Conservatives do not always have obvious choices when deciding whether or not to support a RINO. Who, today, thinks we would be worse off if John McCain were president? Ideally, conservatives should have united early behind a solid candidate, but when the meetings of conservative Republicans I attended keep focusing on not nominating "Rudy McRomney," then it was hard to see who our best standard bearer should be.
The situation is entirely different in the 23rd Congressional District of New York in the special election which will decide on November 3, 2009 whether a liberal Republican or a conservative should represent the district. Dede Scozzafava, the Republican nominee in that traditionally Republican district, would doubtless win the special election (and re-election twelve months later in the mid-term general election) if pesky conservatives would just follow the sage counsel of moderate Republicans.
Newt Gingrich, once the leader of insurgent conservatism, seems annoyed that we conservatives cannot do the partisan math: NY 23 is a Republican district; the special election is to replace a Republican; if conservatives fail to fall in behind Scozzafava, then a Democrat will win the special election and Republicans will have one less procedural vote to stop Nancy Pelosi. The problem for conservatives is that other than being a Lincoln Chaffee, Jim Jeffords, or Arlen Specter "Republican," Scozzafava has very little in common with the philosophy of those whose votes she seeks.
One of the reasons why Republicans are finally recovering from the last four years of the Bush Administration is that, although a distinct partisan minority, the increasingly conservative Republican Party is finally beginning to stand for things again. The radicalism of Obama is so profound that almost no elected Republicans are supporting his proposals. If Obama fails, it is because he is so extreme that his fellow Democrats cannot be persuaded to support his schemes.
This is precisely the sort of political battlefield we should want. If the next member of Congress from the 23rd Congressional District of New York is going to support ObamaCare, union card check, publicly funded abortions, and other increasingly unpopular programs, then it is far better if that member of Congress is a Democrat, not a Republican. If the Democrat candidate, Bill Owens, wins in November 2009 and Democrats hail this victory, then the pressure to pass their plans will be even greater --although if Owens wins it would probably not make a substantive difference on controversial legislation.
What Doug Hoffman is doing in upstate New York is what conservatives needed to do ten years ago: ignore party and vote ideology. The tenuous Republican control of Congress from 1999 to 2007 largely allowed conservative policies to flounder while the Republican Party was theoretically in control of Congress. This harmed the Republican brand. Polling data, which formed the basis of the Contract With America in 1994, has consistently shown that Americans are much more conservative than they are Republican.
The Battleground Poll data throughout the last decade has shown that 60% of Americans define themselves as "very conservative" or "somewhat conservative," and that figure remains even when "moderate" and "undecided" are included in the sample. A Gallup Poll this summer showed that in every single state of the nation, "conservatives" outnumbered "liberals." Rasmussen recently noted that every single figure in American politics today remains only mildly popular or outright unpopular -- except for Ronald Reagan, who is viewed favorably by a large majority of Americans. The evidence, outside the nervous voices of Republican establishment punditry, is simply overwhelming. "Conservative" appeals to American voters much more than "Republican." The opposition to Obama and to the radical Democrats around him must come from conservatives, not Republicans.
When the ideological line is bright and clear, Republicans -- as bearers of the conservative banner -- do very well. In 1966, Republicans had a huge landslide in the mid-term elections. In 1980, the most conservative Republican presidential nominee of the last half century, swept in a Republican majority in the Senate and a conservative majority in the House; when Newt was the champion of conservatism, rather than Republicanism, the Republicans in 1994 won a huge landslide.
What is remarkable is that in each of these landslides, "experts" of both political parties were completely dumbfounded. Republicans, after the "ultra-conservative" Goldwater's defeat, were supposedly dead for good. When the same "ultra-conservatives" finally won the Republican nomination in 1980, the "too old, too dumb, and too conservative" Reagan was supposed to be an easy target. And after Clinton won in 1992, with his savvy and huge majorities in Congress, he was supposed to be able to establish partisan domination for the Democrats. The clearer the ideological lines, though, the more decisive, the more emphatic, the more profound the defeat for the champions of the left.
What conservatives need now is a party which must reflect their values and beliefs. Anyone who fancies a chance at the Republican nomination in 2012 must understand that supporting conservatives is more important to most Republican voters than just supporting the guy or gal with an "R" by their name. The more unmistakable the differences between Republican conservatives and Democrat liberals in 2010, the more dramatic the ideological, as well as partisan, victory in the mid-term election.
Supporting Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate in the 23rd District, ought to be the easiest decision any conservative has to make. If he wins, his victory is a major trumpet call in the election twelve months from now. But even if he loses, and the Democrat Owens wins, conservatives are better off. The chameleon Republicans like Jeffords, Chaffee, and Specter have prevented the real debate that Americans hunger to hear: the conservative voice of liberty, traditional values, and love for America against the leftist voice of group-buying, anti-religious, and unpatriotic enemies of what has made us great. Hoffman is the easy, obvious choice.
Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie and The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.