Thus far, the field of GOP presidential contenders, actual and potential, isn’t looking too terribly promising.
This, though, isn’t meant to suggest that any of the candidates, all things being equal, lack what it takes to insure that Barack Obama never sees the light of a second term; nor is it the case that I find none of the candidates appealing. Rather, I simply mean that at this juncture, the party faithful is far from unanimously energized over any of them.
It is true that it was the rapidity and aggressiveness with which President Obama proceeded to impose his perilous designs upon the country that proved to be the final spark to ignite the Tea Party movement. But the chain of events that lead to its emergence began long before Obama was elected. That is, it was actually the disenchantment with the Republican Party under our “compassionate conservative” president, George W. Bush, which overcame legions of conservatives that was the initial inspiration that gave rise to the Tea Party.
It is this frustration with the GOP’s betrayal of the values that it affirms that accounts for why the overwhelming majority of those who associate with or otherwise sympathize with the Tea Party movement refuse to explicitly or formally identify with the Republican Party. And it is this frustration that informs the Tea Partiers’ threat to create a third party in the event that the GOP continues business as usual.
If and when those conservatives and libertarians who compose the bulk of the Tea Party, decided that the Republican establishment has yet to learn the lessons of ’06 and ’08, choose to follow through with their promise, they will invariably be met by Republicans with two distinct by interrelated objections.
First, they will be told that they are utopian, “purists” foolishly holding out for an “ideal” candidate. Second, because virtually all members of the Tea Party would have otherwise voted Republican if not for this new third party, they will be castigated for essentially giving elections away to Democrats.
Both of these criticisms are, at best, misplaced; at worst, they are just disingenuous. At any rate, they are easily answerable.
Let’s begin with the argument against “purism.” To this line, two replies are in the coming.
No one, as far as I have ever been able to determine, refuses to vote for anyone who isn’t an ideal candidate. Ideal candidates, by definition, don’t exist. This, after all, is what makes them ideal. This counter-objection alone suffices to expose the argument of the Anti-Purist as so much counterfeit. But there is another consideration that militates decisively against it.
A Tea Partier who refrains from voting for a Republican candidate who shares few if any of his beliefs can no more be accused of holding out for an ideal candidate than can someone who refuses to marry a person with whom he has little to anything in common be accused of holding out for an ideal spouse. In other words, the object of the argument against purism is the most glaring of straw men: “I will not vote for a thoroughly flawed candidate” is one thing; “I will only vote for a perfect candidate” is something else entirely.
As for the second objection against the Tea Partier’s rejection of those Republican candidates who eschew his values and convictions, it can be dispensed with just as effortlessly as the first.
Every election season—and at no time more so than this past season—Republicans pledge to “reform Washington,” “trim down” the federal government, and so forth. Once, however, they get elected and they conduct themselves with none of the confidence and enthusiasm with which they expressed themselves on the campaign trail, those who placed them in office are treated to one lecture after the other on the need for “compromise” and “patience.”
Well, when the Tea Partier’s impatience with establishment Republican candidates intimates a Democratic victory, he can use this same line of reasoning against his Republican critics. My dislike for the Democratic Party is second to none, he can insist. But in order to advance in the long run my conservative or Constitutionalist values, it may be necessary to compromise some in the short term.
For example, as Glenn Beck once correctly noted in an interview with Katie Couric, had John McCain been elected in 2008, it is not at all improbable that, in the final analysis, the country would have been worse off than it is under a President Obama. McCain would have furthered the country’s leftward drift, but because this movement would have been slower, and because McCain is a Republican, it is not likely that the apparent awakening that occurred under Obama would have occurred under McCain.
It may be worth it, the Tea Partier can tell Republicans, for the GOP to lose some elections if it means that conservatives—and the country—will ultimately win.
If he didn’t know it before, the Tea Partier now knows that accepting short-term loss in exchange for long-term gain is the essence of compromise, the essence of politics.
Ironically, he can thank the Republican for impressing this so indelibly upon him.
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.