The New Clarion

The New Clarion header image 2

More ‘Wrong Headed’ Advice for Republicans

May 4th, 2009 by Mike N · 11 Comments · Politics

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.

11 Comments so far ↓

  • Andrew Dalton

    To people like Michael Barone and David Brooks, politics is a self-referential game in which legislative victory or electoral victory is the sole standard of what is “practical.” They seem unable to fathom that there is an external reality.

  • Curtis Plumb

    Brooks, Barone and most of the writers at the Bureau of Punditry depend on the existence of political pragmatism for a living. Without this “debate” their wisdom wouldn’t be on display.

  • TW

    I agree with your assessment of DeMint (just based on this comment of his, not on any other knowledge I have about him). It *is* far better to stand for something consistent and principled and tell people clearly and honestly what you stand for.

    I can’t help thinking that this, in the long term, is what will earn any party a basic level of respect even of those who do not fully endorse its platform, and is a necessary condition for success.

  • Richard

    DeMint is the usual mixed case with a lot of bad points offsetting the good. He is against all abortion, endorsed Romney, and is anti-immigration, etc.

    I checked him out last year after seeing his anti-bailout speech.

  • madmax

    DeMint is the classic mixture of religious conservatism and a decent respect for free markets. From what I have observed it seems that if any politician is going to be pro-free market they are going to be religious. There are no secular pro-liberty politicians. In fact the more secular the politician the more leftist he/she will be.

    This is the one of the fundamental problems with the culture – a subjectivist / intrinsicist split. There just are no secular free market defenders out there with the exception of Objectivists and a few libertarians. But even with the libertarians you see the same thing – Christian libertarians like Ron Paul or on the other side the secular anarchists who sometimes seem like they are all EvPsych type determinists.

    It looks like if the best Republicans were to capture the country we would end up with a smaller welfare-state but a much, much more Christian culture. I think many Objectivists would probably choose a bigger welfare-state but with a secular culture if they had to choose between the two. Unless Objectivism becomes popular there will be no popular secular pro-liberty movement. Where would it come from?

  • L-C

    The free market advocacy of religious conservaties is just as based on faith as their religious beliefs.

  • Myrhaf

    I believe George Gilder argued that expecting to make a profit is based on faith.

  • brad harper : fighting pennies and smiles : Μολών Λaβέ » Blog Archive » Pragmatism 101

    […] unity within her party is non-existent and makes an attempt to define some basic tenets. Just like others on the right, the prescription is a call for pragmatism. The poles that keep up the tent are the party’s […]

  • Devil's Advocate for Today

    He is against all abortion, endorsed Romney, and is anti-immigration, etc.

    True as far as grammatically correct, but then context is key here:

    Even the pro-choicers claim they are against abortion merely to have little sis fit into her prom dress on demand, I hardly see much wrong with Romney as a conservative, nor is the distinction here known that for Objectivists and libertarians the notion of a border that leaks worse than a spaghetti strainer a good thing.

    Some do benefit from having golf courses and roofs fixed for El Cheapo, but long term we all know where liberal Democrats are grooming their new voting bloc.


  • Devil's Advocate for Today

    Spector is good riddance.

    Why claim him or be haunted any more than spraying the kitchen with Lysol will have us be “haunted” for the nasty smells?

    Like Mark Steyn said, conservatives need to solidify the party, yes, and we can’t run a 1/2 conservatism to combat the New Statism.
    But not at certain prices of trying to make the tent so large as it includes anyone who takes contrarian views to free markets and limited govenment.

    Get on board, or vamoose.

  • Devil's Advocate for Today

    A. Dalton said:

    To people like Michael Barone and David Brooks, politics is a self-referential game in which legislative victory or electoral victory is the sole standard of what is “practical.” They seem unable to fathom that there is an external reality

    I’d have to agree with this.

    At some point you have to have both strategy AND a point of drawing ideological lines in the sand.