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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Real Republicans" and Party Loyalty--and Dewey Bartlett, Jr.

In following a chain of links that started with Batesline the other day I eventually wound up at a blog I haven't frequented in some time. I stopped going there because the blogger's penchant for stridently criticizing other Republicans for their stridency, for ridiculing other Republicans for mocking their opposition, for, a remarkable amount of the time, giving the impression that he thought he was the only rational Republican left in the local blogosphere, the only man smart enough to see through Rush Limbaugh, had gotten a little too much to put up with. In one particularly spectacular episode, whilst criticizing Rush Limbaugh for stridency, he called him an ***hole, and when the inconsistency was pointed out, he offered up the sorry excuse that, well, doggone it, he felt passionately about the subject.

Like Limbaugh isn't allowed passion?

He's still up to it. One recent post was vicious mockery of "Real Republicans" for, in part, the crime of referring to other Republicans as RINOS (Republicans in Name Only). Mocking people for mockery, sarcastically criticizing sarcasm, shouting (blogospherically speaking) at people for stridency--after a while, that sort of thing makes it hard to take a person seriously. Please understand: I'm not criticizing the man's stridency, mockery, etc. I'm criticizing his habit of doing the very same things for which he criticizes others, and excusing himself on grounds he denies to others.

The "Real Republicans" post and one other that I saw appeared to be directed at certain local Republicans, possibly Michael Bates in particular, at least implying, if not saying outright, that they think of themselves as some sort of Republican elite too pure to soil themselves by backing Dewey Bartlett, the local Republican nominee for mayor. The implied charge seems to be that their quest for ideological purity has led them into party disloyalty, which in turn will lead to having not even the half-a-loaf they could have had, that is, to having a Democrat mayor instead of the Republican. The "Real Republicans," it seemed to me, were being viciously mocked for a lack of party loyalty that might cost Republicans the mayor's seat. "Party Matters," seemed to be the mantra.

And you know, it does. All political parties, including Republicans, are coalitions, after all, cobbled together to pool members' resources in an attempt to elect candidates marginally less repulsive than other parties'--other coalitions'--candidates. The coalition cannot be effective if its members refuse to support what is inevitably a compromise candidate. I can see that point. Party, and party loyalty, matter. One should certainly recognize that half-a-loaf is better than none. That's why I voted for McCain, a manifestly terrible candidate, instead of abstaining or voting for Obama, a truly nightmarish candidate. But what if you are truly convinced that your party's candidate isn't even half-a-loaf? If you're convinced that he hasn't even come out of the same bakery that you did?

It seems to me that this loyalty has to work both ways--at least within the limits of conscience, that is, no one expects a candidate to obey the party rather than God, for example--which is to say that party members should be able to reasonably expect that their candidates, once in office, will at least not pursue an agenda more in keeping with other parties' agendas than their own.

It's sad to say, but there really are people who will run as Republicans not because they have genuinely heartfelt convictions that put them more or less at the conservative end of the political spectrum, but because they believe that Republican affiliation offers them the best chance of being elected. That's not party loyalty on their end, it's naked opportunism, and I see nothing wrong with labeling such people RINOs or with withholding support they have no real right to expect.

Willingness to compromise is essential in politics, but when it gets to the point where your candidates, once in office, are hard to distinguish from other parties' candidates, it has gone too far. There comes a point when you must say, "No further," where you must draw a line.

For many conservatives, establishment Republicans have been very close to crossing that line for some time. We say, "Smaller government!" while our party grows government at a record pace. We say, "Welfare doesn't work!" while our party adds a major entitlement. We say, "America first!"--those of us who aren't Neocons, anyway--and our party refuses to pursue tax policies that will bring jobs home, and refuses to control our borders. And so on. It makes it difficult, very difficult, for a conservative to argue in the public sphere, as the errors of the Republican Party are constantly hung 'round conservative necks. Yes, conservatives generally voted for Bush (this is the constant and inevitable criticism from people determined to conflate conservatism and the Republican Party) and other Republicans, but that doesn't mean that they supported everything Bush and the Republicans did. It means only that given a choice between "bad"--Bush's "compassionate conservatism"--and "worse"--Kerry's, then Obama's, greased slide into European-style welfare statism--they went with "bad."

And we're not supposed to be critical of the people who are doing this to us? We're supposed to support candidates whose records strongly suggest that we will be knifed in the back once they're in office? Whose associations and past words strongly suggest that they have higher political loyalties than the Republican Party, people whom we have every reason to believe will tar us as "extremists," as "partisans," as "naysayers"? We're supposed to write checks and pleasing words for them?

It's a little bit much for me to take. When we have good reason to believe that we are going to see the same mayoral approach, more or less, from Bartlett as we saw from Kathy Taylor, or as we are going to see from Tom Adelson, why support him with our dollars, our time, and our writing? It looks to me like we can have someone loyal to the Midtown Elites with either Bartlett or Adelson, so why bother to spend a nickel on either one?

For another take on what I believe is the same post, look at Steve Roemerman's post.


  1. Well said. Thanks for taking the time to write thoughtfully on this issue. And for the record, I didn't sic you or anyone else on said blogger.

    In Bartlett Jr's case, it's not even a matter of his ideology or his stand on a particular issue. He endorsed the incumbent of the other party for re-election before he even knew who his party would nominate. Bartlett Jr was the poster child for Republicans for Kathy Taylor. The early support for Taylor by Bartlett Jr and other Republicans was a discouragement to any credible candidate that might have considered challenging Taylor. If party didn't matter to Bartlett Jr in the mayor's race, why should it matter to any other Republican voter when he's the nominee?