Posted by: The moderator | October 29, 2009

Will Republicans Purge Gingrich?

Newt Gingrich

The height of Newt’s career

Talk about infighting. Dede Scozzafava, a female GOP candidate in New York running for an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, is being torn down by angry conservatives across the country because she’s not conservative enough on social issues. GOP heavyweights like Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin have been chiming in, supporting socially conservative third-party candidate Doug Hoffman. Then Newt Gingrich shows up to support Scozzafava, arguing that the Republican Party can’t retake congress if conservatives are going to use a “litmus test” to “purge the party of anybody who doesn’t agree with us 100 percent.”

Unfortunately for Newt, hell hath no fury like conservative bloggers scorned. Michelle Malkin was quick to grill Gingrich, arguing that conservatives do need to purge “left-wing saboteurs” like Scozzafava “who seeks to marginalize mainstream conservatism with conservatives’ own money.” Adam Bitely had a less grandiose interpretation, arguing that Gingrich has been corrupted by the Washington establishment and resorted to “typical hackery”, concluding that Newt can no longer be considered a “principled conservative leader.” Of course, Red State chewed this story and spit it out with all their other obsessive coverage of the Scozzafava/Hoffman race which I’m not even going to touch.

At least Rob at Say Anything Blog acknowledges that conservatives can’t pass conservative legislation without bringing enough people into their camp to win elections. His only beef with the Republicans is that they are turning into populists instead of convincing voters of “the efficacy of our arguments and the soundness of our principles.” He concludes that the GOP is better off making “the electorate come to conservatives than to try to go to the electorate by abandoning conservatism.”

Bloggers from the Left have been tenderly addressing the issue, preferring to relish in the Republican disunity than to cast their honest opinions into the race. After all, the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, was leading the field earlier this month. Why nix it by giving conservatives an obvious enemy to unify against? Michael Stickings at The Reaction had a few jabs to make at conservatives, but he generally defended Gingrich for taking on his own base, even if it merely served as a method to sell poor, unelectable Newt to the media as a “big thinker” with a “courageous independent streak.”

To me, this intra-party bickering looks like an excellent example of too many people asserting that they know what’s best for something when no single approach is really “best.” Perhaps they should think of “conservative” as an adjective instead of a noun. There are many different kinds of conservatives (noun) with differing conservative (adjective) views. Labeling a fiscal conservative a “left-wing saboteur” just because they’re not quite as conservative on social issues smacks of intellectual rigidity. Would someone who’s not as conservative on fiscal issues but slightly more conservative on social issues receive the same label?

More importantly, would conservatives (noun) rather have the two conservative (adjective) candidates tear each other apart so that an even more progressive/liberal candidate wins? That’s what happened when Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party butted heads with Taft’s Republicans, resulting in Democrat Woodrow Wilson knocking them both off a cliff.

I’m reminded of the WashPost/ABC poll results I posted last week, showing that the Republicans’ approval rating is still trailing the Democrats by quite a bit. Times have changed and the Republicans need to adapt to the new political landscape or else conservative legislators will be out of power for quite a while. Furthermore, Newt recognized that New York’s districts are very different from Alabama, Texas, or Wyoming. To hold on to that congressional seat, the Republicans needed someone more in tune with the district than with the Republican base at large. That’s where Dede Scozzafava comes in, a candidate with a conservative (adjective) agenda who also has some unique stances on social issues. A cookie-cutter Republican candidate won’t win.

Above all, conservatives on one side of the Republican Party need to realize that conservatives on the other side of the party are just as entitled to have opinions about the party’s agenda. One person’s definition of conservatism does not dictate what everyone must deem “conservative.” Plus, it’s not illegal to hold conservative and liberal views on different issues. Excluding people from a movement in an effort to “purify” its membership only results in weakening your voice and marginalizing your cause.

That’s my two cents. What do you think?


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