I see politics – at large, and within parties – as a big game of tug of war. In the exact middle of the rope is a ribbon.
The difference between this and a real tug of war is that you will never pull the ribbon all the way to your side of the pit in the middle, to say nothing of pulling your opponents into it. Oh, it’s a goal – but it will never happen. So every so often – say, every four minutes, or every four years, whichever fits your metaphor better – the referee blows the whistle, and measures where the ribbon is. I’m rooting for the ribbon to move to the right – so I get into the scrum and pull for all I’m worth to get that ribbon moved.
Let’s stretch the metaphor even further. It’s not just a single tug of war; it’s a tournament. And the farther your side gets the ribbon to your side in the semifinals, the more of you will move on to the finals for the big championship round. The catch is, if people get too pissed off at the results of the semifinals and take their cleats and go home, you jeopardize your team’s shot at the finals. Because the other guys will be pulling with all their might to not only get that ribbon pulled to the left; they want you, and the whole rest of the country, to fall into the mud pit.
We had one of those tugs of war Saturday on the NARN Volume III. Michael Brodkorb wrote about it on MDE;
The point of lampooning of Drew’s and Mitch’s posts was highlight a larger problem that I see that with a certain element of the conservative movement. Some people like to complain and act, while some people just like to complain. It was my opinion that Drew’s and Mitch’s posts were about complaining and not about acting. As I wrote, neither of them had done any volunteering for the Republican effort in SD 25, yet they were the first to complain about the loss. But they both complained because they care about the conservative movement in Minnesota. In reality, our very important conversation wouldn’t have occurred without Drew’s post. For that, we should all offer our sincere thanks to Drew.
The caucuses are a month away (more – much more – on this later). We’re in the semifinals, now – time for the tug of war within the GOP. It’s time for those of us who do stand for the First Principles of conservatism – liberty, prosperity, security, limited government, culture and family – to do what we can to move that metaphorical ribbon within the party to the right. It’s the time when all of you who think Tim Pawlenty is a RINO, or that Jim Ramstad is too conservative, or who think that Norm Coleman is a Democrat in a nicer suit, or that we need Fred Thompson rather than Rudy Giuliani in the White House, or that the Sixth District needs a moderate rather than an evangelical conservative – need to turn out to the precinct caucuses on February 5.
You need to show up.
You need to vote.
You need to run for the delegate positions, promising to support conservative candidates and principles.
You have to volunteer for your precinct, district, congressional district, and the state convention.
You need to show up at the conventions, and vote for those candidates and principles. In areas that swing between moderate, conservative and single-issue voters, you need to not only represent your principles – but be involved in the horse-trading that involves forcing the compromises that are at the very root of the word “politics”.
You need to help pull that ribbon to the right.
And then, when the conventions are over, you – we, all of us, conservatives and Republicans of all stripes, “moderates” and Buchananites and libertarians and Reaganites and every flavor in between, having fought the good fight for conservative principle to the absolute hilt through the caucuses and at each and every level of conventions, need to do something that hardly anyone talks about.
We need to close ranks.
Having fought – and, hopefully, won – the good, conservative fight at the caucuses and in the conventions, we need to get some perspective; while not all Republicans will meet a good conservative’s approval, it’s a safe bet that virtually no Democrats will. It will be time to realize that even an “imperfect” Republican is, in almost every case and on nearly every issue, better than a Democrat.
Because while I join many of you in disparaging the “Republicans in Name Only”, the “moderates”, the Republicans who are liberal enough to earn endorsement from the Strib, and get Lori Sturdevant’s approval, there are two reasons to suck it up and hold your nose and work your butt off, even for “RINO” Republicans, even if they offend some of your conservative principles.
The first reason: Every ten years, the state’s congressional districts are reapportioned. And the party with the most seats controls the process. And the DFL, if they are in control, will gerrymander the state’s districts to reinforce their control over this state.
The second: there will, in the next four to eight years, be between one and three Supreme Court seats opening up. And a Republican-controlled Senate will be better for seeing responsible, constructionist, sane judges confirmed.
And in neither case does it matter one iota if the GOP majority is 100% Reaganite purists or 40% Sturdevant-approved moderates. In these cases, literally, a majority that is 2/3 of “good enough” is better – as in, better for the sake of 10 years of state legislation and 20-30 years of SCOTUS decisions – than an ideologically perfect minority. When it comes to reapportioning the state and US legislatures, numbers count, and count drastically. If you don’t think it matters, then ponder if you will the way the DFL drew the legislative map in 1990; Minnesota’s legislative map looked like a Rohrschach blob, drawn to maximize the effect of DFL votes. It made getting any serious reform impossible throughout the nineties. It made it possible for the DFL to spend surplus after surplus, defeat concealed carry reform, create the Department of Children Families and Learning, and impose the Profiles in Learning, and fund and design the Ventura Trolley; for a decade (really, for the third of three decades) it allowed the DFL to spent money like crack whores with stolen Gold Cards. All because the GOP lost a bunch of Legislative seats in the eighties.
My favorite example – the one I’ve been dinging on pretty mercilessly for the last year – is the people who told me before the ’06 election (and after the convention) that they were staying home and not voting for Mark Kennedy because he voted for ethanol subsidies. And I’d like to look each and every one of them up right now, and ask “do you think Amy Klobuchar is any better on ethanol? Is a Supreme Court seat worth losing over ethanol? Do you think Amy Klobuchar is better on immigration, defense, education, life or even, ironically, spending – the issue that ostensibly kept you home – than Kennedy would have been?”
Is there such a thing as “going too far” in finding the point where princple and pragmatism intersect? Of course. But I’m at a loss to think of one in the running in Minnesota today. To pick the most recent example, Ray Cox was far from my personal ideal Republican – he got a “26%” score from the Taxpayers League, and got the Strib’s endorsement, for crying out loud. Would he be better to have in the Senate than DFLer Kevin Dahle? Without question. But to take Michael’s point – the time to argue that would have been before and during the endorsing convention.
And don’t say you can’t argue with the party leadership. Although I’ve criticized my district and state leadership in the past, the fact is that grassroots movements work. Michele Bachmann upended the wishes of the CD6 leadership in ’06 by getting her base out in teeming droves that put wildebeest migrations to shame, upsetting many a CD6 establishment figure’s applecart – and winning the nomination, and the race. Because conservatives turned out, and worked hard, to see their vision through. Another great example – Tim Pawlenty; the governor was a pragmatic moderate in the House; it was the grassroots groundswell of support for Brian Sullivan that pushed him to the right. While it didn’t make him a perfect conservative governor, it did make him a vastly better alternative than Roger Moe – all because conservatives got out and voted at caucuses and conventions.
So argue like crazy, today. Stand on absolute principle. Work your butts off for absolute rigid stiffnecked rock-ribbed conservative idealism. I’m going to; I don’t care if it offends the GOP or not! I’ll fight the good fight, and throw bricks at every part of the GOP that doesn’t measure up to the party I want to see…
…until the conventions. And then, starting with my BPOU, and then my Congressional Distict, then within the state, and finally with every other
real American Republican nationwide. I’m going to make my notes for the next nomination and caucus cycle, file ’em away, and get out and try to get Republicans – even the lame, “RINO”, not-quite-conservative-enough ones – elected.
Because the big tug of war is coming next – and the Democrats’ philosophy has always been “compromise is for losers” (until they lose – then they whinge about the “need” for “bipartisanship” and “cooperation”), and moving that ribbon to the right isn’t just inside-the-party beanbag. It’s for laws. It’s for judges. It’s for your pocketbook and our kids’ education and our nation’s security, and all of the first ten Amendments and the unborn to boot.
And if that ribbon is one foot left of the center of that metaphorical pit because any of us stayed home because we didn’t like how the GOP’s tug of war ended up, it’s our fault.