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GOP Grassroots: Grabbing the Wheel

Melissa Clouthier makes an argument [1]at Pajamas Media that I’ve been making,…. both here and there… for quite some time, now:

I’m tired of Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Tom Ridge, and the rest of them. I’m tired of the pontificating. I’m tired of the holier-than-thou bearing. I’m tired of the self-important smugness. Most of all, I’m tired of losing big elections and being lectured by the losers about how to win.

And I’d just like to say this to moderates feelings tweaked in the current Grand Old Party: get over it.

mc2 [2]I might disagree with Glenn Reynolds on social issues, but as long as he’s fighting tooth and nail against big government intrusion, taxation, and pork barrel spending, I consider him a friend and ally.

I might disagree with Ann Althouse on nearly everything (actually we agree more often then not), but as long as she values the security of America and values America for it’s own sake, I consider her a fellow patriot. (After the pain of having voted for Barack Obama, I hope she’ll come back into the Republican fold.)

Allahpundit and James Joyner might be agnostic/atheist, actually, but as long as they promote freedom, small government, and security, they are full members under the big tent.

This in fact is the reason behind my support, such as it was, for example, for George Bush.  (Either one) Their politics by definition is at best centrist, but to the degree that they are traveling along with me on my political road, they are welcome.  To the degree they are not, they will hear from me.  This is also the thrust behind my comment about Mike Huckabee, yesterday. [3]

For the sake of completeness I’ll throw this in here.

(CNN) — (Political Ticker) [4]Days after national Republicans launched a new campaign to broaden the party’s outreach, former upstart presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says the GOP is at risk of becoming “irrelevant as the Whigs.”

In an interview with the California newspaper The Visalia Times-Delta, Huckabee said the GOP would only further decline in influence should it alienate social conservatives — largely considered the most energetic and loyal faction of the party.

“Throw the social conservatives the pro-life, pro-family people overboard and the Republican [5] party will be as irrelevant as the Whigs,” he said in reference to the American political party that largely disbanded in the mid 1800s.

“They’ll basically be a party of gray-haired old men sitting around the country club puffing cigars, sipping brandy and wondering whatever happened to the country. That will be the end of the party,” he said in the interview published Thursday.

That’s exactly right, and it’s what I [6]‘ve been singing in several articles on several different web sites. Parties… and individuals…  that don’t stand for something,  tend not to get elected.  I [6]‘ll say it again; asleep while we lost in 2008.   Huck seemingly had the right idea here.

There may well be issues in the politics of the people mentioned here.  I tend to take those piecemeal, pretty much as Melissa describes it.

This goes to David’s comments on my Huckabee quote of yesterday, as well:

I [6]“ve had it with RINO’s.   Mike Huckabee, save for being pro-life, is a liberal.   Huckabee thinks that there no problem that can not be solved with intervention by the state and with sufficient taxation.

Not to pick on David, because there’s a good deal of me that is admittedly sympathetic to his statement.  Clearly, Huckabee expressed those views over the course of the last cycle, and that’s an issue.  Going forward, he will have those statements hanging over his head.  That said, so too, do these others, each to their own degree.  The thing is, when they speak the truth, and to the degree they speak the truth, those statements deserve our support.

Melissa makes the point in her article that there is an issue of brand clarity, if you will.  And that’s certainly true.  That said, I suggest there is a similar issue in the opposite direction; that being clarity in exactly what the GOP rank and file is demanding of its leadership.  What kind of messages are sent to the Republican leadership, and thereby what kind of people do we nominate for election, if we reject people, even when they speak the truth? We end up with John McCain.  Arlen Specter.  Lincoln Chafee.  And of course, we end up with more muddled messages being sent the electorate.

My objection to the brand of center -ism and “big tent” -ism being offered by the Republican leadership these days, is that it is not so much cooperation as capitulation.  Make no mistake; I do not propose capitulation.  There is one reason and one reason only for the capitulation to exist; we have people elective office supposedly as  part of the Republican party who are more interested in simply getting elected and staying elected then they are in the application of traditional GOP principles, as Melissa lays out, here:

  • Freedom and personal liberty: As in, “I know what’s best for me more than the government knows what’s best for me.”
  • Small government: Small government means small taxes, which also means economic freedom. If a Republican does not believe this tenet, why is he a Republican?
  • God, Family, Country: That is, traditional values. The building blocks of society. Patriotism. No apologies for the greatness of America, etc.
  • Life. Protecting and promoting it — from the weakest unborn child and the equality of minorities to the protection of democracies everywhere.

Here we are again, with the comparison to Reagan and how he handled the “big tent”.  He stuck to his guns, stuck to his principles, and convinced others to come around to his way of thinking by the sheer weight of his arguments.  He was willing to support people when they spoke the truth and chastise them when they did not.  To my way of thinking, that is the ‘big tent’ we should be aiming at.

Are people like Huckabee simply making the proper noises because it’s politically expedient or are they making noises because they’ve seen the weight of the arguments?

Those are the two choices before us, in that case.  Either he has been swayed by the arguments and will act accordingly, or sees the way the wind is blowing politically speaking, and will implement those wishes as expressed above. If the Reagan years showed us anything,  it’s that properly handled, such disconnects don’t really matter to the final outcome.   Either way, conservative principles as laid out above are furthered.  I submit that where we as Republicans fell down is that we stopped holding the feet of people like Specter and Huckbee and anyone else, for that matter, to the fire. We were not vocal enough in supporting the conservative point of view.  We were not forceful enough in getting the GOP leadership to stay in line. The winds since have shifted, however.  I submit that what we’re seeing out of the likes of Huckabee is the reaction to the political realities imposed by the grassroots .

It is down to us, the grass roots,  now, keeping a death grip on the tiller, and directing the good ship GOP, as we have been these last few months.

Addendum: In the E-mail conversation resulting from this post, I tell Mellissa, essentially, that the failure in dealing with moderates is on our part, not theirs.

We’re talking about human nature, here. We’re always going to be dealing with such people. The attraction of power is just too strong to keep such divergences from the original purpose of their holding office,  from happening .  Their elections , or more correctly, their reelection becomes more important than the principles they went into office to represent.

The only way that we are going to be able to keep such people from being destructive is to hold their feet to the fire. We have to keep reminding them of the principles that they’re supposed to be representing.  Of the people they’re supposed to be representing.   Our failure has been that we haven’t done that.  Assuming that we manage to keep the pressure on,  such people as Huckabee may even be useful, within limits.  Without such pressure, they are a danger.