Not a day. Not even for one day were conservatives allowed to bask in the glow of the tremendous victory of last Tuesday. No sooner had the Democrats delayed results in two or three contests long enough to find the winning votes they needed, than some Republicans started to question the scope and meaning of their triumph.
Turning on the TV, and greedily tearing into the morning papers, I expected to get the usual treatment from the mainstream media: 1) the GOP win was only a result of America's disaffection with congressional incumbents; 2) it was most surely not a reflection of voter dissatisfaction with Barack Obama; and 3) that this election was only a cyclical trend that would be corrected in the next election.
What I did not expect was the angst emitting from conservative quarters in the form of finger-pointing at those who were to blame that our victory wasn't all-encompassing. Why, they moaned, was Harry Reid still the Senate Majority Leader? Shouldn't Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell have crushed their opponents? How could Barney Frank have won so easily? Who is responsible for these atrocities?
Rage erupted when Peggy Noonan, Charles Krauthammer and Karl Rove -- "Tokyo Rove" to some disgruntled folks in cyberspace -- suggested that maybe Sarah Palin isn't the answer to the where-is-our-Reagan question. These and many others were vilified for their sins against the latest "version" of conservatism: the Tea Party coalition. Now, I'm no fan of RINOs or their enablers, but this kind of invective calls to mind not the free and open exchange of views that made our movement great, but a kind of Madame Defarge mob mentality: off with their heads!
There has been entirely too much sniping and not enough attention to Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment. Indeed, in some quarters, the Great Liberator himself would not pass the strident "conservative" test -- he supported gun control and amnesty for illegals -- they insist on imposing on current GOP leadership.
No matter how many times I quote them, I am still amazed that so few on our side want to acknowledge these words of Reagan from his autobiography, An American Life:
When I began entering into the give and take of legislative bargaining in Sacramento, a lot of the most radical conservatives who had supported me during the election didn't like it. "Compromise" was a dirty word to them and they wouldn't face the fact that we couldn't get all of what we wanted today. They wanted all or nothing and they wanted it all at once. If you don't get it all, some said, don't take anything. I'd learned while negotiating union contracts that you seldom got everything you asked for. And I agreed with FDR, who said in 1933: "I have no expectations of making a hit every time I come to bat. What I seek is the highest possible batting average." If you got seventy-five or eighty percent of what you were asking for, I say, you take it and fight for the rest later, and that's what I told these radical conservatives who never got used to it.
No party or candidate is perfect, not even Reagan. That's why I never fail to be astonished that so many conservatives who claim to love the U.S. Constitution do not understand that it was crafted by politicians for politicians; to rein them in. Therefore, under this system of checks and balances, even a party that controls both the executive and legislative branches cannot rule absolutely. We saw this most clearly the past two years.
And given the numerical disadvantages against them, congressional Republicans did a pretty good job of stonewalling the socialist goals of the Obama Administration. It may have escaped the trained eyes of some, but not one Republican in Congress voted for the healthcare bill and only three of the usual suspects voted for the stimulus bill.
The problem is, that many folks are fooled by the bookish appearance of a man like Mitch McConnell, or the genteel demeanor of an Orrin Hatch. But these men can take it to the opposition when it counts; as they did back in 2003 when they staged an all-night protest on the blocking of President Bush's judicial nominees. I know, I was there.
This is why it's so distressing to read of the dustup between Michele Bachmann and Jeb Hensarling regarding the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference. On Fox News Sunday, joining Chris Wallace to discuss the "ruling-class" Republicans versus the crusading Tea Partiers issue were Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, and Darrell Issa, who, according to some, are representative of the former.
Well, if these guys are part of the problem, I shudder at the solution. Remember, before you can change the rules of the game, you have to know how to play it. These men are bright, articulate, and committed to reducing the size and scope of government. They, as well as Hensarling and Bachmann, are fiscal as well as social conservatives who will continue to fight for what they believe in.
Are there still some "moderate" elements left in the GOP leadership? To be sure, but to those who say that it's better to elect real liberals than faux conservatives, I've got three words for you: judges, judges, judges. Those who claim that the GOP cannot be sufficiently redeemed as the engine of conservatism need only to look at how liberals have used the Democratic Party machinery to achieve their ends.
It's time for this silly internecine bickering to end, if for no other reason than that liberals, who should be licking their wounds in defeat, are having a field day with it. Is the Republican Party as presently constituted the absolute ideal home for conservatives? Maybe not, but right now it is the only means we have to an end; of liberalism, that is.
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