The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ideological Purity

Regular readers of this blog already understand that I am no fan of Donald Trump. The Donald makes broad, often boastful pronouncements with little solid policy to back up his statements. His claims (e.g., deporting all illegal aliens) are unworkable, would never withstand a court challenge, and would mire the government in political infighting that would make the debacle that was the Obama era seem mild by comparison. He is a supreme egotist and often appears to be one question deep.

Having said all of that, I disagree with the conservative National Review in its attempt to 'excommunicate' the Donald. Rich Lowry, an editor at the NR states their case succinctly:
"And the point we’re making is that for conservatives, Donald Trump — whatever his virtues are -- doesn’t truly understand the ideas and principles that make this country great. It’s up to those conservatives to stand up and say, ‘No, sorry. We oppose this guy ...’

If you truly are conservative, you believe in ideas and in principles. It’s not just attitudes. It’s not just who you dislike.

It’s limited government. It’s the Constitution. It’s liberty.
The NR wants ideological purity. All well and good. But what Lowry and the other writers at the NR fail to understand is that leftist ideological purity got us Barack Obama and his Team of 2s.

The broad electorate—the voters that any candidate must embrace—is hardly ideologically pure. We are a right of center country that wants conservatism in many government programs, in most fiscal policy, in almost all foreign policy, and at our borders. But the broad electorate also embraces many progressive social issues as a domestic imperative. An ideological purist, such as Barack Obama, can only get elected if he lies and tells the electorate what it wants to hear. He then has a decision to make—embrace the lie as policy and govern from the center, or compound the lie and govern ideologically. Barack Obama chose the latter, and we've suffered through eight years of gridlock, failure, incompetence, foreign capitulation, and ineffective policy, even as the government, the debt, and spending have grown significantly.

Based on the current crop of candidates, the ideologically pure conservatives (e.g., Cruz, Santorum, Huckabee, Jindal) do not lie about their positions on the issues. But because of that, the right-wing social positions all embrace will put off many voters in the center, many minorities, and the few democrats who might otherwise abandon a party that offers a corrupt woman with few real principles and an aging socialist whose ideas are extreme.

But there's an even more compelling reason to avoid ideological purity.The Democratic party countenanced the bad decisions (both domestic and foreign) made by the Obama administration, making no effort to reign in an imperial president who was wrong far more frequently than he was right. The Dems will work hard to draw attention away from their party's abject failure to improve the economy and jobs and protect the national interest in the international realm. They will focus solely on social issues if the candidate is an ideologically pure conservative. For that reason, a Trump candidacy would neuter the Dem strategy of misdirection, because Trump himself is agnostic on social issues.

Conservative commentator Laura Ingram notes:
Of course there is ample room to criticize Trump’s approach and his lapse into sloganeering where substance is needed — as I have done on many occasions. But if NR rejects the Trump voters, it will be reversing the decision by Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley, and others to welcome blue-collar voters, Democrats, and independents into the conservative fold. Whatever that means for the country, it will do major damage to conservatism. If the conservative movement devotes itself to defending the legacy of George W. Bush at all costs, it will become irrelevant to the debate over how to make things better for most Americans.

In the end, NR’s attempted hit-job on Trump won’t won’t matter much. Folks who like Trump will continue to like him. Those who don’t will feel reconfirmed in their views.
That's probably true, but what this country needs isn't ideological purity. It someone who can enunciate a way forward—a leader who can undo the damage caused by the Obama presidency and provide a vision that just might "make this country great again."