One thing political parties and partisans seem never to learn: the purer you are, the more you lose.
The divisions of Red and Green parties in ancient Rome, where heads literally rolled, have manifested themselves in the blog beheadings by the two greatest proponents of purity in American politics today: the “progressive” left of the Democratic Party and the “purifier” forces in the Republican Party. So far, the great achievements of these two forces has been two-fold: the Progressives have been able to help President Obama’s approval ratings tank; and, the Republican purists have been able to facilitate the Republican loss of the 23rd House District of New York and help push Sen. Arlen Specter over to the Democratic Party. But, MoveOn.org and the Club for Growth have so much more work to do. After all, the theological nature of these two groups demands that they drive out apostasy even if it means that they defeat the very policies they purport to support.
For a tidy case in point, check out this urgent article on the need for Massachusetts progressives to defeat Coakley:
It is very important that progressives help defeat Coakley. Please read my explanation. The more power the folks in the Democratic Corporate Suck Up wing of the party gain, the more we will have to fight to make the party move to the left. I do not think that many progressive Democrats understand that putting such people as Coakley into power is worse than having a Republican in the seat. Just being in the Democratic Party does not and will not ensure a progressive agenda. Do you not see that? So, if you get her into the seat, what makes you think she will be any better than Lincoln, or Nelson, or Lieberman! It will, in fact, ensure that there will be NO progressive agenda. It was not the Republicans who failed us of late. It was the Democrats. We will never succeed as long as the Dem’s can talk liberal and vote corporate.
One lesson I learned by observation was that when politics becomes an all or nothing game, you are bound to get nothing. At the same time, look at Ron Paul. He ran a very ideologically pure campaign, and sparked great interest. Maybe not votes in the primaries, but a real following, and a development of his ideas. Barry Goldwater didn't win in 1964, but he set the stage. Etc. If some of Paul's bills advance and are passed, that marks a win for purity. For now...
In my own case, I consider myself a fairly radical libertarian. This may shock some of the folks who declined to back my campaign in 2006 on the basis of my running as a moderate Libertarian. That was my campaign strategy. All or nothing? I wasn't in it for nothing.
I also learned a lot from observing Ted Kennedy. He never came out and declared himself a socialist, although I believe that is exactly what he was. He always called for ever more incremental movements in his direction. Damned if he really didn't take tremendous gains over the life of his Senate career.
Going back to the Frum article, there are a few things I take issue with. Calling Ronald Reagan a libertarian? Check his war record as President and then get back to me. (Oh, was I being too pure there?) Then this:
If we were to scratch most of the Tea Party protesters, we would probably find just as many libertarians as social conservatives, if not more. Indeed, the battle within the GOP won't be among so-called moderates, social conservatives, and populists. The real battle will be between the pro-Ayn Rand Club for Growth (which supports the right of any banker in New York City to make any amount of money he or she can) and the populist Tea Party gang (which wants to hang every banker in New York City). The present marriage of convenience between these two forces cannot last. Can one imagine a true Tea Party member supporting the right of Goldman Sachs' employees to make as much money as they can, regardless of the consequences to society? Or the Club for Growth insisting that their members absolutely condemn abortion in any circumstance?
It's a lot grayer than that. I reckon there are a lot of Tea Party folks who don't care how much bankers make, but care deeply about how much money Congress throws to the banks. They surely do react to the bonuses that come out of public largess, but if those bonuses were private money, many (most?) wouldn't fuss a whit. Also, many of the staunchest anti-abortion social conservatives reserve judgment on abortion in the cases of rape and incest.
The bulk of the article rings true to me, but sadly. The sad thing really, is that it points to more of this Bush-Obama morph, running to the center on no ideology at all, but the mere expedience of the moment which consists little more than of sticking one's finger in the air to see which way the wind blows. That ain't leadership. Look at what it's doing to us with this corporatist war-state.
(Big h/t to Wainstead!)