January 10, 2010

Inclusiveness Shouldn't Require Us to Let You Govern by Your Principles in Our Name

Justin Katz

Even apart from the much-deserved attention to Rhode Island Republican Assembly President Ray McKay, Ed Fitzpatrick's recent column on intra-party debates is worth consideration:

... I'm reminded of a documentary that debuted at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in August. HouseQuake documented the Democratic Party's takeover of the House in the 2006 midterm elections, showing that Democrats ran candidates with conservative views on issues such as abortion, gun control and gay rights.

In the film, Rahm Emanuel, who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 and is now President Obama's chief of staff, said he didn’t care about ideology — he only cared about picking up 15 House seats.

So, for the Democrat takeover, voters in certain regions elected conservatives and ended up with far-left leaders in the most powerful positions. If one applies a mirror-image principle, as Republican "moderates" would seem to encourage, then Northeastern conservatives should vote for local liberals within their party in order to ensure that real conservatives at the national level have the opportunity to govern. I'm not sure the mirror image applies, though.

Conservatism and liberalism are fundamentally different in their alignment with power. Liberals think government should control just about everything, so getting the levers of power in the hands of their allies is, in fact, the goal. Conservatives don't believe most of those levers should exist in the first place. Getting them into the hands of heretofore conservative politicians results in a coin toss as to whether that particular elected official will turn the machine off or become corrupted by it. The evidence of the Aughts — which saw a massive expansion of government that only appears modest by comparison to what's happened since the Democrats took total control — suggests that the latter tendency will ultimately prevail.

No, conservatism requires a long-term project of persuasion. We have to stop the downward slide as much as possible, but we'll ultimately fail unless we build up an understanding of the proper roles of government from the bottom up. Pragmatism in local politics, of the scale that Rhode Island liberals like Chafee and Avedisian suggest, is therefore counterproductive.

The same approach applies to the question of "to social issue, or not to social issue":

Avedisian said social issues are not the most pressing concern right now. With the state unemployment rate at 12.7 percent, Rhode Islanders want to hear about "building jobs here in Rhode Island and building an economy that will encourage people to stay here after college," he said.

To the extent that the electorate will prove to consist of single-issue voters on the economy, why should the Republican Party allow the liberal side to slip in an uninterrupted win on social issues, in the meantime, rather than counterbalance that inclination or even slip in a conservative win or two? If the economy really is "the most pressing concern," why wouldn't a liberal like Avedisian compromise on social issues in order to maintain the historically conservative base of Republican support? And if the concern is that the Democrats will run on a fiscally conservative, socially moderate, platform, then what can the RIGOP offer in opposition beyond than the opportunity to pursue the same policies from an ineffectual minority position?

I've enunciated my view on these things before: The economy is certainly the most pressing issue, but that doesn't mean that it's the most profound or important for the long-term health of our state and nation. Indeed, the economy is mechanical, meaning that the correct policies will yield a recovery. There's a delay, to be sure, especially in a state that has a lot of work to do to overcome a record of false starts, but economic policy operates more like a switch than does social policy, for which the metaphor of a barrier against erosion is more appropriate.

That is to say that ceasing to state the case on social issues in order to concentrate on the economy is to engage in battle at the gate only to find the thing worth fighting for stolen through the window.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

The whole "economy" over all is a ruse by liberal Republicans (RINO's) to make conservatives focus on their right hand while their left hand cedes social issues to the liberal Democrats (because they agree with the Democrats).

Grover Norquist in his book "Leave Us Alone" is a proponent of this ruse.

Of course, the whole construct is a sham. One can't be "fiscally conservative" or "fiscally responsible" while at the same time supporting things such as "comprehensive immigration reform" (adding tens of millions to the welfare rolls via direct amnesty and "family reunification") and expansions of the welfare state for citizens ("medicare drug benefit").

The RINO's are neither fiscally conservative (e.g., Avedesian in RI) nor socially conservative. They're Democrats working to hobble the GOP from within.

The RINO's need to be purged from the GOP, otherwise it'll remain "Democrat Lite."

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at January 10, 2010 12:11 PM

Well said, Ragin'.

Posted by: MadMom at January 10, 2010 12:15 PM

and somebody please tell Gio that we do not need to be educated about closed primaries. He might need to educate the left so they can be sure to sign up in time to vote in the GOP primary, but the true Republicans don't need any education.

Posted by: gina at January 10, 2010 1:28 PM

Thanks MadMom.

BTW, I neglected to mention that Republicans cannot claim to be fiscally conservative / fiscally responsible if they support (or are supported by) public sector unions (not to be confused with private sector unions, for members of those unions are being just as exploited by their public sector "union brothers and sisters" as the rest of us).

As we've seen in California, New York, New Jersey and of course Rhode Island, the interests of public sector unions are inimical to those of the general public, for they don't stop at reasonable compensation, but hijack the political process and then proceed to bleed the taxpayers, ultimately resulting in state / municipal fiscal crisis caused by a declining tax base as private sector companies are forced to leave (taking jobs with them, hurting private sector union and non-union workers alike).

Therefore "Republicans" like Avedesian and Savage, who are public sector union rump-swabs, are working against the interests of the average citizen.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at January 10, 2010 1:47 PM

Just watch the next election cycle in RI. If Laffey is not in the race, the debate will never reach the level to which it should be - squarely on the economic and fiscal condition of the State. The remaining candidates, all ill-equipped to discuss the state's finances; lacking the necessary courage to offer viable solutions that may affect their union life-support mechanism; and with much of the state's red ink all over their hands, will do all they can, with the help of the media, to keep the debate on gay marriage, abortion and the war on terror (or as Chafee would call it, "overseas contingency operations").

Though these issues have little-to-no bearing on the quality of life of ALL Rhode Islanders, the election will be about anything BUT solutions for solving the state's dismal condition in all areas fiscal and economic.

So I say, ALL social issues are luxury items until the state is fixed. When RI ranks in the top ten for standard of living, jobs, low taxes and education, THEN lets talk about these other things.

Posted by: George at January 10, 2010 4:50 PM

Fine, George. I'll sign on, provided the state's liberals do, too. The point is that the economy is not the number 1 issue for many of the people who think the GOP should disown conservatives.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 10, 2010 5:11 PM

On a slightly separate note, Fitzpatrick's column on Sunday has me un-nerved. Apparently John Robataille is actually giving serious thought to running for governor. Governor.

And since I doubt that anyone John talks to is going to tell him what he needs to hear (i.e. the truth) allow me. John, if you're reading this, don't run. You can't win. You're an extension of a governor who has run his course with the public. Remember Clinton fatigue? Well, RI's got Carcieri fatigue. And you've got no shot.

Your entering into this race may derail the GOP's only chance at preventing someone like Patrick "Party Boy" Lynch or Lincoln Liberal Chafee from running this state further into the ground.

You're not qualified to be governor. You're a small business owner and to be sure a nice guy, but you're not gubernatorial material.

This election is going to be won on who can prove that they have the chops to get to the bottom of the state's serious fiscal problems. Have you ever dealt with union contracts? How about managing a pension program? What about reading the tea leaves of the market?

Yours is a classic case of Rhode Islanditis Politiclassist. That is, you've spent so much time in the phonebooth that is the RIGOP and on Smith Hill surrounded by mediocrity that you actually think you have what it takes.

Someone, John, needs to be honest with you. I voted for Chafee in 2006 - both in the primary and in the general - but there's only one person out there that has proven himself in the private and public sector that can turn this state around. I think we know who that person is.

Move aside. The RIGOP doesn't need another dirty primary dashing the hopes of actually making a difference in this state.

You know you can't turn this state around. You know you'd be in over your head. It was a novel idea. Now let it go.

Posted by: jim at January 10, 2010 6:00 PM

Justin, point well taken. But the economy IS the number 1 reason the GOP needs to purge the party of its liberals - fiscal, social, or what-have-you.

Posted by: George at January 10, 2010 7:20 PM

Justin, Ragin RIer, George, and everyone else who has posted on this subject is spot on in this thread. Excellent post by Justin and great comments by the posters.

Maybe Monique Chartier will apologize for defending this public sector union pupppet? Marc Comtois, do the property tax increases bother you at all?

Ragin nailed the point about the economy being a ruse. Let's take a look at Scotty boy in Warwick. What on earth would make anyone think that he and his friends are qualified to support policies that will help create jobs?

We're talking about a guy who raises property taxes in Warwick every year by the maximum ammount he can get away with, always takes a negative, pessimistic attitude whenever the city council brings up the issue of spending cuts, and gets enormous support from the public sector unions whom he's supposed to be protecting taxapayers from! And he opposes airport expansion, which creates jobs and is an economic engine to boot!

I now see that people are on to him, which is why he's terrified about a closed primary.

Posted by: Robespierre at January 10, 2010 8:43 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.