The Monday Detroit News editorial page has an op-ed by Michael Barone, senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, titled “Arlen Specter’s switch will haunt GOP.”
Mr Barone claims that the cry of ‘good riddance’ in many conservative circles is ‘wrong headed’ because he (Specter) voted for nomination of Supreme court Justices Thomas, Roberts and Alito, was for the Iraq ‘surge’ and opposes the union card check legislation. All this means is that Specter is a mixed bag of contradictory ideas. He voted with the liberal Dems often.
But Mr. Barone’s pet peeve seems to be his disdain for principled ideas. He laments the fact that Sen James DeMint of South Carolina last Monday told Specter:
“Specter decided to defect after Sen. James DeMint of South Carolina told him Monday that he planned to support Toomey. “I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs,” DeMint said.”
I don’t know much about Mr. Demint but if he is earnest I admire his call for consistency. Anyway, Mr. Barone responded with:
“DeMint may get his wish. A party in decline should adapt its basic philosophy to new policies and positions to win over voters, rather than stand on principle and expel heretics. “
This means that a party in decline needs to abandon principles and adopt its policies according to whatever political winds happen to be blowing at any given moment. He doesn’t understand that trying to be many things to many people is precisely why the Republicans are out of power. It can’t be done.
But conservatives like Mr. Barone make the mistake of thinking that that’s bow the Dems acquired their power, by trying to be everything to everyone. It isn’t. The Dems are in power because they have been loyal to their core principles: in politics, collectivism which holds that there are no individual rights, that the individual is the property of what ever collective he belongs to; in ethics, sacrifice, the surrender of individual values for the sake of some collective (social) need. What the conservatives don’t see is that this collectivist/altruist ideology is hidden behind a facade of pragmatism. They pretend not to be ideologues but they are.
What troubles me is that the Republicans will not be able to commit themselves to individual rights until they commit to principled thinking and abandon pragmatism and the Michael Barones of the world.