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Through with the “Big Tent.”

I’ll begin by quoting then Governor Ronald Reagan.

A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers … And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these principles, then let them go their way.

In other words, a Tent must have limits.

My position of Beltway conventional wisdom has always been that it is mostly long on convention and woefully short on wisdom. For example; “Americans are sick and tired of the partisanship.” No, they’re not. How can they be tired of something they’re not even aware of? Americans by and large really don’t care that a piece of legislation was passed along partisan lines with Senators coming out of the chamber in bloody bandages after the vote or unanimously with everyone on Capitol Hill hugging and kissing and singing Kumbayah.

Another (related) example? Americans want “moderate”/”centrist” policies and politicians. No. No, they don’t. Because they have no idea what a “moderate” policy or “centrist” politician or policy looks like. In the real world, a centrist is whoever it is the media markets as such – which is usually a Democrat in a tough race or the more liberal Republican in a primary contest.

So here I am questioning the conventional wisdom that Republicans need Chafee/Whitman type “moderates” to win elections in the North East, or any other part of (currently) Blue America. Now, I’m not saying that a guy like Jeff Sessions is a fit for a state like Rhode Island – it’s actually not impossible (make no mistake, no state is impossible); it would just take some major retail politicking and a picture perfect media (and counter-media) campaign – but what I am saying is that one can be recognizably on the Right, and recognizable at first glance as a Republican and still win elections from New York to Connecticut to California.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, one need not be a Democrat in all but name to win in a nominally Blue State. In fact, when one looks at it closely, it seems to be the one thing that guarantees a loss because you cannot out-Democrat a Democrat. For all the talk about how much we need “moderates” to become a true majority governing coalition, what evidence is there that “moderates” are capable of winning elections on their own? That absent the coat tails of conservatives and incumbent inertia they can win?

Not much, to be honest. In fact, the history of liberal Republicanism has been one of failure after failure and loss after loss until a conservative leader comes along to drag them, usually kicking and screaming, over the finish line.

In 1953, Senator Robert Alphonso Taft, “Mr. Republican” lost his battle with cancer. After leading the Republican Party back from the wilderness of the Depression years through such an uncompromising dedication to principle and fearless opposition to the Roosevelt and Truman agenda, he had become the most powerful and feared man on Capitol Hill – and Conservatism’s foremost spokesman in the political sphere. He was a conservative through and through and the bane of the liberal wing of the GOP led by two-time Presidential losers Thomas Dewey and Wendell Wilkie. The leadership vacuum followed by his death allowed the “moderate” establishment to re-establish itself and promptly lose the Majority in 1954.

It would take forty years before Newt Gingrich would ascend to the Leadership and make a break from the “moderates'” principle-free politics of compromise, capitulation and cowardice and promptly ascend to the Speakership, much to their apparent dismay. Comfortable in minority status, used to bowing, scraping and begging for favors from Democrats, convinced that the natural order of things meant the Democrats being in charge, “moderates” like Amo Houghton, Nancy Johnson, Fred Upton, et al. got together and created the “Republican Main Street Partnership” based on the illogical argument that the very agenda that got Republicans elected all over the nation, that got them their first chance to Chair committees in forty years was “too divisive”, “too confrontational”, “too partisan”, “too extreme”, “too far to the Right”, “too controversial”, etc.

Having felt no need to have a “centrist” “bipartisan” organization to ensure “Bipartisan legislative results” when Democrats were seen as the eternal Majority in Washington, all of a sudden, it became a matter of urgency for there to be an organization to ensure a “thoughtful centrist approach to Republican politics” – the conceit being that the Contract with America was based on something other than thought, or that Republicans not willing to happily live under the rule of their Democratic superiors were not “thoughtful.” A more likely reason is that they shared the sentiments of the late Hamilton Fish (R?-NY);

“[I am] better suited to the less confrontational, more pragmatic political style of a minority leader. I’m not a confrontational person, so I don’t know if I would have been a more successful person as a member of the majority. I doubt it.”

Hamilton Fish was a typical “moderate” – willing to vote for anything with “Bipartisan” appended to its front, cost, feasibility and even common sense be damned if it would gain him a few positive column inches in liberal editorials. Similarly, “moderates” Mike Castle and Chris Shays were kind enough to candidly reveal after 2006 that being in the minority better suited them because it would make them “more powerful” and “influential” in the House – I wonder how “powerful” and “influential” Shays is feeling right now.

On the Presidential front, “moderate” Gerry Ford lost. Then Reagan, no “moderate” he, came along and won over forty states. Twice. But that did not mean that the same “moderate” penchant for sabotaging their own leadership to earn the favor of a hostile Press at the expense of their party did not plague the Reagan Administration. “Moderate” Senators like Bob Packwood and Charles Mathias did everything they could to frustrate the Reagan White House’s agenda by repeating Democratic talking points and giving the Democratic opposition precious “Bipartisan” cover.

And then George H. W. Bush came along and won the election of 1988 by promising that his Administration would be a third Reagan term. Then he went “moderate” (compromised until he crossed the line into capitulation as “moderates” are wont to do) on taxes and promptly lost his re-election bid. Bob Dole ran as a kinder gentler, more apologetic sort of Republican, as “moderates”, after leading the cave-in to the Clinton Administration during the budget stand-off with Gingrich, advised. And of course, he lost comfortably.

2000; George W. Bush invented Compassionate Conservatism and his infamous New Tone™ philosophy for dealing with the other side largely in response to pundit, and thus “moderate” Republican concerns that confident, assertive Republicanism that defends itself and refuses to compromise is a turn-off to voters. Now, it may be that it is unfair to lay blame on “moderates” for New Tone™, given that George W. Bush is not seen as being on their side of the tent, but one cannot look at the assumptions underpining New Tone and how it operates (i.e. assuming the best of motives of the opposition while regularly assuming the worst of your own side) without seeing a living color copy of the approach to politics for Republicans that “moderates” have been recommending for decades.

The electorate, we were/are told, wanted Bipartisanship™, where Republicans, but never Democrats, “have to reach across the aisle™” to get the other side’s approval before they introduce and pass legislation. Where Republicans would not confirm a Republican President’s qualified cabinet nominees and judges that too greatly offend the delicate sensibilities of their Democratic colleagues and their friends in the Press. Where Republicans would not respond to attacks by Democrats because if they do then they would not be “above the fray™” and Democrats would not want to be {sob!} Bipartisan™ with us and there would be {gasp!} bickering™ in Washington DC.

And yet, despite all that, despite George W. Bush inviting Ted Kennedy to write and strip out the most Conservative elements of his education bill, one of the “moderates'” leading lights, fresh from a victory won with Republican money, still decamped to the other side, leading to our eventual 2008 Presidential nominee to launch a blistering attack on the GOP for being so “extreme” and disgusting that we drove a faithful and loyal Republican like Jim Jeffords away.

Which brings us to our 2008 Presidential nominee, Senator John “The Bipartisan” McCain, winner of the RMSP’s Chafee Award, which is given to the Republican elected official whose words and deeds have left the most stab wounds in the back of the Republican Party leadership. After being rejected by the GOP base for the nomination in 2000, thanks in part to an ill-advised bat-swing at an important part of the Republican base to win the approval of liberal reporters, McCain established his newly acquired “moderate” bona fides by not only forcing through the passage of a thoroughly stupid bill that would end up, eight years later, biting him and the rest of his party in rear end – though President Bush was even more stupid for not vetoing it – but also, for the first time in his political life, voting against tax cuts because they were (parroting the other side as all good GOP “moderates” do) “for the rich”.

If anything, 2006 and 2008 should settle, once and for all, the question of whether or not moderate/liberal/Rockefeller Republicanism is a winning philosophy. No subset of Republican officeholders suffered more losses than the so-called “moderates”, to the extent that there is not a single Republican representatives from New England. This includes the “powerful” Chris Shays of Connecticut. If there is anyone who still believes the argument that only “moderates” can win in the Northeast and that it is the “extremism” of the GOP that keeps them from dominating the region, 2008 settled that argument. Note that most of the so-called “moderates” that got defeated only got into office in the 1980s, and in 1994, riding the coat-tails of strong conservatives on the national stage.

Even more instructive though, was the Presidential race. 2008 proved that not even “moderates” are inspired by “moderates” as Chafee award winner John McCain, despite a catalogue of Bipartisan™ achievements and firing missiles at a President of his own Party (all stuff “moderates” are supposed to swoon for), found himself broke and unable to fill a hotel conference room. So strapped for cash was he that he had to commandeer funds raised by the Republican National Committee – the very same entity whose ability to raise cash he and his cabal deliberately hamstrung in return for fawning TV interviews with liberal journalists – in the final stretch.

To make things even worse, the most “moderate” of “moderate” Republicans, their pride and joy, the most “centrist” of them all, the great Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, whom John McCain had campaigned for in his 2006 primary fight against one of those “extremist” Conservatives that so “turns off” voters, not only endorsed Barack Obama, he joined together with other similarly loyal, staunch “moderate” Republicans to be a founding high-profile member of Republicans for Obama, which should only serve to demonstrate just how dedicated to “moderation” he is – what can be more “moderate” than endorsing the opposition?

Obviously, a lot of “moderates” agreed and followed suit, publicly endorsing Barack Obama in the weeks leading up to the Election. McCain can hardly complain. After all, he famously said;

“I think the Democratic Party is a fine party, and I have no problems with it, in their views and their philosophy …”

Of course, if the Democratic Party is such a great party, and the GOP so fundamentally wrong, or “astray”, on most issues, it is only natural for “moderates” to follow their consciences and endorse candidates from the other side.

Speaking of which, a few days ago, a Republican TN State Legislator broke with his party on a vote for the Leadership, and collaborated with the Democrats to get himself elected Speaker and in return designated a Democrat as the Speaker Pro Tem. To be honest, I didn’t get the outrage at the betrayal on a procedural vote when we’re supposed to be tolerant of multiple betrayals, in the name of the Big Tent and making “moderates” who are uncomfortable with the negative press attention that comes with voting like Republicans happy, when it comes to policy. I mean, why else are they elected by their constituents? Is it not to enact and implement policy? So how reasonable is it to expect them to vote for a leadership that is more likely to see policies they don’t support come up for a vote instead of the people whose views and philosophy they apparently find more to their liking?

Look; whether it is inadvertent or not, a significant number of people in our Big Tent are for all intents and purposes on the other side. They have nothing but bad things to say about the Republican Party and its supporters and are often on the other side with the other side’s talking points when they’re needed the most. Over and over again, for the sake of the Big Tent remaining a “Big” Tent, we are told we must be tolerant of their apostasies and lack of loyalty because without them, we cannot “win.” Yet, I ask, with them onboard, and what we have to accept to keep them onboard, from social to fiscal issues, what would we have “won” if we can’t implement our agenda? With 55 Senators and a 30 seat Majority in the House, and a Republican President in the White House, we couldn’t even confirm judges or make the 2003 tax cuts permanent, thanks to John McCain and his useless “Bipartisan” sycophants.

Right now, after years and years of joining Democrats in denouncing their own party in print and on national television, contrasting themselves as being reasonable i.e. “moderate” as compared to the “extremists” that form the bulk of the GOP base and undermining the GOP for the approval of the opposition on the floors of Congress, even they cannot win now in their own districts thanks to how much they’ve willingly contributed to the other side making our brand toxic in voters’ minds.

It’s not exactly a big secret that “moderate” Republicans hardly ever hand over to another Republican when their terms in office are done.

Whatever the case, I personally am through with the philosophy of the Big Tent at all costs. People who are clearly uncomfortable within the GOP, who evince no pride in belonging to the Party of Lincoln and Reagan, who endorse Democrats, who are ever ready to believe the worst of the GOP base’s motives and echo Democratic talking points in attacking the party, who vote the other way again and again on policy just to get on TV with liberal journalists have no place within the Tent. As Reagan pointed out in much more dire times, some people are just not worth having. We’re supposed to believe in something – if you find yourself on the other side on most of it, you should be shown your way out.

It’s really as simple as that; numbers are not everything. No army, and certainly no party, can survive by tolerating a Fifth Column in its ranks.

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