Friday, May 12, 2006

Paul Mirengoff of Powerlineblog has this to say about conservative GOP defectors:
First, conservatives need to understand that the failure of Republicans to govern as strong conservatives is not the result of moral defects (although some can be found). The core problem is that conservatives do not make up a majority of the electorate. Republicans need the base, but they also need swing voters -- they can't win without both. A defeat at the polls won't change this. Instead, it will give liberals a chance to govern. They likely will do this in a center-left fashion or worse, and conservatives will be the main losers.
While it is definitely true that most of the American public would not describe itself as strong conservative, it can't be shown that the bulk of the electorate will vote against a conservative government. That hasn't been true since the Gingrich Revolution in 1994. The GOP did not have an electoral mandate to eliminate baseline-budgeting from social spending, but they not only pushed it, they won it, and were not booted for it by the non-conservative majority.

There is a further contemporary example to refute this theory of the anti-conservative electorate: Pennsylvania. The GOP spent dozens of millions of dollars two years ago to re-elect Senator Arlen Specter, smothering the more conservative challenger Pat Toomey on the grounds that the PA electorate just wasn't conservative, and Sen. Specter's blend of gray was just right.

Now the GOP is spending dozens of millions to re-elect Sen. Rick Santorum, a much more solid conservative, in the same state.

If that's at all possible, then why wasn't Pat Toomey viable?

Let me borrow military terminology for a discussion of political battles.

Almost two years ago I argued conservatives are politically motivated by the strategic goal of altering federal policy.

We're now being told flat-out, that altering federal policy in a conservative direction is tactically possible--the legislative votes could be won, but operationally undesirable--future elections might become more difficult. Because of the strategic fixation of conservatives, that approach is doomed to alienate conservatives.

The re-election of both Senators Specter and Santorum would be a tactical coup; but a strategic failure. Sadly, the political leadership of the party believes that strategic failure isn't a liability.

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