jurists-need-not-apply.php

    A bridge too far? or crazy bigoted bullsh!t?

  28. 28
    Neo Said:
    7:03 am 

    As far as Arlen Specter is concerned, it’s not about driving “moderates” from the Republican Party, it’s about the secret plan to send all imbeciles to the Democratic Party.

    The downside of this plan is that the number of imbeciles was underestimated .. speaks volumes about the state of education.

    Meanwhile, Arlen Specter has shown that his “imbecile” status is well deserved.

  29. 29
    Dwight Said:
    10:50 am 

    The downside of this plan is that the number of imbeciles was underestimated .. speaks volumes about the state of education.

    … or your definition of “imbecile”. ;) But hey, why not ask John Cornyn if he thinks if it is all just crazy talk? If the Club for Growth led purge continues unabated the Democratic Senate caucus might just manage to swell to the nearly unthinkable 67. The Democracts already hold the majority of Rep seats in 2/3s of the states (33 to 16, 1 tie). At the point of a 2/3’s majority in the Senate they may start [i]unilaterally changing the rules of the Senate[/i].

    Then who’ll you call imbecilic?

  30. 30
    Dwight Said:
    11:08 am 

    Oh, and that tie? In Idaho, of all places. Maybe that’ll flip back in 2010, maybe not. But the GOP Tent has shrunk to 2-man pup tent, and the crazies are busy trying to burn that to the ground…to their own profit.

  31. 31
    bsjones Said:
    3:50 am 

    A Moderate Republican?
    “I don’t think a person with ‘gay tendencies’ is disqualified [from the Supreme Court]per say”. Jeff Sessions (R)

  32. 32
    fasd Said:
    11:10 pm 

    http://www.watcherofweasels.com/

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