WASHINGTON — As conservative activist groups stirred up trouble for establishment Republican Senate candidates in 2010 and 2012, party leaders in Washington first tried to ignore the insurgents, then tried to reason with them, and ultimately left it to primary voters to settle the matter.
But after several of those conservatives — in Nevada, Colorado and Delaware in 2010 and in Indiana and Missouri in 2012 — managed to win their primaries but lose in the general election, party leaders felt stung by what they saw as avoidable defeats.
This election season, Republicans led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are taking a much harder line as they sense the majority within reach. Top congressional Republicans and their allies are challenging the advocacy groups head on in an aggressive effort to undermine their credibility. The goal is to deny them any Senate primary victories, cut into their fund-raising and diminish them as a future force in Republican politics.
“I think we are going to crush them everywhere,” Mr. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said in an interview, referring to the network of activist organizations working against him and two Republican incumbents in Kansas and Mississippi while engaging in a handful of other contests. “I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”
Ace recently had a long piece decrying the nasty tone of argumentation between the various factions on the right. He doesn’t like being called a RINO, for instance, and he hates being considered insufficiently conservative, and has come to believe that the “conservativeness” of positions is something he should no longer consider.
Arguments about ideology and tactics are not exactly pleasant, but there is, at least, a small bit of detachment from them, on a personal level. If I argue with a commenter about X position, the fight could get edgy and hot, but at least we’re arguing about something other than one another’s personal value.
Once something gets personal, forget about it.
So here’s the deal: It’s fairly difficult to hold any sort of dialogue with an opponent whose stated position is, “We’re going to crush you.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that position, because it is exactly the position I hold regrarding all the statists and leftists in both factions of the Ruling Party: I don’t want to convince you, because in my opinion, you cannot be convinced. So all I’m trying to do now is crush you, you damned Dirty RINOs and filthy Marxists. You are never going to be my friends, because your goals and desires – and your destructive history toward my most precious liberties – are untterly inmical to everything I believe in and stand for.
So calling a RINO a spade, and then burying him with it, doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Statists in sheep’s clothing are still statists, and they are even worse enemies than open statists, because they pretend to a friendship they don’t actually hold, a tactic that makes their incessant betrayals even more insufferable.
Ace then goes on to say:
That is, rather than discuss the actual issue, we tend to simply categorize the position — “RINO,” “buying into the left’s premises,” “crazy,” etc. — and let the categorization do our arguing for us.
But this isn’t an especially useful way to discuss things, just tossing disparaging labels at each other or each other’s positions.
I’ve given up, personally, deciding what position I support based on how “conservative” it’s alleged to be, or not to be.
And I think this confuses argumentative tactics with principle.
My principles are grounded solidly on the foundations of individual liberty prescribed and guaranteed by the original Constitution, not the mongrelized progressive mess it has become post 1900.
I don’t look to how “conservative” my positions are. I look to see how closely they invigorate and advance the principle of individual liberty. That, and only that, is my touchstone. I may make tradeoffs between one liberty or another, but not between my desire to advance individual liberty within a constitutional context as much as possible.
So by my lights, calling some liberty-hating statist a RINO is a mild pejorative. If I were honest, I’d be calling him a filthy, murderous tyrant, differing only in some degree from Hitler, Mao, or Stalin. And I would vow to crush him and his evil positions, just as they are vowing to do to me and others like me.
People like Mitch McConnell, for instance. And those who enable him, and batten off him, even as he does his best to destroy everything I believe in.
In short, I think Ace errs in the metrics he now uses to vet his own positions. Since he can’t even define conservatism, (no one can – and no, it’s not “standing athwart history, yelling stop”), why on earth would he try to usethait to decide the value of his own positions?
There is a lot for a supporter of individual liberty to dislike about certain brands of conservativism, just as there is even more to dislike about the Marxist brand of leftism. But I find it easy to evaluate the goals of both: Do they advance the cause of individual liberty? If so, you’re likely to find me supporting it. No? Then I’ll likely be opposing it.
“Conservatism” and “liberalism” aren’t principles or positions, they are flaccid and vague attempts at description. Frankly, anything mushy enough to claim to describe both Ron Paul and John McCain has to be considered fatally flawed.
Ground your approach on the principle of individual liberty, or, if not, then on the principle of state superiority to the individual in all things. Do that, and then we’ll all at least know where we stand. And the name-calling will mean a hell of a lot less.