On Monday evening, February 19, President Trump endorsed Mitt Romney for the Senate seat being vacated by Orrin Hatch. Romney will be running for Senator in a state that in the 2012 Presidential election, voted for him by an overwhelming 73%. It is widely expected that he will win with the same type of percentages.
After the Trump endorsement of Hatch, the outcry from Conservatives is being heard far and wide. How could the President endorse Romney, a man who opposed him in the 2016 Presidential election, and who slandered him time and again?
Many Utahans are already voicing their intent to not vote in the election, or else to vote for a third party candidate. This was last seen happening in the Alabama Senate election featuring Judge Roy Moore, who lost an otherwise winnable election.
This suggests a wide gulf in Conservative Political thought and that is endangering the Party.
Conservative Civil War
There is currently a “civil war” raging in the Republican Party. (I use Republican and Conservative interchangeably, though there are many who will disagree that they are similar. We will not argue that point in this article.) As different factions fight for control of the party, it is time to ask:
- What is a Republican/Conservative?
- Who qualifies as a Republican/Conservative?
- Who should be considered a part of the Conservative/Republican Party?
Current Status of the Party
The Republican Party is made up of many diverse groups and individuals, spanning the country by location, religious beliefs, and fiscal policy beliefs and/or by social policy beliefs. Each identifies overall with the party, but differ significantly as to policy preferences. Those differences in policies are causing the conflict and the struggle for power.
Major policy differences that separate Republicans into distinct groups are:
- Pro-choice or pro-life.
- Planned Parenthood.
- Deportation of DACA and illegals.
- Health Care.
- Religious beliefs.
- Birth-Right Citizenship (Anchor Babies).
- Social Program Spending.
- Debt and Deficit Spending.
- Government involvement in Education.
- Social Security and Medicare.
These are typically “single issue” positions that divide conservatives, but in most cases, each person will tend to have more than one view on many of the issues that are in support or opposition to other conservatives.
Distinct Wings of Conservatives.
To make the divisions of Republican voters easy to understand, it is better to simply the divisions and break Republican voters into three distinct categories. They are:
- The Far Right Wing which in some circles be classified as the Alt Right movement. It is composed of about 15% of the Republican Party and with those who are not as “extreme”, up to 35%. Among its adherents are Evangelicals, Constitutionalists, and Traditionalists.
- The Susan Collins wing which is really a more moderate version of traditional moderate Democrats. It holds very few people, perhaps no more than 2% – 3% of the party.
- The Moderate wing which represents those who hold policy positions that consist of a combination of both liberal and conservative thought. This group represents the majority of the conservatives.
Each group claims that they are Republicans and Conservatives. But any definition provided for what is a Conservative is “hazy” at best. And if a person does not meet the most traditional view of conservative, then it is claimed that they are not truly conservative.
At this point, it is important to consider the Trump voters and where they stand. The reality is that the Trump voters do not represent a “wing” of the Republican/Conservative party. Instead, Trump voters have come together behind a “populist” candidate and is comprised of Moderate Democrats, Moderate Republicans and many Right Wing and Collins style conservatives.
The Trump voters represent a coalition of different groups that have come together with a common goal, but will “disband” without a formidable figure like Trump to lead them. Additionally, segments of these voters will desert the Trump brand any time that they feel he has betrayed their particular cause.
What is a Conservative?
The Miriam Webster dictionary would describe conservative as:
a political and social philosophy that promotes retaining traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. By some definitions, conservatives have variously sought to preserve institutions including religion, monarchy, parliamentary government, property rights and the social hierarchy, emphasizing stability and continuity, while the more extreme elements called reactionaries oppose modernism and seek a return to the past
There is no single set of policies that are universally regarded as conservative, because the meaning of conservatism depends on what is considered traditional in a given place and time.
Read this definition of conservatism and one is left wondering what a conservative really stands for.
What does a Conservative stand for?
With at least three different wings of the Republican/Conservative party, and with each having its own view on the issues of the day, the questions below become of paramount importance.
- What does a Conservative stand for?
- What is the Conservative standard?
Many suggest that 100% purity to the cause of Conservatism should be the standard. A person must have the “approved” opinion on a variety of subjects, whether it is Immigration, Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, Military Adventurism, Government Spending, or the Enumerated Powers section of the Constitution. Failure to agree with even one of the items on the list would find the person branded with other than a Conservative label.
Those who are 100% purists to the “approved opinions” would certainly be considered conservatives. But what of those who do not meet that standard?
- Are those who are considered to be GOPe conservative? Would Marko Rubio or Paul Ryan be considered Republican or Conservative?
- What about the Susan Collins wing of the party? Known in days past as the Rockefeller Republicans of the Northeast. Where do they fit in the scheme of things?
- Then there is the “compassionate conservatism” of George W Bush. Where does that fit in the spectrum?
- Finally, where do those who might be of a more moderate conservatism, people who may be financially conservative and more socially liberal, or vice versa get placed?
The future of the Republican Party depends upon the answers to these questions. The Party will either survive and thrive, or else be regulated to a “secondary” status, with the Democratic Party being the majority party.
To understand the importance of these questions, one need only look at my own situation.
I have been a reliable Republican over my entire voting life. I have voted for the Republican candidates in every election, except for one race when I lived in the Boston area in the early 80’s. I could always be counted to vote “the ticket”, since I identified more with Republican ideas.
But, I am socially moderate in my beliefs. For example, I believe in:
- Pro-Planned Parenthood because it does good work in areas other than abortion, though I would like to see it drop abortion.
- Pro-Choice, though I disagree personally with abortion, because after 45 years, Roe v Wade will never be overturned. So why continue to fight a battle that will not be won?
- Belief that it is impossible to deport all illegals and that reasonable compromises must be achieved.
- Belief that immigration is needed for the good of the country, though immigration policies must be reformed.
- Anchor babies are legal citizens.
- A fully Balanced Budget and complete Reduction of the Federal Debt is not necessary economically, though reasonable reforms must be introduced.
For these opinions and others that I hold, I have at various times been called a “Cuckservative”, a “Democrat”, and much worse. Yet, I hold the same views that millions of other Republicans hold.
So the question is…..”What does the Party do with people like me?” Does the Party embrace diversity, leading to a larger base, or does it reject me and others, forcing us to either go Independent or form a new party? And if the Party rejects me and others, how does it expect to win national elections with hard right candidates?
What is the purpose of a Political Party?
Political Parties evolved to gather together a group of voters who share common policy or ideological positions that they believe is for the good of the country. As a group, the power of the individual person is greatly enhanced.
Political Parties usually hold divergent and opposing views from other parties. Hence, they are in a continuous struggle to ensure that their views prevail. This struggle is good for the country in that it prevents the total dominance of any one party which could irreparably harm the country.
One need only look to Obama and the Democrat Party after the 2008 elections. Controlling both the Senate and the House, and the Presidency, Obama and the democrats were able to push through
Obamacare, Dodd Frank and other onerous regulations which caused significant harm to the country.
Political Thought versus Pragmatic Thought
A difference that is often observed in both the Democratic and Republican parties is “Political Thought” and Pragmatic Thought”. These differences reflect in the real world choices made by party members.
Political thought by the “Far Left” is observed daily in universities and liberal enclaves pressing “utopian” ideas. Free education, equal distribution of resources, income equality, gun confiscation, all are representative of utopian ideas that will never come to pass or be realistic in achievement.
But, the Left is not alone in this perspective. Conservatives and the Right have their own “utopian” ideas; repeal of abortion, limited government, and unlimited gun rights, just to name a few.
The problem for each side is that there lies no chance that those ideas will ever be implemented in a real world situation.
Pragmatic thought for each side is recognizing that political thought cannot be achieved, so workable compromises are the sought after goal. But here lies another problem.
US politicians cannot even begin to agree on the fundamental principles of the Constitution. Where disagreement with principles within the Constitutional framework has existed since its establishment, today, that disagreement has evolved to questioning the very role of the Constitution itself. So how can a compromise on any subject be achieved with such disparate views? It can’t.
Long ago, Voltaire stated that “politics is the art of the possible”. Today, that appears to no longer apply in the US.
The Future of Conservatism
In American politics, there are only three options available for a Conservative to cast a ballot to influence the direction of the country. Vote Republican, vote Democrat, or cast a “protest” vote via hopeless write-ins or staying home to cast a “non-participation” vote.
Except in rare circumstances in local areas, either a Democrat or Republican candidate will win the election. For a conservative to vote for other than the Republican means that a Democrat who has little to identify with conservatives has an increased chance to win. So all three wings of the Republican wings need to come together to support candidates that can win, even if there are ideological differences.
Political positions exist on a continuum with the ends being The Far Left and the Far Right. The majority of both Republicans and Democrats fall between these two positions, and are more or less “moderate” Republicans and Democrats.
Elections are not won on the “extreme ends” of each continuum. They are won by appealing to the moderates of each party, the “Reagan Republicans” and the “Trump Train”. If the moderates cannot be induced to vote for a candidate, then the election is lost.
Moderate Republicans, “RINO’s” if you will, are necessary for the Party to be a national force. To “kick them out” of the Party, or to dismiss them as irrelevant will drive them off to either become Independents or else form another party.
The Republican Party cannot be held “hostage” to the total demands of the Far Right wing of the party. Demands for total capitulation to the Far Right will only drive off voters and cause them to either not vote, or else vote for an opposition candidate.
Currently, the House has about 80 Republicans that the Far Right has identified to be replaced by more “acceptable” candidates. To “primary” those more moderate Republicans who can win, and replacing them with candidates with no chance of winning in the general election will only serve to further harm the Party as a whole.
But the Moderates must also recognize that the Far Right has legitimate concerns as well. Reasonable compromises must be achieved for the good of the Party and the Country to keep both groups together as a voting bloc.
With the 2018 off year elections and the 2020 Presidential election fast approaching, the Republican Party faces perilous times, as does the Democratic Party. For the good of the country, the Party must come together to prevent a devastating loss of the House, the Senate and potentially the Presidency.
Now is the time to start coming together through reasonable compromise instead of creating further division.
What is a Conservative?
To answer the question of “what is a conservative”, there is no specific answer. Conservatives come in all makes and models, depending upon their life experiences and family upbringing.
“Traditional values” cannot be used as a determining factor because traditional values is too ambiguous of a term.
For some, traditional values means those values in place at the time of the writing of the Constitution. For others, it could mean values held in the 1800’s, just after the Civil War. Or it could be values held in the 1950’s. Trying to define conservatives based upon traditional values then becomes futile.
Conservativism is a “state of mind” that must be left to each individual to decide where he lies. It is not for another to decide whether the person is conservative or not. But what is important is that all conservatives work together in pursuit of a common goal to lessen the effects of the Democratic Left on society and government alike.