11.30.2009 0

Purge the Moderates

  • On: 12/15/2009 09:24:26
  • In: Conservative Movement
  • By David Bozeman

    A member of the Republican National Committee has proposed a ten-point purity test, of which future candidates will have to pass at least eight to qualify for national backing. Broadly worded (”We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges.”) and covering a wide range of public policy, the test will be considered when the RNC meets early next year.

    Critics, such as columnist Kathleen Parker, are piling on. She writes that, “It’s too bad that ‘elite’ and ‘nuance’ have become bad words in the Republican lexicon.” She bemoans the fact that John Kerry was defeated in 2004 over charges of lack of decisiveness, i.e. nuance. Such a strategy, she writes, appeals to America’s “inner simpleton.” She quotes Kerry in 2008 opining that, “decisiveness wrongly applied can create a lot of pain.” This nation, she adds, was for slavery before it was against it.

    So, the one thing moderates are sure about is their opposition to slavery? I’m inspired, where do I sign up?

    Here’s a better idea, how about a litmus test to keep mushy moderates such as Parker from passing themselves off as conservatives?

    Citing slavery as an argument for insight over knee-jerk reaction, while not completely unreasonable, is curious, given that slavery was ultimately abolished not by nuanced reasoning but by stern, disruptive moral outrage. Furthermore, therein lies the banality of stressing caution and civility in public discourse — certainly everybody’s for it, who would argue against it?

    What’s really at stake is less a matter of tone than the future of the GOP. Nuance and moderation are presented as fresh alternatives to the hard-core conservatism that is supposedly steering the Republican Party, when, in fact, they are tired, worn formulas that effectively guarantee minority, if not fringe status for the party and the whole conservative movement. George W. Bush spent much of the last eight years reaching across the aisle, forging policy out of nuance, compromise and alliances with the likes of Ted Kennedy. He left office with barely a 30% approval rating and his party cast into the political wilderness. Will we ever learn?

    In truth, those touting caution and moderation are less concerned with the party’s future than with their own images. Educated people don’t want to associate themselves with those Tea Party hicks. Parkers’ column is peppered with such cynical assessments as, “Thinking people need not apply.” As Rush Limbaugh has noted, everyone tries to be the smartest person in the room. Parker even urged Sarah Palin, whom she labeled not bright and unqualified, to remove herself from the 2008 ticket. Palin, of course, was the one inspiring note in a dismal campaign helmed by another master of nuance, civility and compromise. Will we ever learn?

    The conservative base, and, truth be told, moderates and undecideds, are not demanding mere ideological purity from their leaders (though 80% agreement on core issues isn’t too much to ask). They expect clarity, conviction and consistency. To the three C’s one could add an A for accountability. Even people on the same side will disagree on method and, occasionally, direction. Great leaders can bridge those differences, as Reagan did, with decisiveness, inspiration and even the occasional compromise in the interest of furthering their long-term goals. Finally, while everyone in a movement need not always be on the same page, they should, at least, be in the same book.

    David Bozeman is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.


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