July 20, 2009

Republican Purity

My On a New Conservatism post elicited concern from JK that kicking the big government conservatives out of the Republican Party would be an electoral mistake. I think we've discussed that quite a bit around here with no consensus opinion, but consider this historic quote that Hayek placed at the very top of his 'Why I am Not a Conservative' essay:

"At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has sometimes been disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition." - Lord Acton

Is this not an accurate description of what happens when big government conservatives are running the party?

2012 Elevator Talk Politics Posted by JohnGalt at July 20, 2009 1:32 PM

I am in agreement with JG here. It was said that the American revolution was supported by 30% of the colonial population, aided by 10%, and fought by 3%. Let us be that 3%.

I am ready for a complete purge of the Republican Party. If this is impossible, let us abandon it.

Not too long ago JK wrote a post decrying any such strategy, not wishing to split the same constituency among three parties. It would mean "electoral defeat" in the next election, if my memory holds correct.

This is true. But it is not reason enough to keep a corrupt, statist, and unresponsive party in power.

History provides a lesson here. America has scrapped a party before. Remember the Whigs! In the 1840s, the Whigs had a brief resurgence, a gain in popularity following Van Buren's poor handling of the nation. But the Whigs were unable divided on matters of liberty -- half of the party supported a system of slavery, while half of the party was adamantly against such. So what happened? The party fell apart. In the elections of 1856 Whigs faced off against their brethren, now donning names such as Know-Nothings, Free Soilers, and Republicans.

Five parties were not able to beat one. The Democrats took the nation with a vengeance. However, out of the refiner's fire that was 1856 emerged a new coalition, united on the central issue of the day. The small group of hardliners who had created the Republican Party had been forged into leaders at the forefront of a national political party that used the ideals of these men as a foundation for a new American system. Their system would be the ruling order until the Progressives came to the fore some 50 years later.

I would propose that we stand at a similar crossroads today. We have attempted to tack classical liberalism onto statist conservatism, when rightfully, the reverse should be the truth. Why not make it so? A purge, an abandonment- such will lose us an election, perhaps even two. But if it secures us one more century of American greatness, than why hesitate? Why delay the philosophical reorientation that must come if we are to assure America's future?

Posted by: T. Greer at July 20, 2009 3:23 PM

I wish to co-opt the Republican Party, not defend the status quo. The post that tg paraphrases -- accurately -- referred to creating a party out of the Tea Party movement. I considered that to be an invitation to further divide forces between the GOP, LP and Tea-P.

My suggestion is that this minority takeover you seek happen in GOP primaries. If "we are classically liberal, hear us roar!" we should be able to take over a rudderless, out of power, just-got-their-asses-kicked political party which is on some level sympathetic to our beliefs. If we (you keep using that word, kimosabe) cannot take over the GOP, I don't see how we can take over the country.

Your historical example, tg, fails to calm me down. It's okay it happened in 1848 is less than comforting on its face, I think it is even worse when you dig in to detail. The Whigs were out of power for 12 years, and their bastard Repulican child only succeeded in 1860 because the Democrats were divided (I hardly think you can call the Know-Nothings a Whig sect when Martin Van Buren was their nominee in '52 and '56). Had the Democrats not split along sectional lines, President Lincoln's victory is unclear. I'd say Republican methods for solidifying power were sui generis to say the least. Perhaps if we have another war and Tea-Party loyal troops are stationed in Vermont and Marin County long enough to ratify a few amendments...

Also there were only 31 states to staff and the opposition party was really but 28 years old. To repeat the trick today is a different challenge.

I am not a military tactician but know you should be wary of dividing your forces. Question for the group: how will a Tea-Party party be substantively different -- or any less irrelevant -- than the current, well established Libertarian Party?

Posted by: jk at July 20, 2009 5:31 PM

In the spirit of harmony, The Refugee will offer that both JK and TG are correct. First, JK is correct that the situation is not so dire that it cannot be fixed. After Watergate, it appeared that the Republicans would never recover only to have Reagan sweep to victory seven years later. In the 1980s, it appeared that Republicans would never again be a majority in Congress only to sweep both houses in 1994. Moreover, it's simply impossible to get 50 million people to agree on anything, let alone everything.

However, TG is also correct that we need to be part of the 3% solution. In Colorado, this means attending caucuses, getting voted as a delegate to county/district/state conventions, stuffing mailers, hanging literature on doors, etc. These are the people who choose the candidates. Social conservatives have been very well organized and are generally over-represented when it comes time to pick candidates. Libertarian-minded individuals could do the same thing.

We also need a suitable standard bearer at the top of the ticket. Might The Refugee humbly suggest a person? John Kasich, now running for governor of Ohio. Economically brilliant, extremely bright, innovative ideas, mainstream conservative, understands how to get things done in Washington. Genuine shot at beating Obama.

Remember, you heard it here first.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at July 20, 2009 6:11 PM

Hey, I was with Kasich for his Presidential run in 2000. I went to Governor Dubya when he threw his support that way (the writing was pretty clear by then). Economically, the guy is a "10."

But I remember shifting uncomfortably in my chair during the debate as he talked up his plan to "put the ten commandments in every classroom." My brother-in-law hopped off the train that instant and I am embarrassed to admit that I equivocated for a few days.

I have since seen him take some populist immigration positions on FOXNews. I'd want to hear that he won't put his "Conservative" values above his "economic brilliance." Maybe send him a copy of the Hayek book.

If he'd like to recant, he's got me. He personified the Spirit of '94 guys who actually came to Washington to change it.

Posted by: jk at July 20, 2009 6:30 PM

And I appreciate the Kumbaya attempt -- I'm the guy asking for unity. But the 3% revolutionaries or the 9% libertarians need to decide whether they can work with the people's Front of Judea or if they're going to form their own single-digit cult.

Posted by: jk at July 20, 2009 6:34 PM

I'd like to offer a few quick points:

- Kasich is a good man. Palin is a good woman. Neither is a savior. The focus needs to be on the principle of limited government power and not on any particular individual.

- Grassroots involvement is important but remember to advocate for limited government first, particular candidates second.

- With all due respect to the "People's Front of Judea" I believe they are the ones with some decidin' to do: Resign to leaving their moral priorities in the private sphere where they belong or watch the Progressives/socialists run wild in the public sphere for lack of sufficient opposition.

- How is it possible to teach more Americans that they really are better off when government is less involved? An excellent start would be to teach more of them how many millions are in a trillion. (See the comments there.)

Posted by: johngalt at July 21, 2009 12:18 PM

Huzzah, everybody is right. It could only happen here at Three Sources. Let's purge the party, though being the simpleton that I am, I didn't get who exactly is going to be purged. The Three Sources hostility towards social conservatives and bible thumpers leads me to believe that we'll toss them under the bus, or as our friend JG suggests, perhaps they will leave their moral priorities in the private sphere and this won't be necessary. I'll bet that's what they'll do. Starting with Sarah Palin, they'll take abortion, gay issues and border security off of the table so we can all come together in a secular tsunami and wipe Progressive/socialists off of the playing field before they commence with any more of their wild rumpus.
But what if they don't... what if they decide they are not going to let any minority fringe of the Republican party tell them what to do and further more, what if they decide that minority fringe better check their morals at the door if they want to defeat Obama and the Democrats. Just asking.

Posted by: sugarchuck at July 21, 2009 12:54 PM

I almost get the feelin' that pointy headed guy in the suitcoat is makin' fun o' me... I can't speak for the vast confederacy of ThreeSourcers, but I'll happily identify my prospective purgees.

I remain the pragmatist and fusionist 'round these parts. I am happy to share a big successful political party with social conservatives. I think the animating idea of the party, however, needs to be "limited government/enumerated powers." Live and share the Ten Commandments. Donate a plaque or a poster to a school through your Lion's Club or church, I'm in.

But when you say, in a presidential debate, that you want to have the Federal Government purchase and distribute (and force to display?) them. I am not too far off in thinking you have misread your Madison.

Still not purgeworthy, though it does disqualify my support.

My only purge is what I hope to be a small group that uses social issues as a campaign tactic to get elected and then to promote more government. I think that Rep. Tom DeLay and Senator Trent Lott are examples of this breed. "Vote for me to stop gay marriage," they say. And then in office they do not champion any limits on government power.

I think those people are counter-productive because they undermine a robust and attractive message of limited government.

Once again, my appreciation of Governor Palin was her veto (first as guv, I b'lieve) of a bill proscribing benefits for same sex partners of Alaska state workers. Her belief in enumerated powers -- she felt it violated the AK Constitution -- superseded what I imagine to be her personal beliefs about a social issue.

I don't think we have a Palin purger in our midst. Now that bass player guy from Arkansaw...

Posted by: jk at July 21, 2009 2:40 PM

Yes, yes and yes, jk. You said it well. I don't advocate purging any "folks" from the party, just the ideas that keep it from succeeding in the modern world. Some of those ideas cause electoral failure and some cause faulty governance. People can learn and grow and I fully believe they'll embrace the ideals of liberty with just a little help to recognize what they are. (Would immigration limits really be necessary without the welfare state?)

I'm still waiting for Keith to chime in on why, if, or how the ol' "moral majority" will play along as we suggest. Brother Keith, where art thou?

["Wild rumpus." Awesome!]

Posted by: johngalt at July 21, 2009 3:18 PM

I must take minor issue with JG on one point. That is, I subscribe to the Rosen philosophy that party trumps person. The ability of a party to control the legislative agenda via committee heads is an enormous advantage. Even when Republicans are on one of their "big" sprees, it's still smaller than any vision of the Dems. I will vote for almost any Republican before almost any Democrat.

Beyond that, it is as the grass roots level where you can influence the selection of the candidate. I can't remember which leftist dictator said, "I don't care who gets to vote as long as I get to pick the candidates," but it applies in a democracy as well.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at July 21, 2009 5:00 PM


Y'all are on the wrong track; no purging is necessary. It's only necessary to stand for what we know is right (even Huckabee has noted this), firmly resolutely, and let the weak-minded follow this newest (and very old) strong horse.

Posted by: nanobrewer at July 24, 2009 12:52 AM | What do you think? [11]