Thursday, November 17, 2005

Well Said!

Fellow Centrist JD recently posted this entry on his blog reagrding Principle v. Pragmatism. I couldn't agree with him more. He offers a very articulate and meaningful view of the underlying problem facing the GOP and the core differences in perspective that are often at the heart of our internal battles. The big question that this raises is: Can these two factions come to some sort of compromise here? If not, it is going to be very difficult to win future statewide elections against credible (read other than Leslie Byrne) opponents.

16 Comments:

At 11/17/2005 01:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's hilarious!

Not because it makes any valid points, but rather because it shows how completely out-of-touch party moderates are with what a conservative ideology truly is.

You are somewhat correct in your depiction of our absolute nature, however. We see that some things are ABSOLUTELY right and that other things are ABSOLUTELY wrong.

Speaking for myself, I use my faith in God as my compass in such matters. So, as most God-fearing conservatives agree, God's teachings lead us to an absolute stance on the issue of abortion. There is no middle-ground here. This being the case, we can't be a little favorable towards the slaughter of babies.

Your pragmatic ideology would allow for a politician have a 50% pro-choice voting record, so long as he was also anti-tax most of the time.

If your ideology were to flourish, it would mean that the Republican Party, as a whole, would stand for absolutely NOTHING! Everything would be subject to the whims of the politician choosing to do whatever he wants, so long as there's an (R) next to his name on Election Day.

I don't vote for Republicans because I get a 'high' off of seeing more republicans in office. (This would be an obsession with power, which only moderates seem to covet.) I vote for the candidate who best reflects the views that I personally hold to be sacred. If a Democrat like Zell Miller were to run for Governor in Virginia, he'd have my vote over any Chichester, Potts, or Reese candidate.

A Conservative has to stand for certain core principles, with no exception; while a moderates enjoy the luxury of claiming to “truly understand the issues” by sometimes being pro-tax, pro-baby killer, and anti-gun, when their favorite lobbyists stroke them the right way.

It’s an issue of morality and honesty that is just unfathomable to the duplicitous liberal elite within our party.

 
At 11/17/2005 01:59:00 PM, Anonymous NoVA Scout said...

JD does a consistently admirable job of putting out honest, thoughtful pieces that invite his readers to spend at least a little time on a higher plane than the usual political exchanges that infest the blogs. I hope he won't desert us entirely when he moves from Virginia. I also hope that his decamping to out-of-state academia is only a necessary positioning move for his eventual return to one of our institutions of higher learning (or whatever-the-hell else it takes to bring him back to his roots in the Old Dominion).

 
At 11/17/2005 02:23:00 PM, Blogger too conservative said...

Anon-
Agreed. I am a very religious guy, but no one is perfect.

Which moderates do you refer to that are "anti-gun, pro-tax, and pro-babykiller?"

 
At 11/17/2005 03:40:00 PM, Blogger Mitch Cumstein said...

It would appear to some that issues such as gun control, taxation and abortion must be black and white issues in all instances. The truth is, few Virginians, or Americans for that matter, view these things as strictly black and white. The real world is a little too grey and complicated to simply dismiss compromises out-of-hand.

Being a "moderate" doesn't mean not having principles. Far from it. It means understanding that the other guy may have a different set of principles, and the only way to further your agenda and that of like-minded individuals is to compromise from time to time. That's way our system was designed and the way it has always worked. And, like it or not, it isn't going to change. Nor should it.

 
At 11/17/2005 04:08:00 PM, Anonymous Rtwng Extrmst said...

TC,

Not to answer for anon, but Russ Potts would be one good example.

 
At 11/17/2005 04:14:00 PM, Blogger Mitch Cumstein said...

"Russ Potts would be one good example."

I don't agree that Potts is an example of a "moderate," at least not where the most recent election is concerned. His positions on the issues were the most liberal of the three candidates. This might explain while some moderates threw their votes to Kaine instead of Potts.

 
At 11/17/2005 05:33:00 PM, Anonymous Rtwng Extrmst said...

Mitch, you underscore my point. Applying the adjective "moderate" to Potts is tongue-in-cheek, but not in some others' application. He also ran as a "conservative" in his Senate races. Go figure...

 
At 11/17/2005 07:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Russ Potts is a great example, as is Gary Reese's claim to being 100% pro-life on the campaign trail, while voting pro-choice half of the time (according to NARAL.)

TC, your hero Sean claims to be conservative yet actively advocated and helped to raise money for the pro-tax referendum in NOVA.

Now, before you start getting into a tissy about anyone talking about Sean, I want you to know that I recognize he's not a bad guy. But he IS a tax-hiker!

 
At 11/18/2005 05:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote "We see that some things are ABSOLUTELY right and that other things are ABSOLUTELY wrong."

That's all well and good. But the strictness of your belief isn't the political question that matters in advancing your belief _politically_.

The issues in politics are:

1. What do you believe?
2. What do a majority of voters believe?
3. If 1 and 2 are not the same, what is the closest approximation you can get without actively turning off voters?
4. How can you, over the longer term, persuade (not bully) a majority to accept your position?

If you don't have a majority of voters that agree with you on a particular issue in a particular district/ state/ county, then the strength of your belief does not really matter. On major issues, without voter support, you cannot prevail in the long term.

You can sometimes force the issue through politicking and turnout in primaries and such, but in the long run, you will eventually lose. That is what is happening NOW with many social issues in Nova.

If you try to force delegates to be more hard line on abortion than their constituencies, they will lose elections to Democrats who believe in no restrictions whatsoever. Your choice is between half a loaf and no loaf at all.

If you choose no loaf, by your own logic, you are saying it is better to have a lot of abortions, and be ideologically pure, rather than have fewer abortions through the election of people you do not completely agree with.

Democratic ascendency will not reduce the number of abortions in Virginia.

If you want to eliminate abortions, you can't bully people into voting against their beliefs. You must capture the hearts and minds of voters. That means persuasion and nuanced moral argument, not browbeating and absolutism - which actively turns off everyone who does not already agree with you.

For example, showing CAT "photos" of unborn children can be effective in showing just what you are aborting. They can be effective that way. Strident rhetoric is not.

You wrote - "So, as most God-fearing conservatives agree, God's teachings lead us to an absolute stance on the issue of abortion. There is no middle-ground here. This being the case, we can't be a little favorable towards the slaughter of babies."

Then you're confusing what you believe God wants with how to accomplish that in the real world.

If your goal is to eliminate abortions, "few" abortions ARE better than "many" abortions, just as "few" murders are better than many murders. God has a law about murder, too, but we're not at a zero murder rate, either.

Taking positions that voters cannot support will lose the Republican's seats. Voters are not against all abortions, under every circumstance, in many districts of Virginia. The cold hard fact is, THEY decide. Not us.

You wrote "Your pragmatic ideology would allow for a politician have a 50% pro-choice voting record, so long as he was also anti-tax most of the time."

Would you prefer an elected politician that is a 50% pro-choice Republican, or a defeated 100% pro-life Republican and an elected 100% pro choice Democrat?

Which way gets you fewer abortions? Which way consolidates a Democratic majority that believes in no restrictions on abortion whatsoever?

You wrote "If your ideology were to flourish, it would mean that the Republican Party, as a whole, would stand for absolutely NOTHING! Everything would be subject to the whims of the politician choosing to do whatever he wants, so long as there's an (R) next to his name on Election Day."

If moderation and pragmatism were to flourish, it would mean that Republicans stood for the conservative side of THEIR DISTRICTS. Their districts vary - and you cannot force a politician on a district that does not share his beliefs, no matter how much you care about a particular issue.

Policy positions would not be subject to the whims of the politician doing whatever he wanted - policy positions, ultimately, are subject to what the VOTERS want.

In trying to accomplish something politically in a democracy, your goal must be to get the voters to want what you want. If they don't want what you want, you need to be able to "sell" the closest possible approximation. That shifts the balance of power in your direction and often, over time, results in public opinion moving your way.


You wrote - "A Conservative has to stand for certain core principles, with no exception; while a moderates enjoy the luxury of claiming to “truly understand the issues” by sometimes being pro-tax, pro-baby killer, and anti-gun, when their favorite lobbyists stroke them the right way."

A delegate, conservative or moderate, has to stand for principles that his constituents agree with. "No exceptions" often does not meet that criteria. Cold, hard, and true. The more divergence you get between the electorate and the elected, the more likely you are to lose.

You wrote "as is Gary Reese's claim to being 100% pro-life on the campaign trail, while voting pro-choice half of the time (according to NARAL.)"

This is a major pet peeve of mine. NARAL ratings are not just about abortion - they include positions on sex ed, birth control pills, etc - some nutty positions and some not so bad. I am not familiar with Reese's voting record, but I know that some "NARAL" votes are not about abortion at all.

When we allow NARAL to define what is pro-life and what is not, we have just ceded control. It's foolish. WE need to define what votes we care about, and forget NARAL.

 
At 11/18/2005 09:36:00 AM, Blogger neocon22 said...

wow, well said anon 5:59am

 
At 11/18/2005 12:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 5:59 AM: There are so many things to pick apart in your argument, but I will begin with this:

First off, you open your rant with your "rules on how to advance politically". You just let the cat out of the bag on a moderate's strategy to getting elected. Moderates/Liberal Republicans are concerned about one thing - WINNING !! It's not that you all have a burning desire to change the direction of America, amend laws to lessen the burdens put on families by an intrusive government, protect families from crime, protect Constitutional freedoms (even the most fundamental right to life, without which all other rights are void), turn back the moral decline of this country, and I could go on.....

Rather you're concerned with one thing - figuring out how best to manipulate your positions to win a seat.

You posit that before a candidate runs, he or she must sit down and figure out what they believe vs. what the majority of the voters in the district believe/want. Moderate candidates tend to have wild political aspirations and they look at the district they live in, perhaps poll it and formulate their positions AFTER they look at the polling results (i.e. "HEY! There's a large cluster of prochoice women in my district, in order to appease these ladies and earn their vote, I best come out as the candidate who is soft on abortion, because I want to WIN!!!).

This is the very reason why the voting public looks down upon politicians in general. They aren't trustworthy - you never know if they are saying what they believe or if they are saying what a voter *wants* to hear. Voters want integrity.

You argue that the best way to run is to look at what you believe and compare it to the majority of voters in a given district and then find the closest approximation between the two (if they disagree) and run on that platform. In other words, if your views don't agree with the district's views - you need to change your position if you want to win. This is a morally repugnant position to take on campaigning in my view. It's the chameleon approach - change colors according to the backdrop/to mesh with the majority of voters in your district. In other words - you promote LYING as the key to winning a seat in office.

Your last point is how you can overtime make the majority accept your position .... which position?! The one you held *before* or *after* you altered your platform/beliefs to fit a district?! I DON'T GET IT!


The difference between a conservative candidate and a moderate/liberal-leaning candidate is this - Conservative's have a firm set of beliefs/opinions in place BEFORE they run, and they don't waver from those beliefs. We put our necks out there, tell people the way we see things, and if they don't agree with us - they won't vote for us, and at the end of the day we lose. But at least we go to bed with a clear conscience. Running for office isn't about obtaining a title, an office on Capitol Hill or elsewhere, or acquiring the prestige that is associated with being an elected official - rather we want to (at the risk of sounding cheesy) make society a better place for our children to live in and prosper in. It's not about the game or "advancing our careers".

In looking at this from a grassroots campaigning perspective - the prize goes to the best campaigner. By this I don't mean which candidate can fool the most people into voting for him, rather it's which candidate can go into a district and personally reach out to folks and explain his positions to voters. If he earns support - they are generally marked as such and then contacted repeatedly thereafter. On election day, the win goes to the team who has identified the most supporters and turned them out.

Living in a democracy, we are given choices. It's our *choice* to go to the polls and *choose* a candidate who best represents us. That being said, wouldn't you agree that when the majority of voters come out and vote a conservative into office that the candidate is obviously in agreement with the majority of voters?! Granted this all seems very circular, but it seems to me that Conservatives are in fact the most honest of campaigners. They don't try to hide or fuzzy any of their beliefs. It's the voter's choice. If after being in office for a term, the voters decide a certain person doesn't represent them anymore, than the MAJORITY of voters will come out and vote that person out of office. End of story. None of this "advancing our political careers" crap.

That's the philosophy behind a conservative running for office. I know you're thinking that on a broader spectrum this isn't good for the party in general - especially with regards to keeping a Republican majority. But I ask you, what does a Republican majority mean when there's a host of moderate/liberal Republicans who are spending like crazy, siding with Democrats on many issues, and not promoting the principles upon which I believe our Grand Ole Party was founded.

I know there are going to be lots of rebuttles to this post, and I can already guess what most of them will be. But I thought I would just lay this out there - to spur discussion !! HAHA.

 
At 11/18/2005 01:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, anon 12:56!

 
At 11/18/2005 05:35:00 PM, Anonymous The Jaded JD said...

The only thing I have to add here to what has been said at 5:59 AM and 12:56 PM (of whatever day--not having the day in the comment timestamp is silly), is this:

The original Anon (and why can't you guys just make up a name for yourself and use it over and over again? I suspect 1:13 and 5:59 are the same, but don't know whether you are or not) wrote: "So, as most God-fearing conservatives agree, God's teachings lead us to an absolute stance on the issue of abortion. There is no middle-ground here. This being the case, we can't be a little favorable towards the slaughter of babies."

The problem here is that there is a vast swath of the electorate--if not an actual majority--who does not share your perception of God and His stance on this issue. So you prove my point that an absolutist wants only to alienate as many voters as necessary in order to actually win the election--because his loyal and dedicated core, though a minority of the electorate, will win once enough adverse voters stay home--and then ram their beliefs down the throats of the unsuspecting and unwilling. You don't want to persuade, and you don't want to compromise. You want to vanquish, and then impose your will over any resistance.

Whatever that may be, it is not democracy.

 
At 11/18/2005 08:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jaded JD, 1:13 and 5:59 are different - 1:13 is concurring with a rebuttal of 5:59. I'm 5:59, reposting, and I guess I probably should pick a pseudonym.

Anon 12:56 - Your post was interesting, particularly in how you read my post. Specifically, you read into it what you wanted to hear to give you a counterpoint to your own beliefs. What you did not read were the actual points I was making.

I am interested in having Virginia run along the lines that _I_ agree with. I would personally call those lines conservative, tending towards libertarian.

In order to have Virginia run the way I would like, candidates agreeing with me actually do have to win. Equally important, candidates that I strongly disagree actually do have to lose.

I do not believe that candidates should misrepresent their viewpoints to get elected, and I did not suggest that they do so. I'll also comment that in local elections, even leaving out the ethical issues, such misrepresentation is probably much less effective than in more geographically dispersed races.

My point is that I do believe that a political party should put forward candidates that suit the districts they represent, with the difference between the two parties' candidates generally tending towards the direction of that particular party.

Some of those regional variances are a matter of style - but there are differences in substantive beliefs between one part of the state and the next. The candidates will similarly vary. That does not make them RINOs.

I also believe that, in some cases, where a candidate has a few "bright" ideas or views wildly at odds with their constituency, they should consider whether that is a core belief or not. Keeping a thought under one's hat is not always a bad thing.

Ted Stevens determination to push an embarassing bridge to nowhere despite the disinterest of his constituents, as well as his threats to quit over it, are two good examples of ideas I think would have best not been expressed.

The theory that the prize goes to the best campaigner has an element of wishful thinking to it. It seems to be most often expressed by people very active in parties and campaigning. Agreed, good campaigns are extremely important. However, you also have to be "selling" something that voters want to "buy." Doing a good job of selling a product no one wants to buy does not generally lead to victory.

Despite your assumption, I am not in disagreement with conservative districts that elect conservative delegates. Where we differ is that, I also believe moderate districts should be able to elect moderate Republicans, rather than moderate to liberal Democrats.

What does a Republican majority mean if they aren't all very conservative? Think for a second. Would you rather have the extra votes in the GA be moderate Republicans, or would you rather have them be those moderate to liberal Democrats?

The more senators and delegates that are closer to my beliefs, the more likely that I will be happy with the GA. For me, that means the balance swings a bit more towards modest government, public safety, fiscal prudence, and leaving folks alone to live their own lives without excessive interference.

I don't know where you got the idea I was talking about "advancing our political careers", but it is an interesting Rorschach into how you perceive things.

 
At 11/20/2005 08:45:00 AM, Blogger Mitch Cumstein said...

Anon:

Very good points here. I agree that conservative districts should, and often do, elect conservative representatives. When dealing with broader constituencies, such as in statewide elections, it becomes much more difficult to reconcile a hardcore conservative (or liberal) point of view and appeal to enough voters to win. This is precisely why "moderates" like Warner and Kaine can win a Governor's race in a predominantly Republican state.

As much as those GOPers who lean much further to the right than I will argue and bemoan this, the reality is that the days of electing Jim Gilmore types to the Governor's Mansion are over. This is why the idea of Bill Bolling as the GOP standard-bearer is so disappointing. If the Dems put up Creigh Deeds in 2009 (regardless of how any recount plays out), Bolling will get destroyed in a general election. He has no chance, I'd bet my house (along with its high value and property taxes) on it. If we want to reclaim Virginia's highest office, it has to be with a candidate who can effectively sell a more moderate and relevant agenda to the average voter, particularly in NOVA. Without that, we're left with empty rhetoric, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

 
At 11/21/2005 09:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mitch,

I'd love to take you up on that bet! The problem with your reasoning, or lack thereof, is that you ignore the fact that Kilgore ran under the squishy moderate template you detailed, and yet he lost by a fairly wide margin.

People voted for Gilmore because despite his faults, Gilmore made it clear that he was going to unquestionably work towards elimination of the car tax. As soon as that message caught on, his poll numbers only continued to surge. In addition, many Republicans were elected to office, while gripping tightly to his coat-tails.

If we were to have another Republican, like Bolling, run on a similar platform for Governor I have no doubt that the election outcome would be the same.

 

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