I thought I would give this “open internet letter” thing a try. I didn’t want to send you an actual letter because then you might flood my physical mailbox with an endless stream of fundraising requests (I kid, I kid).
I know Erick here has been rather vocal about his feelings of late. He is passionate about this whole getting conservatives elected thing isn’t he? He may seem over-the-top at times from your perspective, but his heart is in the right place. And he is effective more than not.
In something of a contrast, I am not the type to use extreme tactics to raise an issue. I don’t “push the envelope” – do people still use that phrase? – or use strong language. In fact, lately I am in danger of being labeled the “squish” here at Red State. I like to think of it as strategic thinking, but some find my tolerance of center-right politicians (and pundits) disturbing and evidence of a lack of commitment.
Still, I want to see the most conservative electable candidate in each and every race. Obviously, the devil is in the details on these things. In general I don’t like to see conservatives and/or libertarians attacking candidates – or running third party campaigns against them – who have the best chance of taking a seat when there is no better option on the table. For me center-right beats left every time. IMO, many here in Ohio have not learned this lesson.
All of this leads to the recent contretemps over various “moderate” candidates and the support of the NRSC (and finally, the point of this letter). I have two points to leave you with:
- If a candidate can plausibly be seen to switch parties or endorse Democrats large bright red warning lights should go off. Approach With Caution!!! Spending money on this type of candidate can lead to some serious regret down the line. Now I know a lot of this is easy to say looking back (hindsight is 20/20, etc.), but let’s be sure to learn a lesson moving forward, OK?
- If your choices about who to support and when to get involved in primaries bothers me then you are in trouble. If solid, non-hysterical, long time GOP voters are disgruntled, again with the warning lights.
The first point seems to stand on its own, so lets talk about #2.
Listen, I understand the whole protect incumbents thing. Really, I do. But if you want to retain some support and start building excitement for the party you simply can’t ignore the ill will that comes from getting involved in primary fights and being seen as stepping on the prospects of promising conservative candidates.
Strategic thinking is important. Fielding the most electable candidate is important. But building goodwill and support within the various coalitions that make up the party is important too.
So let’s say you have a conservative candidate in a conservative state that grassroots conservatives are excited about. This hypothetical candidate is a effective speaker and is even in a demographic that conservatives need to appeal to and win their votes. And let’s say his hypothetical opponent has some potential baggage and has taken positions on taxes and the stimulus that put him at odds with the majority of Republicans.
It turns out this isn’t all that tricky. This isn’t holding your nose and supporting a liberal because you need to win a seat in a liberal district. This isn’t supporting a prickly candidate because there are no other options. This is about re-gaining the trust of the base and moving the party forward on some basic issues. Stay out of it. Let conservatives focus on helping someone they like win. If deals have to be made and career paths planed then get everybody in a room and work it out.
When you are the opposition party it isn’t that difficult to not support those candidates who support the policies of the current administration and thus poke a giant stick in the eye of the very people whose votes and passion you need to succeed.
Think of someone like me as the canary in the coal mine – do people say this anymore? – on this issue. So if you lose Mr. Center-Right, Mr. think-strategic-build-a-coalition, then you are on shaky ground. It is important to note that this current backlash is not limited to cranky bloggers who live in their parents basement and enjoy yelling at those in authority and using cringe inducing vulgarity to prove they are speaking “truth to power” or something.
This is about moving the party forward. This is about convincing people that you think of your job as more than just getting your friends elected; about more than business as usual.
I want to build a broad based Republican coalition in order to retake the majority and both prevent disastrous policies from being carried out but also to enact conservative solutions to our most pressing problems. I hope you do to. But you got to earn trust at some point.
So let me leave you with one more cliche – or is it a metaphor? – as we approach the 2010 elections don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.