CONSERVATIVES vs REPUBLICANS
Infighting or Healthy Debate?
Jonah Goldberg of The National Review has an interesting piece today entitled "No Party Man" in which he qualifies his philosophy as being "Conservative" rather than "Republican." I'm a big fan of Jonah, being generally in accord with his take on matters political and I am no less in this case - with what may be a personal qualification. Perhaps I would just like to use his insightful piece to clarify some issues, having to do with Republicanism, that have been bothering me for some time.
At some level, I think the difference between "Conservative" and "Republican" is one without practical distiction. If one has conservative priciples, where else is one to go, other than the Republican party? Certainly, within every party, there is a "party line" and it is no less so for Republicans. That is to be expected. Political parties are simply collections of people with similar views on the major issues, not an army marching in lockstep - nor should they be. The future of the "Republican majority" lies in our ability to accept candidates with varying views on certain issues as long as they, in the long run, are "moving the ball forward."
We should not fear healthy debate on every issue within our party. There is whole range of issues and we should not expect every Republican to agree on every issue. Can there be Pro-Choice Republicans? Yes, I believe there can be. Can there be Pro-Gay Marriage Republicans? Yes, I believe so. Can there be Anti-Iraq War Republicans? Yes. Certainly, if one is at odds with virtually all of the many different issues that define the Republican political philosophy then some sort of critical mass is reached and it becomes evident that he or she is, effectively no longer a Republican. When that critical mass is reached that person generally leaves the under their own steam (i.e. Jim Jeffords) well after they are perceived as being a RINO (Republican In Name Only).
The Republican party is collaboration of, but not limited to, fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, foreign policy hawks, strict constitutionalists and any number of combinations thereof. I think that this collaboration gives the party an ability to grow while still moving the country in the "Right" direction. The people I fear are those who are "single issue voters" who choose to "punish" a Republican candidate who does not strictly adhere to his or her pet issue, even though the given candidate generally conforms to a wide range of other "conservative" positions. No candidate will ever satisfy all of the requirements of all of the factions within the party and we have to be mature enough to understand that half a loaf is better than no loaf at all. Progress is incremental and we need patience to achieve our common goal of a more conservative country.
The "soul if the party" lies in those things on which we agree, not in those thing on which we disagree and only in voting accordingly will we see actual progress.