Party Principles

by James S. Robbins

Rod, if you want a party that is all about principle, I suggest you check out the Libertarian Party, or the Green Party. Maybe the GOP could one day be as powerful as they are. This situation is not an either-or by any means. Principle is only one aspect of the party, it is certainly not the only thing. Personality is definitely a factor. So is political reality. Anyway principles vary across the GOP spectrum. A successful umbrella party has to make compromises to appeal to the greatest number of voters. Otherwise it won’t accomplish anything because it won’t have the votes. Making what are political issues into arguments about principle only helps those who oppose both your politics and your principles. Perhaps the GOP is in a no-win situation right now — a long way from a few weeks back, eh? — but to an extent the party can blame itself by having a public meltdown. If the GOP Senate majority was 10 seats, by all means, let’s throw people to the wolves for their mistakes. But with margins so slim, it strikes me as a bit of a luxury. Anyway, I even reject your premise that if Lott remained as majority leader the GOP would roll on important issues, for several reasons. First, this all-consuming issue will go away by the end of the holiday news cycle. Second, Lott’s constituents seem to like his approach, so why should he suddenly become a liberal? Third, Lott does not equal the Senate, there are plenty of Republicans who can support good causes. Other things to consider — will the Dems let up on the next guy if Lott is ousted? Not likely –and with the precedent set that a leader can be taken down for a stupid remark that does not reflect his beliefs, the vetting process will become even more arcane. When you get down to it, the principle involved should be that laid down by the sainted John P. Roche, veteran of many a political knife fight, namely, “Don’t put out bread and salt for your enemies.” But it’s way too late for that now.

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