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Calvin Freiburger

Mark McKinnon: Conservatives Too Conservative, Need to Compromise Their Principles for the Sake of Compromise

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Posted on October 15 2010 2:00 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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I often find myself wishing more people simply argued for a position strictly because they thought it was correct, and that how to frame discussions and how popular certain stances are among the electorate took more of a back seat. But recognizing politics as being not just about principles, but how to get people to adopt them, I’ve long since come to grudgingly accept the need for a certain degree of discussion about when compromise for political expediency is warranted.

Today’s increasing worship of compromise for its own sake, however, is too much. At the Daily Beast, political consultant Mark McKinnon is mad that the Republican Party is allegedly growing too insistent on ideological purity, and that political centrists don’t get the respect they deserve, despite being the heart of America:

More Americans are rejecting the establishment’s labels. Fewer voters identify themselves as Democrats, the lowest in nearly eight years. And the number of Republicans among adults is slipping, too. But the real story is in the middle: A third of all adults are not affiliated with either party. And the middle is growing.

They may drink tea—or coffee, or something else entirely—but one thing is clear: Those in the middle aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid. They don’t agree on every policy, but they are willing to debate on principles. And consider principled compromise. They recognize hard decisions are ahead. And neither party is stepping up to make the tough decisions.

Looking to both sides for the best ideas, Middle America is demanding fiscal responsibility from a smaller, smarter government—one that does not stand in the way of people creating their own opportunities, one that ensures accountability while preserving personal freedoms, and one that is ruled by a stronger voter’s voice.

I agree that the American people are probably more pragmatic than they are ideological, but that’s a far cry from saying you need a hodgepodge of ideas from everywhere to win their support—for the past couple years, Americans have been identifying themselves as conservatives over moderates and liberals, with the latest breakdown being 42%-35%-20%, and the last full-spectrum conservative to win a party nomination somehow managed to make a respectable showing for himself at the polls.

And while the last Republican president, a moderate, won twice, the results were much narrower, including one of the few times in American history where the electoral winner narrowly lost the popular vote.  Contrary to McKinnon’s talk of dogmatic ideological gatekeepers, the Right put up with lots of left-wing policies from George W. Bush, which arguably led to the anti-GOP sentiment that helped smooth Barack Obama’s path to the White House—a path that was smoothed further still when the GOP chose, and the Right largely got behind, John McCain, who made Bush look like William F. Buckley. Shockingly, voters didn’t go for Maverick McCompromise. (And it’s worth repeating that, despite McCain being exactly the sort of candidate McKinnon claims to want, McKinnon still went with the radical leftist.)

Democrats embrace their centrists like Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina; they don’t call him a DINO.

Really? Tell that to Bob Casey and Joe Lieberman.

The Republican Party needs all the RINOs and squishes like me it can attract if it wants to regain and hold majority status. Or else RINOs will find somewhere else to go.

Sure, all political parties need votes from people who don’t agree on everything. But what none of these centrism-obsessed talking heads ever seem to admit is that compromise is a two-way street, that maybe they should be a little more tolerant of dissent from their own views. As Leon Wolf pointed out in his masterful review of another moderate blowhard’s complaints, conservatives aren’t the ones having trouble playing well with others:

By far the biggest problem the Republican coalition has right now is moderates who refuse to accept defeat at the hands of conservatives. Think Dede Scozzafava endorsing the Democrat in NY-23. Think Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter bailing the party and running against the Republican when it became clear that they would lose their primaries. Think Lincoln Chafee currently running as an independent for Governor of Rhode Island despite the NRSC spending millions to help him defeat a conservative in the primary. I defy Meghan McCain to identify a conservative candidate who acted or behaved in this way towards the party after a primary loss.

I know many decent moderates who I get along with well who understand this principle. But in my admittedly anecdotal experience, moderates are far more likely to fail to understand that they need conservatives than conservatives are to fail to realize that they need moderates.

Indeed. Where are the social conservatives asking the rest of the Right to accept big-government candidates in the name of stopping abortion or gay marriage? Where are the immigration hardliners demanding we sacrifice the War on Terror to elect people who’ll close the border?

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