The Corner

Rules for Republicans

Rush Limbaugh the other day suggested substituting the Limbaugh Rule for the Buckley Rule. WFB famously said he’d support “the rightmost viable candidate.” Rush wants to excise the “viable” part of the test–at least this year. Rush thinks that in this environment almost any conservative can get elected. Obviously, there’s a lot to that. If it’s big enough, a wave can sweep in almost anyone. In 1994, a former homeless man, Steve Stockman, defeated the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jack Brooks. Now, Stockman didn’t last long (one term) and he wasn’t exactly a credit to our cause, but in 1994 he was viable enough. As Paul Mirengoff has suggested over at Powerline, we don’t really need to throw out the Buckley rule to accommodate an extraordinary Republican year, because viability is a flexible standard that takes account of circumstances. If we really were to toss out viability from the Buckley test, we’d be compelled to make foolhardy electoral choices. Take an obvious example from last year, the beginning of the Republican wave. As Ramesh noted, Chris Christie had a primary challenger to his right last year named, Steve Lonegan. To put it politely, Lonegan is not the most deft politician. If he had won the primary, he likely would have lost the election and the teacher’s unions would still be running New Jersey. Take an example from this year. Pat Toomey had a gadfly candidate to his right in Pennsylvania named Peg Luksik. Should conservatives have flocked to her candidacy, thrown away a senate seat and trashed Pat Toomey’s career? Of course, not–Toomey was very viable and Luksik wasn’t in the least. Practical politics is not a theoretical exercise. It involves terrain, personalities, timing and a whole host of other factors, and therefore–inevitably–the exercise of discrimination and judgment. That’s why, in his wisdom, WFB gave us the “rightmost viable” standard.

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