Republicans: The Virtue of Realism

 

As I sat down to type my nth comment defending the Republican Party against claims that it is useless, has accomplished nothing, and needs to be abandoned, I decided to write a post about it instead.

If the Republican Party were a monarchy, it could announce its intentions and its loyal subjects would fall in line and march as ordered. As king, the Republican Party could use its fiat power to declare that the things it claims to support and believe in — American exceptionalism, limited government, free markets, a strong military, and the Constitution — were sacrosanct; the Party’s subjects would dutifully vote for the Party and elect its candidates.

But that isn’t how political parties work. They may lead a little, but mostly they seek to attract voters who are generally sympathetic to the party’s positions. The party doesn’t tell the people what to want, but rather tries to convince the people that the party is the best vehicle through which the people can move their own agendas forward.

We have two viable political parties. One, the Republican Party, espouses those ideas mentioned above, of limited government and traditional order; the other has a far more expansive view of the role of government, and places little value on tradition. One, the Republican Party, is dominated by a large center-right contingent that is rarely sufficiently ideological to please its more right-leaning members; the other is increasingly dominated by a hard-left radical fringe that more and more alienates its larger center-left membership.

There is no practical alternative to one of those two parties, nor will one arise in the near future. It’s important that conservatives understand this: There is no path to a successful conservative alternative to the Republican Party that does not pass through huge and sustained Democrat victories at the national level.

This is true because we live in a strongly left-leaning media space, one that reaches most Americans on a daily basis through mainstream media and social networks almost all of which are relentlessly and increasingly dishonest and biased. Any attempt to create a conservative alternative to the Republican Party would be met with glee on the left, which would correctly recognize an opportunity to confuse, mislead, and divide the conservative electorate and prevent either conservative party from achieving a viable majority. This should be obvious to anyone who gives it even a moment’s thought.

The parties exist to get their candidates elected. They attempt to do this by attracting members and supporters who agree more with their positions than with the other party’s positions. Since most Americans are neither far-right nor far-left, each party has to try to appeal to a substantial portion of the electorate closer to the middle of the political bell curve. That means that neither party can be “purist,” in the sense of taking a strong ideological stand that is at odds with a large majority of the electorate.

Conservatives have an advantage at the moment in that the Democratic Party is increasingly being directed by hard-left extremists, and it has become difficult for even a complicit mainstream media to hide that. Now is a good time for the Republican Party to reach out to an electorate increasingly disenchanted by the left’s excesses. The greater the electoral advantage the Republican Party has, the more it can safely put forward candidates who represent the Party’s more conservative positions. We should be working to increase participation in the Republican Party by pointing out what the Party represents and how that contrasts with the progressive left’s agenda. This should be a moment to build up the Republican Party, not tear it down.

If the Republican Party has not been conservative enough for my tastes, I think that has more to do with the electorate than with the Party. The Party has to strike a balance between ideology and relevance: it has to get its candidates elected, and that means competing in the large center of America’s political space. Our goal should be to increase the Party’s electoral margins, so that it can put forth conservative candidates who can be confident of broad support, and so that we can afford to choose candidates a little further to the right without fear of losing critical moderate votes.

There is no ultimate victory here. The battle between conservatism and radicalism never ends. America will never be as conservative a nation as I want her to be. The Republican Party will never be as conservative as I am — not in my lifetime, anyway, not while remaining politically viable.

But the Republican Party is the only political platform that can successfully oppose the left. Criticize it sensibly. Encourage it to embrace the best of the Trump experience and to welcome those who saw in him something missing in American politics. Push the party to live up to its own stated vision. But don’t abandon it or run it into the ground. We are seeing right now what the alternative looks like.

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  1. Tyrion Lannister Member
    Tyrion Lannister
    @TyrionLannister

    BDB (View Comment):

    Tyrion Lannister (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    GlenEisenhardt (View Comment):
    Pretty pathetic that the swedish parties had the cojones to prevent a minimum wage yet the free market preaching conservative party in the US can’t cut a dime in any federal agency. Don’t you think?

    Preach it, brother.

    Or, better yet, tell us what — other than tearing down the conservative party — you think we should be doing. Your negative comments are wonderfully specific. Do you have similarly specific positive suggestions?

     

    Thank you for the work. Easy to nit-pick, so I don’t flatter myself that I’m contributing much. Just the same, these are picked nits:

    I agree with some commenters that any CC would be a disaster. This is not new; I’ve thought so for decades. God forbid we open that box. Good and hard etc.

    Late response, but I’m curious, can you elaborate on your reasoning for why CC would be a disaster?  From my perspective, there doesn’t seem to be any way Democrats could put forward anything.  This would be a one party show since we control most of the states.  Nothing they put forward would pass.  Additionally, anything put forward with 2/3 of the states would have to be confirmed with 3/4 the states- a high bar.  I don’t believe there would be much crazy even getting to the confirmation vote, let alone passing.

    • #181
  2. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I appreciate the discussion here, folks. I have an observation about the Trump/Never Trump division. I’d like to see this rift healed, to the extent possible.

    For those who might not know — and how anyone could have missed my opinions here is beyond me — I was a Trump skeptic and opponent during the 2016 primaries, voted for him reluctantly in 2016, and became an increasingly strong supporter over his four years in office.

    I have a somewhat different view of the new split in the GOP. I agree with Hank’s point, if I understand him correctly, that the GOP needs to be a big tent. There’s a tentpole in the center of that tent, so to speak. Trump moved the tent pole.

    This drew some new people into the GOP, and alienated some who had already been in the party. The main moves that Trump made were:

    1. A tougher stance on illegal immigration
    2. A less interventionist foreign policy
    3. Some degree of protectionism on foreign trade
    4. Reduced concern with fiscal restraint

    This appealed to a number of previously disaffected voters, who hadn’t seen a message like this since Perot and Buchanan. On the other hand, it was a change that would, understandably, be tough to accept for some prior GOP voters, like the National Review folks.

    My own preference, and suggestion, is that we avoid recriminations and try to work together. Hank, I appreciate your efforts in this direction. If there’s anything that I can do to help, let me know.

    Jerry, I appreciate what you say here, yet at the same time, I am reminded of something I wrote a while ago which is very much the opposite argument.  I’m not here to settle old scores, but I think it may be informative to link to a couple of things I said back in the day.  Not because I want everybody to agree with me years after the fact, but because this is, as you say an old argument — so here are some of those old argument:

    https://ricochet.com/387325/archives/there-will-be-no-reconciliation/

    Above is a post explicitly on reconciliation of the type you describe, and below is a link to my former account’s last posts.

    https://ricochet.com/members/balldiamondball/blog/

    Note that in context, the Bergdahl graphic is actually referring to the sudden post-Trump-victory rapprochement movement popular on various online outlets after calling us Nazis — saying that various descriptive terms were “not helpful”.   Well, that depends, doesn’t it?

    • #182
  3. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    At some point it might be wise to look forward, rather than backward.

    Virginia is looking very good for Republicans tonight. Because I think the parties really are quite different, I think this is very good news, and I’m delighted.

    Would you say this is more a function of pissed-off Trumpers who say the election was stolen — or complacent NT who are happy that Trump lost?

    • #183
  4. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    BDB (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    At some point it might be wise to look forward, rather than backward.

    Virginia is looking very good for Republicans tonight. Because I think the parties really are quite different, I think this is very good news, and I’m delighted.

    Would you say this is more a function of pissed-off Trumpers who say the election was stolen — or complacent NT who are happy that Trump lost?

    BDB, I’m afraid I don’t quite understand the question. Can you ask it again in a different way? I’ll try to answer.

    • #184
  5. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    At some point it might be wise to look forward, rather than backward.

    Virginia is looking very good for Republicans tonight. Because I think the parties really are quite different, I think this is very good news, and I’m delighted.

    Biden won Virginia by 10 points and New Jersey by almost 16 points.  So, these election results are some pretty cold water for the Democrats.  It’s starting to look like the Donks are going to get stomped in 2022.

    Also, in the very Leftish city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the “Defund the Police” referendum was defeated 57 pct to 43 pct.  Now, I don’t know what those 43 pct have been smoking.  But it’s still interesting data.  In New York City a former cop was elected mayor.  Ok, he’s a Democrat.  But still.

    • #185
  6. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    At some point it might be wise to look forward, rather than backward.

    Virginia is looking very good for Republicans tonight. Because I think the parties really are quite different, I think this is very good news, and I’m delighted.

    I’m not looking backward, I’m remembering the type of allies I have. When and employee steals office supplies from you on a wholesale level , yet is otherwise capable (bad analogy, but it doesn’t matter) you do something about it. You fire him. Or if you can’t somehow, you remember. Then when someone recommends him for a promotion saying let’s “look forward”, you don’t.

    Henry, I promise we are looking forward and moving forward, and these people aren’t allowed on the train. Because we don’t want them sabotaging us again. 

    • #186
  7. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    At some point it might be wise to look forward, rather than backward.

    Virginia is looking very good for Republicans tonight. Because I think the parties really are quite different, I think this is very good news, and I’m delighted.

    Don’t get too happy. There are still hundreds more who need to be removed from office if we’re going to save this country.

    • #187
  8. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Franco (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    At some point it might be wise to look forward, rather than backward.

    Virginia is looking very good for Republicans tonight. Because I think the parties really are quite different, I think this is very good news, and I’m delighted.

    I’m not looking backward, I’m remembering the type of allies I have. When and employee steals office supplies from you on a wholesale level , yet is otherwise capable (bad analogy, but it doesn’t matter) you do something about it. You fire him. Or if you can’t somehow, you remember. Then when someone recommends him for a promotion saying let’s “look forward”, you don’t.

    Henry, I promise we are looking forward and moving forward, and these people aren’t allowed on the train. Because we don’t want them sabotaging us again.

    From your lips to God’s ear.

    This was a race in one state. I can’t believe everyone’s so happy. (And are the Democrats even done counting votes yet? Surely some bins of ballots in car trunks will be showing up soon.) 

    This is one down and several hundred to go. From both parties.

    • #188
  9. Jim Chase Member
    Jim Chase
    @JimChase

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):
    This was a race in one state. I can’t believe everyone’s so happy. (And are the Democrats even done counting votes yet? Surely some bins of ballots in car trunks will be showing up soon.) 

    I certainly can’t speak for anyone else, but I do think we can be “happy” that there are signs of life out there in the electoral wilderness, not ready to accept prima facie the elites’ claims of superiority and the inevitability of the progressive cause.  Maybe it’s a mirage, maybe not, but either way it strikes me as evidence that the pushback from the people (not necessarily the party) is real. 

    Youngkin strikes me as a pragmatic leader.  If he is able to govern as one, perhaps VA can lean a little more away from blue and back to purple.

    Regardless of the final margins, the R’s landed a number of punches last night.  Viktor Drago is not invincible. 

     

    • #189
  10. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    At some point it might be wise to look forward, rather than backward.

    Virginia is looking very good for Republicans tonight. Because I think the parties really are quite different, I think this is very good news, and I’m delighted.

    Would you say this is more a function of pissed-off Trumpers who say the election was stolen — or complacent NT who are happy that Trump lost?

    BDB, I’m afraid I don’t quite understand the question. Can you ask it again in a different way? I’ll try to answer.

    The question is poorly asked, but it’s largely rhetorical anyway, as we don’t have a way to slice components of the Virginia victory into T and NT components.

    So without laboring the point, it’s just my supposition that the angry T have more to do with moving the needle than what I call “complacent” NT.

    For all Republicans, our anger is overpowering, overdue, and oh-so-very justified.  I accept the stain of anger upon my soul.  Let the ballots hit the floor.

    • #190
  11. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    BDB (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    At some point it might be wise to look forward, rather than backward.

    Virginia is looking very good for Republicans tonight. Because I think the parties really are quite different, I think this is very good news, and I’m delighted.

    Would you say this is more a function of pissed-off Trumpers who say the election was stolen — or complacent NT who are happy that Trump lost?

    BDB, I’m afraid I don’t quite understand the question. Can you ask it again in a different way? I’ll try to answer.

    The question is poorly asked, but it’s largely rhetorical anyway, as we don’t have a way to slice components of the Virginia victory into T and NT components.

    So without laboring the point, it’s just my supposition that the angry T have more to do with moving the needle than what I call “complacent” NT.

    For all Republicans, our anger is overpowering, overdue, and oh-so-very justified. I accept the stain of anger upon my soul. Let the ballots hit the floor.

    Ah, got it. Thanks for clarifying.

    I agree with you that we probably can’t know exactly what happened in Virginia. My own thought is that it wasn’t about Trump. I don’t think it was pro-Trump people flexing their muscles, nor was it anti-Trump people responding to a candidate who was judicious in how he managed his relationship to Trump and the Trump administration’s policies.

    I think it was more like what happened in 2016: an electorate weary of and angered by a relentless leftward rush and disenchanted with a feckless and floundering administration voted for change. Virginia Democratic candidates perfectly embodied the tone-deaf arrogant illiberalism that is rapidly becoming the Democratic Party brand. The Republican candidates were seen as an alternative to that infuriating Democratic elitism, and so they won.

    If that’s what happened, what’s good about it is that the Democratic Party will have a very hard time responding. The Democrats are terrified of offending the increasingly unhinged woke minority on the left. That woke minority shows no signs of being self-aware, of realizing how absurd and offensive it is or how shallow is the support for its radicalism.

    I think the left is vulnerable in a way it hasn’t been for a long time. It has taken liberties with the nation’s children, and parents are becoming aware of that. Add to that the material suffering being brought about by this historically incompetent President* and you have a recipe for a seriously unpleasant 2022 for Democrats.

    • #191
  12. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I agree with you that we probably can’t know exactly what happened in Virginia. My own thought is that it wasn’t about Trump. I don’t think it was pro-Trump people flexing their muscles, nor was it anti-Trump people responding to a candidate who was judicious in how he managed his relationship to Trump and the Trump administration’s policies.

    I think it was more like what happened in 2016: an electorate weary of and angered by a relentless leftward rush and disenchanted with a feckless and floundering administration voted for change. Virginia Democratic candidates perfectly embodied the tone-deaf arrogant illiberalism that is rapidly becoming the Democratic Party brand. The Republican candidates were seen as an alternative to that infuriating Democratic elitism, and so they won.

    If that’s what happened, what’s good about it is that the Democratic Party will have a very hard time responding. The Democrats are terrified of offending the increasingly unhinged woke minority on the left. That woke minority shows no signs of being self-aware, of realizing how absurd and offensive it is or how shallow is the support for its radicalism.

    I think the left is vulnerable in a way it hasn’t been for a long time. It has taken liberties with the nation’s children, and parents are becoming aware of that. Add to that the material suffering being brought about by this historically incompetent President* and you have a recipe for a seriously unpleasant 2022 for Democrats.

    But can Republicans just be “not-Democrat” and expect to find future success? Or does the Republican party actually need a message of their own? See, that’s what seems to be missing. Republicans seem to be taking the “Never interfere with an enemy in the process of destroying himself” strategy. Which isn’t a bad strategy, but it’s not a long-term one.

    I just don’t want to see Republicans looking at Virginia and thinking “Yay! We can sit back and do nothing and we’ll win!”

    The GOP seems unaware of just how much their own base loathes them. Or to put it another way, returns the loathing that the GOP has for its base.

    • #192
  13. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I agree with you that we probably can’t know exactly what happened in Virginia. My own thought is that it wasn’t about Trump. I don’t think it was pro-Trump people flexing their muscles, nor was it anti-Trump people responding to a candidate who was judicious in how he managed his relationship to Trump and the Trump administration’s policies.

    I think it was more like what happened in 2016: an electorate weary of and angered by a relentless leftward rush and disenchanted with a feckless and floundering administration voted for change. Virginia Democratic candidates perfectly embodied the tone-deaf arrogant illiberalism that is rapidly becoming the Democratic Party brand. The Republican candidates were seen as an alternative to that infuriating Democratic elitism, and so they won.

    If that’s what happened, what’s good about it is that the Democratic Party will have a very hard time responding. The Democrats are terrified of offending the increasingly unhinged woke minority on the left. That woke minority shows no signs of being self-aware, of realizing how absurd and offensive it is or how shallow is the support for its radicalism.

    I think the left is vulnerable in a way it hasn’t been for a long time. It has taken liberties with the nation’s children, and parents are becoming aware of that. Add to that the material suffering being brought about by this historically incompetent President* and you have a recipe for a seriously unpleasant 2022 for Democrats.

    But can Republicans just be “not-Democrat” and expect to find future success? Or does the Republican party actually need a message of their own? See, that’s what seems to be missing. Republicans seem to be taking the “Never interfere with an enemy in the process of destroying himself” strategy. Which isn’t a bad strategy, but it’s not a long-term one.

    I don’t think that accurately describes what the Republican Party does. It’s in the nature of conservatism to not be flashy: when it’s doing its job well, nothing much changes. In Virginia, part of the message was “we think we should not be teaching children to be racists.” Another part was “parents have a right to know what the public schools are doing with their kids, and to have some control over that.”

    We have a lot of messages. Opposing vaccine mandates sends a message: you have a right not to have the government telling you what medical care to receive. Demanding border security, blocking attempts to corrupt the electoral process, supporting Israel, supporting energy independence, rejecting climate alarmism, supporting law enforcement — those are all messages.

    I just don’t want to see Republicans looking at Virginia and thinking “Yay! We can sit back and do nothing and we’ll win!”

    Nor do I. But that isn’t what happened in Virginia, and I don’t think that will be the message other Republicans take from the Youngkin win.

    The GOP seems unaware of just how much their own base loathes them. Or to put it another way, returns the loathing that the GOP has for its base.

    I think you overestimate how much the Republican base hates the Republican Party. I think most Republicans don’t feel what you do about the party. I don’t, despite the frustrations I sometimes have.

     

    • #193
  14. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I think you overestimate how much the Republican base hates the Republican Party. I think most Republicans don’t feel what you do about the party. I don’t, despite the frustrations I sometimes have.

    I see that alienation everywhere. I’m not an outlier.

    • #194
  15. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Also, I will never forget how Republicans pretended to be “Tea Party Republicans” to get votes in 2010, and then the moment they got into power, worked to distance themselves from and destroy the Tea Party movement.

    Calling yourself a Republican means nothing to me anymore. Without actions, words are meaningless.

    • #195
  16. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I think you overestimate how much the Republican base hates the Republican Party. I think most Republicans don’t feel what you do about the party. I don’t, despite the frustrations I sometimes have.

    I see that alienation everywhere. I’m not an outlier.

    You ever hear the story about the old men sitting at the city gates when a stranger walks up? The guy asks what the people in the city are like, and one of the old men says “what were they like in the city you come from?” The guy replies that they were awful: they’d lie to you and cheat you and betray you. And the old man says “they’re like that here.” So the guy walks on.

    A little while later another stranger walks up and asks the same question, to which the old man replies, again “what were they like in the city you come from?” The stranger says that those people were generally decent and fair, a few bad apples but for the most part okay. The old man tells him that the people are like that in this city, too, and so the stranger walks in.

    Where was I? Oh, yes. Drew, there is nothing wrong with being an outlier. But I think you’re an outlier. I probably am, too.

    • #196
  17. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Where was I? Oh, yes. Drew, there is nothing wrong with being an outlier. But I think you’re an outlier. I probably am, too.

    I’m not. But neither are you. That’s why we fight.

    • #197
  18. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    BDB (View Comment):

    @ henryracette, I admire and aspire to your level-headed kindness. I hasten to add that the aspiration is barely above lip service — O Lord, make me like Henry, but not any time soon.

    I read this post and thought about commenting when it came up days ere — it just made it to the Main Feed shortly ago, and now there are four pages of comments. I may read through — not sure. I am pretty sure that, just as you acknowledge, there is nothing new under the sun, neither in your post, not in the comments for or against. It is not only the story of our party for the last twenty years, but a version of the story of all “faction” in the history of participatory government. Magna Carta was a sop to the squishy nobility, to the horror of the rock-ribbed royalists. Yet that analogy is at least 45 degrees out of whack — that’s more a vertical distinction than horizontal.

    I find myself of being one of the angriest, most black-pilled SOBs you could hope to meet, yet volunteering as a poll watcher and serving as an Election Official in the very much in-play State (or bqhateverw) of Virginia. I am armed (and equipped and trained) to the teeth and prepared to bug in for SHTF/WROL. Doesn’t mean I won’t buy groceries — I just know that when the emergency hits, the shelves will be bare. I won’t develop the analogy further for the time being. I’ll just gently point out that I have actually stayed on topic.

    Well, it’s never easy.

    I for one would love to have you write up yr experiences as a Poll Watcher and Election Observer.

    I have done both, and even during the most boring and most typical elections, things came up that were funny, or extremely stupid, or both.

    And yesterday’s VA election was certainly not boring or typical.

     

    • #198
  19. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):
    I for one would love to have you write up yr experiences as a Poll Watcher and Election Observer.

    I’ve heard some horror stories about how Republican poll watchers are treated even here in li’l ol’ EC.

    Granted, this is a left-wing college down, so the Democrats here are of a certain variety.

    • #199
  20. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    BDB (View Comment):

    Let the ballots hit the floor.

    I want to see the music video for that.

    • #200
  21. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):
    I for one would love to have you write up yr experiences as a Poll Watcher and Election Observer.

    Thanks for encouraging him. He wrote a great post about it today.

    • #201
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