November 16, 2011

Pragmatism versus one-horse-zealotry

Heated.  Things in the GOP primary are getting heated. R S McCain is on an anybody-but-Newt tear in contrast with Ed Morrissey who thinks Gingrich would be a good battler for conservatives and a formidable foe for Obama in 2012.  Elsewhere in the blogosphere and tweet-osphere, I've seen rabid backers of Cain, Paul and Perry tear apart those who prefer another candidate.  Even Romney backers have been dismissive of supporters of other candidates.  This is a primary season, and heated is to be expected.  Everyone seems to have a horse in this race and that means they are engaged.  That's good. Uncivil behavior on the other hand is another story.  While for the most part, criticisms have ranged from viable to less than robust, the  civility has been been present.  It has not been universally so.

The real enemy of recovery.
I'm not going to call out specific instances of anything.  Rather, I'd like to point out that a bit of pragmatism on the part of all concerned is definitely a smarter way to go.  Pragmatism extends across the entire spectrum of the question "What if my guy/gal doesn't win?"

Why be pragmatic?  Let's start with Reagan's 11th commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."

It's true that while Reagan followed that rule, he kept losing primaries to Gerald Ford, and afterwards he supposedly parted from it and started winning primaries.  But there was a reason that the idea to be put forth in the first place.

Pragmatism: "Dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations."

Pragmatism requires that primaries don't do significant damage to candidates which would result in a weakened eventual candidate forced to face president Obama.  The purpose of the primaries, if we are true to our conservative core principles of logic over emotion driving our decisions and ideas, is to provide a forum for debate of differing ideas, not a forum for character assassination, cheap shots, or derision.  Each of those latter elements serve only as fodder for the opposition in the general election.  Vigorous debate of the type "my idea idea is better than yours and here's why..." is infinitely superior to "you hired illegal immigrants to cut your grass."

What is the purpose of the primaries?  To put forward the most conservative, yet electable candidate the GOP has to offer Via William F. Buckley, a pragmatic tenet in itself).  To do otherwise is to betray movement in the right direction because the movement is not fast enough, or not embodied in your personal favorite.  Who can be conservative enough and win depends on your personal definition and valuation of the importance of various qualities - electability, debate skill and charisma compete with candidates positions on a multitude of issues and the reasonableness of various proposals put forward by the candidates.  Each of us has our own yardstick on measuring those qualities and our own scales for measuring and scoring candidates on those qualities.  The results will be entirely personal.

Going back to first principles however, if your favorite candidate scores highest in those measurements, but cannot win, how you handle the situation may be akin to pragmatism or it may be akin to zealotry.  How do you define a win?  Do you want to beat Obama in the 2012 election?  Does it matter if your candidate is not the candidate?  I'm not a fan at all of Mitt Romney. I really, really don't want him to be the nominee (the fact that Democrats say they fear him as the only candidate who can beat Obama proves they are either lying about it to coerce voter decisions or really are clueless). But if he were the candidate I would back him over Obama any day if the calendar year.  A second Obama term is unthinkably bad.

An ulterior motive in allowing that to happen is flawed from the start.  Are you a one horse supporter like Obama supporters are?  That blindness is a dead end. It either puts your preference/candidate ahead of the party, or it is misguided in terms of what the outcome will ultimately be.  Let's face it, 4 more disastrous years of Obama will not make the country more conservative than it is now.  It will merely make the country more angry with him and likely to vote Republican in 2016.  If you are hoping for a better outcome for your own candidate in 2016, that becomes a possibility.  But it does so at the expense of the nation and it does NOTHING to move the country to the right.   The receptiveness to change after 8 years of Obama will be merely transient - look at the Bush presidency and the Obama win in 2008.  We all know the country did not become more liberal, it became anti-Bush.

Real winning requires long term efforts to go in conjunction with the short term wins.  Winning hearts and minds is the real battle. There are those who can be swayed to view the truth behind conservative principles rather than swallowing regurgitated media sophistry whole.  That's the battlefield of ideas that needs to be taken.  What's needed is this, or this, or this.  If you combine those sorts of efforts with taking the most electable conservative in the race, you slowly move the center of gravity to the right and each passing election a more conservative option should be viable than in the past.  That's how you win. Conservatism is bigger than any one individual, so to tie yourself to a candidate is not only not pragmatic, it is short sighted and ultimately self-defeating.

I'm just saying.

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