Sep 15 2010
This election continues to be one for the record books. I don’t think we have seen this many incumbent or establishment candidates toppled in a century. The continued, come-from-nowhere wins by Tea Party and Palin backed candidates is a clear indication that this election has a powerful and unified force behind. There is a decidedly and refreshing (in the truest sense of the word) ‘throw the bums out‘ mood in the electorate, as Mike Castle and others learned yesterday. All of a sudden there is real hope that major change is possible. This time we will fix DC, not allow DC to try once more to fix America.
I did not support Christine O’Donnell, and I think she may have some serious issues as a candidate. But I am willing to reset by expectations to neutral and see how things play out. If she straightens up and can build a coalition (which means reaching out to those she may not be happy with right now) then I will have learned something. If she turns out to be a failure in November, then the Tea Party and Governor Palin will have to have learned something. Either way, the pieces have been set and the game begins.
Right now we have a sea of outsiders marching on Washington, and that is incredibly exciting. The Political Industrial Complex has been shaken to its core, on the left and right – exactly what is required to make dramatic changes in government come January 2011 (unless the Dems hold on to retain enough control to stalemate real change for another 2 years).
It is imperative to this nation and future generations that this moment in time is seized with unity and respect. Going forward, the GOP needs that broad coalition that runs from left of center to as far right as reasonably possible. It has to be because the big-government proponents, entrenched in the Democrat Party, are now aligned against the limited-government wave solidifying across the land. The forces lining up on each side are powerful and crafty, and brutal.
Yesterday in a comment I was asked how I defined far right versus conservative, and I actually think my answer is important to the challenge ahead. The person asking was surprised I did not define the two camps on policy boundaries. I defined the two camps on attitude and approach. But to me and many others it is not the lofty goal that separates us, it is how we approach it. For me, policy boundaries define the left and right. As I said in my response, liberals want as much government as possible and conservatives wants as little as possible. Those are the battle lines of this election (and have been the lines for most elections in the past couple of decades).
What differentiates groups within the left and right is the next step towards the goal we are willing to take. Some want to abolish the education department, others want to make it more of a pool of resources that can support (not dictate to) the states. Others may be more comfortable with more modest changes and much less budget. This year the coalition ready to dismantle and shrink government is going to have to work out a phasing plan that moves us to the limited government we need, as fast as acceptable while ensuring no innocent players are untowardly damaged or punished in the process. There will be a lot of civil servant jobs lost if government shrinks – it can be done with compassion and patience. But we do not yet agree on that plan or its milestones or its keys to success.
This is basically how I distinguish between the far right and conservatives. In my mind the ‘far right’ has no patience for the realities of these challenges, they have no tolerance for varying opinions and ideas on the next step towards the common goal. They cannot debate without denigrating others and trotting out their superior morality, etc. They use derogatory labels for their supposed allies. The far right cannot tolerate dissent even on the most marginal or miniscule aspect of their vision of the next step. They demand purity and want to stamp out diversity. No one in the right mind needs to associate themselves with my definition, but many do. As Jeff Foxworthy might say, if you are out hunting RINOs then you might be a far right zealot.
My definition of a conservative is one who knows they are succeeding if they can find common ground 50-80% of the time, and can respectfully disagree on the other areas without the name calling. They work to build coalitions by subject, not by some measuring tape of purity across all subjects. They embrace diverse opinions and ideas, they enjoy the process of coming together and discovering the common ground demanded by any democratic process to create the next step towards the common goal. They demand diversity and reject purity.
Which grouping individuals want to be in is up to them. I rarely label individuals with these labels, typically I just note what behavior can indicate you may be in one or the other (as I did with the Immigration discussion, where demands of mass deportation easily put you in the ‘far right’ category).
To make the large and tough systemic changes this nation needs in order to avoid liberal disaster is going to take an army of diverse conservatives working together. The changes are so broad and sweeping we cannot do it without broad consent. The GOP cannot simply repeat Obamacare, relying on a small cadre of pure zealots to force change down the throats of Americans. That will fail and result in a pendulum wave election in two years. Which would keep The One in office for nearly a decade.
It seems so obvious and simple, but it is not. Tempers and frustrations will flair – as they have over the DE primary. The hard work is unwinding that anger and forcing oneself to admit their own role in the flair up. It requires forgiving the other side, and providing a face saving way to walk back all the insults and hurt feelings. It will happen time and time again – because this challenge in front of us is enormous and there is no consensus on the order, pace and extent of changes needed.
We all know we want as little government as possible. Now we must agree on what that means each year for the next decade and get to work making it happen. Deciding what it means, adjusting the plan as we go, facing failure along the way is going to test all of us. We will flair up in heated debate (hopefully with limited finger pointing) at each obstacle. Only conservatives will pass the test and can succeed – the zealots are doomed to failure.