Moderation is a result, not a starting point.
Recent news accounts of a closed-door Senate meeting/luncheon mention “moderate” Republicans like Scott Brown of MA wondering aloud if there was still room for “moderates” in the Republican party. In a word, Senator, No.
That is if you define a moderate as someone who, to steal Peggy Noonan’s analogy from today’s WSJ Online, starts negotiating from the 18-inch mark on the 36-inch Yardstick.
A digression: Noonan partly describes Tea Party members as those who want conservative, smaller, less-active government in today’s piece. She uses the analogy of a yardstick, with the wildly liberal ideas on the end with the 36-inch mark and the deeply conservative ideas on the end with the 0-inch mark. Digression ended.
Noonan describes the exasperation of many citizens:
Democrats on the Hill or in the White House try to pull it up to 30, Republicans try to pull it back to 25. A deal is struck at 28. Washington Republicans call it victory: “Hey, it coulda been 29!” But regular conservative-minded or Republican voters see yet another loss. They could live with 18. They’d like eight. Instead it’s 28.
So, Senator Brown, the question becomes a challenge for you and the other so-called “moderates:” From what tick mark do you start? If your starting tick mark on the yardstick is a number larger than 18-inches, then you are not what we conservatives are willing to call a Republican.
Obviously, different issues may offer differing starting points (The Fed’s role v. abortion v. universal health care), and I suspect that reasonable people could tolerate a Republican who holds some values that are liberal (This is the “there is no litmus test,” paragraph), so long as the average/mean/median for this member stayed below 18 inches.
I could tolerate John McCain’s heartfelt pro-amnesty views as long as he cuts budgets in half and personally assassinates terrorists with his grimace of doom.
Mike Castle lost because he was not a Republican or a Conservative. He was a member of a country club that pilfered the name “GOP.” No honest observer would rely on him to carry the party water on a close issue, just as they would assume the Girls of Maine would defect to the 34-inch mark when the D’s called.
That’s fine. There are black sheep in every family. The problem is exactly as Noonan described, though:
For conservatives on the ground, it has often felt as if Democrats (and moderate Republicans) were always saying, “We should spend a trillion dollars,” and the Republican Party would respond, “No, too costly. How about $700 billion?” Conservatives on the ground are thinking, “How about nothing? How about we don’t spend more money but finally start cutting.”
What they want is representatives who’ll begin the negotiations at 18 inches and tug the final bill toward five inches. And they believe tea party candidates will do that.
Yes, really, how about that? We understand that we will never get everything we want, but we sure seem to be giving the left half of the yardstick what it is willing to accept. The black sheep need to be pointed out often. That won’t be comfortable for them. Too bad.
Moderation, Senator Brown, is a result. It is not a starting point. When you negotiate, you always ask for more than you want and let the other side wheedle you down to ‘only’ what you want. They feel power and you get to frown and grimace while giggling inside.
Castle made winning the negotiations harder, not easier. So do the Girls of Maine. Sometimes, so do you Senator Brown. Let’s start with deep conservatism and let the process moderate us.
Let’s not start at 18 inches and let ourselves be pulled toward 36. Let’s start at 1.
Noonan’s Column: Why It’s Time for the Tea Party