Next week being the Republican National Convention, this week brought that peculiar pre-convention ritual, the platform debate. This is the when party activists of various stripes, behaving as if the outcome is extremely important, negotiate for hours to change a sentence or two in a document that almost no one reads.
Consider the saga of the “unity plank.” The platform’s initial draft contained this nod to intraparty ideological splits:
Apostates within the party — chiefly the Republicans For Choice and the Log Cabin Republicans — fought to “strengthen” this language, with their proposed alternative:
Finally, a compromise was reached. The final version, a joint proposal by a pro-choice delegate and a pro-life delegate, working with their respective groups:
Earthshaking, no? Republicans no longer merely “recognize” differences within their ranks, but now “respect and accept” them.
Overwrought as the platform kabuki dance is, this plank actually affirms a critical principle. It’s no coincidence that the GOP ascended into power as activists on the left drove pro-life Democrats nearly to extinction. For Republicans to mirror this purge — as some conservatives sometimes seem to want to do — would be electoral suicide in a number of marginal and Democratic-leaning states where the GOP remains competitive.
This isn’t an argument for complete surrender. The country may be divided on cultural issues, but that hasn’t stopped social liberal Arnold Schwarzenegger from succeeding with a balanced budget referendum and forcing Democrats to compromise on workers’ compensation reform in California. Another social liberal, Linda Lingle of Hawaii, is one of only eight governors who has signed the Americans for Tax Reform anti-tax pledge. Gov. Bob Ehrlich has held the line on income taxes in Maryland, including vetoing a tax hike; when he became the first Republican to sign a bill relaxing penalties for medical marijuana, he noted that “there are clearly two wings of the party on social issues. One is more conservative, and one is more libertarian. I belong to the latter, and I always have.” The constituents of the remaining Rockefeller Republicans — named, lest we forget, for the governor who first gave New York its sales and income taxes — would be better served by Republicans in that libertarian mold; their antipathy to strongly conservative politicians is almost entirely cultural.
All that said, activists touting the party’s ideological diversity would do well to learn some humility. Patrick Guerriero, the Log Cabin Republicans’ Executive Director, does himself no favors when he undermines the rhetoric of “unity,” as he did in the press release announcing the push for the unity plank, by drawing a distinction between “inclusive voices” — Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani— and “the voices of exclusion” — Gary Bauer, Rick Santorum. As frustrated as a gay activist like Guerriero might be with Santorum, such name calling does not help us “work together on those issues upon which we agree.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?