One of the reasons I like the idea of our Great Books Program is because I think a lot of activists need to read for themselves the great ideas that shape the conservative mind. We need, each one of us, to know what we believe and why we believe it and when it is acceptable to compromise principles for pragmatism.Each of us has a line we will not cross and principles we will not compromise. All of us also have principles and issues we will compromise and lines we will cross to serve a greater interest.In saying all of this, we need also be mindful of the Judas Goat. The Judas Goat is a trained animal that is trained to lead other animals to pens or slaughter while sparing itself.I do not go forth lightly to discipline, condemn, cajole, or badger people on our side who have decided to compromise an issue for some higher goal. My propensity is more to do so to elected officials who frequently want to compromise to show they transcend politics than to go after un-elected or previously elected leaders.At the same time, many of the un-elected or previously elected leaders are more dangerous and more likely to be Judas Goats than the elected. We expect the elected leaders to compromise. Part of leading means being able to get 51% of the vote to pass an agenda.Outside of office, conservatives and liberals tend to rally around “leaders” who articulate the principles of an ideology and act in ways to reflect that ideology. Even there, for various professional or personal reasons, they sometimes deviate from principle.In both cases, among the elected and un-elected, there will always be people who think we should keep silent and fight the other side. On occasion, though, we must assess when our allies are really fighting for the other side.The race for New York 23, like the Florida Senate race, is one of those times.One of the undercurrents of the tea party movement is that the GOP is just as bad as the Democrats. After all, it was the GOP that gave us steel tariffs, the prescription drug benefit, No Child Left Behind, TARP, and even parts of the auto bailout.The GOP also gave us Jack Abramoff and a host of scandals. By 2006, the GOP had, in its leadership, become devoid of governing principles, intending instead to win at all costs.Along the way, many good conservatives sold out their principles because the party leadership hired enough Judas Goats to lead conservatives to the slaughter. “Hey look,” the conservative politician would say, “this conservative leader supports the legislation. It must be conservative.” See e.g. TARP. They would then vote for the legislation and end their career or our freedom.We find ourselves now needing to recover from that slaughter of principles. The way forward necessarily involves finding and electing conservatives where they can be elected. In so doing, we must be mindful that there are some areas where a pro-life, fiscal conservative cannot be elected and, in the name of needing 51% for a governing coalition, we have to compromise with the best fit.In Florida, we have a situation where the conservative can win. That is why we must fight the GOP establishment. Having turned its back on principle, we fight to turn it back around.As Bill Kristol notes today
the Wall Street Journal has a story on the race with the headline Tea-Party Activists Complicate Republican Comeback Strategy. The truth is the opposite: The GOP establishment complicates the Republican and conservative comeback strategy.
We are, let us admit, not the loudest voice in the room. Others including the NRCC and the RNC have louder voices.When they lay hands on Scozzafava and say, “ignore them. She really is one of us,” should we not respond?When these leaders say Scozzafava is the start of a new “Republican revolution”, should we ask what the hell it will look like and if it looks like Scozzafava’s voting record, why the hell should we want to participate in bringing it about?Throughout the conservative movement there are conservatives willing to break rank for personal aggrandizement. We must, at some point, hold them to account.In New York 23, the conservative movement has made it a Hill to Die On. Here, in New York of all places, the conservative movement will tell the GOP that it will either win with conservatives or lose without them. Conservatives across the spectrum of conservatism from Fred Thompson to Mike Huckabee and on and on have told the GOP it is time to turn back to limited government and will fight the GOP in NY-23 for supporting a woman who embraces large government and destructive social policies.But then other conservatives break away from the movement, step forward, and whisper, “She’s okay.” If we do not hold these people accountable in moments like this, why ever hold anyone accountable? And how ever can we win?I am not, as some suggest, taking an “all or nothing” approach. I am taking a very specific approach. There are times, fights, and places where you either stand wholly with the conservative movement or wholly apart from it. New York 23 is one of those places.There can be no compromise on this race when confronted with a leftist running as a Republican versus a Republican running as a conservative because the establishment rejected him despite the fact that he can win.Friends, it is not every race. It is not every issue. It is not all the time. It is rarely, if ever, all or nothing. There is always room for disagreement. But when confronted by the facts, issues, and positions of the candidates in NY-23, as in the Florida Senate race, we either hang together or we might as well hang separately.It does us no good to advance a candidate who will not even at a minimum guarantee us 51% on votes other than leadership. And even now, with Newt Gingrich’s endorsement in hand, is wavering on whether or not she’ll even remain a Republican should she win.