by Tom Donelson on September 19, 2010 at 10:06 AM
This is the tale of RINOS and the dilemma that Republicans and conservatives face. The primary fight between Christine O’ Donnell and Michael Castle reminds me of my own observation of former Iowa Representative Jim Leach and Representative Jan Meyers, two of my congressional representatives over the years.
In Fort Wayne, my representatives were first Dan Quayle followed by his staff member Dan Coats. Both were solid conservatives, but when I moved to Olathe, Kansas; Jan Meyers was the representative. She was the typical RINO in the Reagan era as she opposed many of the social conservatives’ agenda but on the big issues of war and peace, she proved solid. I got 60 percent of the loaf with Jan Meyers and as I reminded my fellow conservatives in a story I did on Ms. Meyer, conservatives need to challenge her in the primary if they wanted to be rid of her, but in the general election, a vote for her was not a vote for the Democratic left. After she retired, Dennis Moore essentially played the role of blue dog Democrat but often voted left with a record not much different from Barney Franks or Nancy Pelosi. (His wife is now the Democratic choice for the seat and she will vote whichever way Nancy Pelosi tells her.) Jan Meyers sided with Reagan when it came to national security during the waning days of the Cold War when many Democrats opposed the Reagan military build up.
Jim Leach was my representative when I moved to Iowa, and like Meyers, he was considered a moderate Republican. In 2002, Leach was moved into a new district that was dominantly Democratic and as a result, he opposed the Bush’s tax cuts and the Iraq war; using arguments that he rejected in the first Gulf War, which he supported. This was strictly political calculation as Leach attempted to save his skin. He succeeded in maintaining his seat in the 2002 and 2004 elections but in 2006, he was swept in the Democratic tsunami. Leach played the independent minded person who was his own man but we would find out after he lost that he wasn’t really a Republican as he became part of Republicans for Obama in the 2008 elections. (He is now the head of National Endowment of the Humanities and engages in a Civility tour which is more of telling folks that the Tea Party should shut up and let us lefties run the country without protest. Civility in Leach’s mind is complete submission and much of the tour has been well covered in the Powerline blog.)
One moderate, Jan Meyers, at least voted for conservative initiatives on economic issues and before she left office, she was a major supporter of welfare reform. Her staff quoted Charles Murray when I wrote a story on her role in reforming welfare. Leach however abandoned his principle on the big issues to save his own political skin while pretending to be the “independent voice.”
No one is entitled to an office and primaries are where ideas and the search for the best candidate are decided. The key failure in the past year has been the Party hierarchy interference with key races. The support of the national Party for Charlie Crist was example of the Party promoting a candidate who showed to be not only a poor candidate but not even faithful to the Party that aided his campaign. Like Leach before him, Crist's own political philosophy was his own election as oppose to a solid set of ideas and when he was rejected, he simply left the Party. Arlen Specter also followed Crist route to the end of his political career for Specter was always about Specter. (Alaska Lisa Murkowski is now considering a write in campaign after losing to Joe Miller, another moderate not willing to accept her fate.)
Lesson number one; the Republicans are essentially a conservative Party that has been known to sin, but there are places where moderates exist because of their ability to convince their local voters they were the best candidate. Sometimes one has to hold one's nose in the general election since many Democrats are going vote for Leftist policies. But moderates need to understand they are part of a conservative party. Blue dogs Democrats are merely window dressing for Nancy Pelosi to parade in front of the sycophantic media, but the reality is that Blue Dog Democrats merely do the work of Pelosi. Republican moderates must consider in their own political calculation, how important limiting the power of the Federal government since that may be the most important social and economic issue of our time. (Interesting, the Tea Party is about restraining the growth of Federal government. While many Tea Party members may be social conservative, their movement is economic conservatism and free markets so why wouldn’t a moderate concerned about budget restraint lead them to support just a movement?)
Lesson number two, not all RINOS are the same. Some like Snowe and Collins have been at least willing to vote for key economic planks and certainly have never threatened to leave the Party. Others like Leach or Specter left when it suited their political needs or aspiration. The hard thing is to find whether a politician is merely motivated in the end by his own aspiration or loyalty to a set of ideas. Politicians not driven by ideas are driven by their own importance and this was shown by Charlie Crist in Florida or Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania.
Lesson number three is that Republicans voters are sending a message that, “We will not accept every establishment candidate and candidates have to earn the trust of voters.” Many of the primary elections are proof that candidates must connect with the grassroots, in particular on budgetary issues. The key issues for many Republicans is what are you going to do to restrain the size of Government?
Often we hear that we should vote for Republicans moderates to make them feel welcome, but what about moderates staying loyal to the Party? Lisa Murkowski is considering a write-in campaign in Alaska, nor can we truly believe that she would do this to win the election for a experience politician knows that write in campaigns are nothing more than a political suicide mission. The only reason is to ensure that Joe Miller loses. It is a two way street when it comes to accepting the welcome mat. If Castle can convince his voters, “Look when I go to Washington, I will move forward to restrain government,” he will get support from his Party. If he won the primary, he would deserve the support of Party Members since he is the Party nominee. If he is going to support Cap and Trade or refuse to repeal Obamacare, he is supporting a limitation of our freedom and voters will judge him on those ideas. It is not that complicated.
We don’t know if O’Donnell can win or not, that will be answered on November 2nd. The reality is that the Republican Party is evolving into a new Party and conservatism is evolving to meet the problems of the 21st century and a new generation of Republicans are now making their way to the national scene. Read Paul Ryan Road map and you find that there are serious thinkers among conservatives. This election is a rebellion against the ruling class of both Parties. That is the final lesson to understand.