Calvin Freiburger

Meghan McCain and GOP “Purity”

Posted on January 25 2010 4:49 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.
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Daily Beast columnist Meghan McCain (the daughter of the GOP’s wildly successful 2008 presidential nominee) really wants to be taken seriously as a voice of Generation Y Conservatism, but most of her acclaim thus far has come from taking potshots at other conservatives.  This week, she’s complaining that the George Washington University College Republicans soured on sponsoring one of her speeches due to her support for same-sex marriage:

And let’s call a spade a spade here—this is about marriage equality. I would have been less insulted if the George Washington College Republicans had simply come out and said that. By the way, I am still speaking at the university. (After some miscommunication about being disinvited, the young Republicans simply reneged on their sponsorship.) And I am very grateful and honored to be able to talk about where I see the future of the party. Which is exactly what my speech is about—the future and my generation of Republicans. It’s not a speech about marriage equality (although that topic is mentioned) but rather how I came to believe what I believe about the GOP and where I hope the future leads.

I call the talk, “Redefining Republican: No Labels, No Boxes, No Stereotypes,” but apparently some student organizations feel more comfortable being able to group all Republicans into one place.

Ms. McCain goes on to complain about a proposed GOP purity test (it gives her “uneasy” and “sinister” feelings, you see) and, in what I gather is supposed to be something of a “gotcha!” moment, reveals that she would pass the test anyway.

Most of us would recognize the potential problems with a movement obsessing over complete lockstep on every single issue from each of its members, but at the same time, one wonders if Meghan recognizes the actual problems caused by erring in the opposite direction: diluting our principles to the point that “conservative” governance became increasingly indistinguishable from liberal in its effectiveness and popularity.

Political philosophy is a search for universal truth, not relativistic self-fulfillment, and a coherent movement has to be based on firm core principles.  If “conservatism” or “Republican” are to have any meaning, Meghan, then which principles are negotiable and which aren’t?  How do we decide?  Isn’t it legitimate to insist upon, and try to enforce, some basic standards?  As Ronald Reagan said:

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.

(For what it’s worth, there are several powerful cases to be made that marriage is indeed a hill to die on, but Meghan McCain’s simplistic arguments for same-sex marriage give no indication that she is even aware of them, much less has an answer to them.)

Besides, conservative dissatisfaction with moderate Republicans has often been mischaracterized as some quest for dogmatic purity, when it reality it’s usually the simple desire for any semblance of principle from severely-deficient candidates.  Ms. McCain’s father, for instance, took non-conservative stances on not one or two issues, but scores of them.  Rudy Giuliani’s liberalism extended well beyond abortion, as well.  Moreover, it largely took place during the primaries, the whole point of which are to find the ideal choice, not the general election, where the “better than the alternative” question comes into play.  Many of us intensely opposed McCain’s nomination, but we still voted for him over Barack Obama.

Lastly, has it ever occurred to her why she gets the cold shoulder from conservatives, but people like Dick Morris, Tammy Bruce, and Dennis Miller don’t?  They disagree with certain aspects of full-spectrum conservatism, but they focus on the things that unite us, rather than obsessing over their individual disagreements.  They don’t pick pointless fights with high-profile conservatives that seem suspiciously geared to feed an ego.

Sorry, Meghan.  It’s about principles, not stereotypes.


Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also blogs at the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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