Friday, April 18, 2014

Ideological Purity and the Presidential Election: It’s the Culture, Stupid

I get frustrated when I see articles like the following: “40 Points That Prove That Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Are Essentially The Same Candidate.” This is absurd on the face of it, but to the true believer it’s all but axiomatic. You’ll find this in certain conservative (write large) circles. Some call themselves Constitutionalists, some traditionalist conservative, some libertarian, and maybe there are others. The problem I have with these people is strategic on one hand, and the blindness they seem to show on the other.

Let me start with the latter. We are not going to in one fell swoop go back to the cultural and political life of early 19th Century America, or whatever Utopia the political idealists seem to think was the best we ever had. America in 2012 is what it is, and I have a real problem with people who don’t understand that. As I tell my children all the time, reality is what it is and you have to deal with what it is! The reason we are at this point in our political life where a committed progressive leftist is the President of the United States, and that he can potentially be re-elected, is because progressive leftist dominate American culture and the profession that influence the worldviews of the American people.

This is not rocket science. The American people believe about government the way they do today because they are indoctrinated on a daily basis by the media, their education and much of their entertainment. Americans, for example, have embraced the idea of social safety nets, and no amount of harping on the Constitution will change that. But Americans aren’t stupid, and most of them know the difference between what is sustainable and what isn’t. The idea of limiting government’s reach on a philosophical level is a tough sell to the average American, but modern liberalism doesn’t offer the kind of prosperity and freedom Americans’ demand. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin is a good example. It can be argued that the birthplace of the progressive movement has become the ground zero of the drive to roll back the crony government-Democrat Party alliance.

The Romney/Ryan team may not be ideal ticket in any sense, but to say that what they believe and the policies they would pursue are basically equivalent to what Obama has and will continue to do, is ridiculous. And this gets to the strategic error the purists make. By voting for a third party candidate or staying home and letting Obama get elected for four more years will not purify the Republican Party. And third parties do not and will never work in America. Just look at the influence the Tea Party has had on the Republican Party since its inception just a few years ago. It is substantial. The Republican Party of 2012 is considerably different than the one of 1980 when Reagan was elected.

It is far wiser to elect a moderately conservative ticket that is becoming increasingly conservative, and have the ability to put pressure on them in the way they govern if they are elected. I know the purists don’t like Paul Ryan either, but he has worked effectively in the current cultural/political milieu from the center-right and is a distinctly Tea Party friendly and reform minded congressman.

Moving America forward to its limited government roots that maximizes liberty and personal responsibility is as much a cultural as it is a political battle. I think the right increasingly understands this, and this political season is a good opportunity to continue to move that battle forward, painfully slowly, but forward nonetheless.

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