All of the MoveOn.Org vs. Terry McAuliffe talk has obscured a very important issue among Republicans, specifically conservative Republicans and their less than conservative brethren. The RINO (Republican in Name Only) population is potentially under attack from the conservative base. And this isn't really a great thing at all.
To illustrate what may fall from this, let's take two undeniable conservatives and line up their positions on abortion and how to treat party members who are pro-choice: Hugh Hewitt and Steve Peroutka. While I know Peroutka is not a Republican, but rather a spoiler from the Constitution Party (his brother Michael was the party's nominee for president), he wields some influence among Republicans, especially among the pro-life crowd.
I'll start by saying that I have immense respect for both men, if for no other reason than they are men of deep spiritual and moral integrity who are pillars of their community. These men are very, very good men.
Hugh never hides his position. Check out his book If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat
. It's worth every penny. He makes the point that if we can avoid any more squeakers like Florida 2000 (or even Washington Governor 2004), the Democrats can't pull a cheat as they have in years past (If you want cheat details, I'm happy to oblige, but the book does an even better job of it). But among the things we need to do to maintain a majority is to welcome, or at least fail to alienate moderate to liberal Republicans. Jim Jeffords, a man for whom Liberty Files cares not, provides a great example of what happens when a RINO gets his knickers in a knot over how the conservatives are treating him. Jeffords could have gone either way, and he went Republican. Then he got tired of the Republicans getting tired of his squishiness. It was costly for Bush.
Now if we just look at the Senate, we will find a treasure trove of squishy Republicans--Lincoln Chafee, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter, Chuck Hagel, John McCain, and even Norm Coleman. Losing those folks means losing a majority.
To be clear, Chafee, Collins, Snowe and Specter are worthless in my opinion. They stand for zilch, other than apparently being loved by the Democratic Senate caucus. Hagel is a bit of a blowhard who isn't happy no matter what he gets. McCain is, well, McCain. Coleman is the best of the lot (and I apologize to him for even including him here but he is a "moderate" as opposed to a Santorum conservative, and also to illustrate that his loss would be fatal) and a guy with real gravitas (as seen by his assault on Kofi Annan's ethical issues). And we need them all. Alienate them, say, on the abortion issue, and we have a Senate Minority.
The real issue came up with the perpetually feckless Specter who was moving into the Judiciary chair after the election. Specter is pro-choice, which pleased few, but then dropped the gauntlet by claiming that he was going to obstruct pro-life judicial nominees. If he could have said anything more stupid I don't know what it would be. And so the right went predictably nuts.
As I said before, Hugh Hewitt believes that without the modero-liberals in the party, we will head towards problems. His post-election piece
in the Weekly Standard provides an excellent perspective on why we keep these people in. His initial comments on his show were that the Dems would run Even Bayh and Barak Obama, but he switched it to Mark Warner. Either one would be a nightmare scenario for Republicans in the general election, but remember, nobody makes the ticket without winning the primaries. Given the fact that Howard Dean is trying to be the new chair of the party, Warner and Bayh, two VERY electable gentlemen have not a shot at this point, and that's a shame.
It's hard to beat Hugh's argument that Bush would have lost the election but for pro-choice voters. And it's even harder to beat the argument that if we offload these folks, our own version of Michael Moore (remember Pat Buchanan?) will rise from the mire to embarrass us. They keep us honest and they keep us sane even though they drive us up the wall. They are necessary, not just "necessary evils".
is on the other side of the argument. He believes that the "pro-aborts" as he calls them need to be stripped of authority and expurgated from a party that claims to be pro-life. After the Specter comments, he recommended removing the senior Senator from Pennsylvania from the Senate Judiciary Committee chair, despite his seniority, and turning it over to a more politically reliable Senator on the abortion issue. To his credit, Peroutka believes that if you compromise, you get nothing in the end. He believes that conservatives and pro-lifers in particular, should run as conservatives, avoid apologies, and don't for a second step back from convictions. And he really has a point. It worked for Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Reagan and it has worked for Bush 43. A strong unidirectional approach often does end up gaining followers simply because of the pure momentum headed toward a real goal. And I like that point of view for it's sheer boldness, as such strongheaded efforts have made this nation great.
If I could see such an approach eclipsing abortion from the politically defended unrestricted alternate birth control approach that it is today into a true
needs-based medical procedure used to emergently protect the life of the mother, I might just be tempted to get on board with Peroutka.
But I somehow doubt that a thing that may eliminate a working Republican coalition will do that.
Peroutka is a single-issue advocate, and he certainly realizes that the process is not about a single issue.
But warding off all of the Chafees, Snowes, Collins, Hagels, Specters, and even the more useful McCains, and the truly operational moderates like Coleman would put the Dems in control, and not just in the Senate.
We need these people. No, we don't swallow their liberal traits whole just to tolerate them, and as Hugh suggests, their viewpoints need to be subject to the same scrutiny as those of anyone else, but at the end of the day, treating these people with respect, despite difference, is what will marginalize the left.