And what to do with RINOs and Knuckle Draggers.
Years ago when I was working for Congressman John Ashbrook as the Central Ohio Field Coordinator for his ill-fated US Senate Campaign (he died unexpectedly shortly before the primary) part of my duties were to travel around the state either with the candidate or by myself meeting with various GOP and conservative groups to enlist their support.
John Ashbrook was a founder of the early conservative movement along with Reagan, Goldwater and Buckley with whom he had worked in the dark early years before conservatives had tasted national victory.
His conservative credentials were unassailable and his principles rock solid. He refused to waver, compromise or shy away from expressing his beliefs. I recall one late night meeting with a group of supporters in some small Ohio county. The woman who hosted the meeting in her home said: "John, we are all with you, but please don't push the abortion issue. It's too divisive." The Congressman replied that "I cannot compromise on my core beliefs" he had to be who he was.
I was sent alone on another mission to talk to a group of young conservatives. At that gathering a young man and woman came up to me and started talking about the issue most important to them. I don't remember what it was, but it was one which even my candidate did not support. I listened, but played the devils advocate by reminding them that not all conservatives felt the same way. The man turned to the woman and said, meaning me, "he's not one of us."
No I was not, and very glad not to be. Their issue was a prescription for defeat and division. There is no way my candidate, or any candidate, could allow conservative ideals to be hijacked by people with an agenda that was so extreme as to guarantee defeat of the major goals which I believe we all shared.
Back to the Present
When President Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court last year, a small band of very vocal and prominent conservatives hit the roof. Perhaps we can agree that such an appointment was a tactical error by President Bush. But if you go back and read my posts at the time (October 2005 archive here) I warned repeatedly that an all or nothing fight over the issue was sure to split conservative unity in a way that assured two horrible outcomes: 1. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 2. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
By insisting on an absolute standard of conservatism defined by a relatively narrow, sectarian group led by Bill Kristol (whose father Irving spoke at Ashbrook's funeral), we gave Democrats a tool to split the conservative base. And they used that tool well. You don't think it was coincidence that Senator Chuck Schumer, successful architect of the DEM Senate victory followed Miers with the flap over the Dubai Ports Deal do you?
And I'm not the only one who thought that perhaps Bill Kristol was perhaps a bit too chipper on election eve as the scope of our losses became clear. The folks who thought it would be better for the GOP to lose got their way. Now what?
Leadership the Absolute Essential
Let's face it. President Bush is now officially a lame duck. He's going to have to compromise with Democrats even more just to salvage the most important goals of his presidency in the next two years. The campaign for his replacement started on Wednesday, November 8.
There's a new GOP 2008 presidential straw poll available for bloggers at GOP Bloggers, (who have changed their masthead to read "STILL blogging for the GOP Majority: We'll be back!").
After you go through the usual drill of selecting which candidates you would find acceptable, or unacceptable, and which would be your first choice, you're asked to describe yourself as either an "economic conservative," a "social conservative" or a "war on terror conservative." Sorry, you can't be all three, I tried.
I picked the "war on terror" box because in the final analysis, if we don't win the war, we'll have bigger problems than arguing over tax cuts or abortion.
Both Newt Gingrich and Rudy Guiliani continue to score well in these straw polls. And frankly, I could be happy with either one. I know that Rudy has some baggage in conservative circles, but as he said during the campaign when he was stumping for Rick Santorum "I don't even agree with myself 100% of the time" and he doesn't expect anyone else to do so either.
For me, leadership is the fundamental quality during these difficult times is the goal as we move forward. It doesn't mean that I have to agree with either a Newt or a Rudy 100% of the time, or even 80%. It does mean that I prefer their style of leadership on the most important issues over a candidate like John McCain, whose leadership style is dedicated to compromise for the sake of unity (giving Dems what THEY want).
Speaking only for myself, the bottom line is that I am looking for leaders with a leadership style that seeks to bring other people to support our point of view, not compromise our values in the vain hope that Democrats will like us or support us.
I'm not in the mood to toss every RINO under the bus. However, the efforts of those like McCain, Graham and Chafee failed to achieve any "unity" among the two political parties and only served to weaken, not strengthen, the conservative position.
That's basically how I'm cutting the cake at the moment. Strong leadership, without an absolute litmus test on every issue.
Click Here to check results for Mike's America readers.