Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why "The Buckley Rule" doesn't rule the day

In the wake of Christine O'Donnell's victory in Delaware last week, there's been a lot of talk about the alleged "Buckley Rule," which in essense states that in any given contested race, the prudent thing to do is to support the "rightwardmost viable candidate" - and the key word in this discussion has been viable. Is Christine O'Donnell a viable candidate, in this case, or did the GOP blow its chance at the majority by spruning the RINO Castle?

While I understand the Buckley Rule (and even respect it; there are some conservatives out there who may be right-on regarding issues like abortion, but are utter dolts otherwise), I've always been somewhat uneasy with it. It reminds me somewhat of Ronald Reagan's so-called "11th Commandment," that being "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican." Far be it for humble me to disagree with Ronaldus Maximus, but too often this becomes a tool to bludgeon genuine disagreement and debate. Politics, by definition, is a rough, contact sport.

Anyway, back to the Buckley Rule. I tread gingerly around it, but finally Andy McCarthy, in this excellent piece, puts into words exactly what my discomfort is. Read the whole thing; here's one of the money quotes:

The nation is in the grip of post-sovereign leftists who reject the premise that the country is essentially good — that’s why, they say, it needs “fundamental change.” They are locking in their redistributionist vision by borrowing the terrifying trillions they spend. They are not worried about governing against the opposition of a lopsided majority of Americans. Unpopular is one thing; transformational is something else.

This is where the chattering Sunday-morning know-it-alls lead the GOP establishment over the cliff. To hear the pundits tell it, the highest Republican interest is control of the government. The holy grail is winning enough seats to take over the House, the Senate, and the constituent committees of both chambers. Ideological purity is secondary to wielding the levers of power.

Indeed, for the Tea Party faithful, past history is not something to be forgotten:

Control of Congress is not what inspires them. The Republicans had control of Congress when the seeds were sown for much of what now ails us: for the prescription-drug entitlement that begat Obamacare; for the auto-company bailout that begat Obama-motors; for the stimulus that begat the deluge; for the TARP that begat the very slush-fund antics TARP opponents warned against; for the McCain Amendment that begat the Mirandizing of terrorists; etc. At every turn, the GOP-controlled Congress — at the urging of weathervane RINOs and a punditocracy consumed by tactical politics at the expense of limited-government principle — was Big Government Lite. (And “lite” is used advisedly here, for it is lite only by comparison to the monstrosity to which it gave way). That President Obama has made a canyon of the hole we were in does not mean he’s wrong when he says Republican leadership drove us “into a ditch.”


The GOP establishment will either get the message or it will go the way of the failed candidates it has backed. If it had done its job, if it had undertaken to represent rather than thwart the public will, it wouldn’t now be asking itself how you get Christine O’Donnell elected. It would have found a better Christine O’Donnell.

Which is what I've been thinking all along.  A numeric majority which is not committed to change is no majority at all.  A numeric minority, speaking with a unified (or at least more unified) voice and working with a common purpose, may well result in a numeric majority that actually does change things.  And isn't that what we're really working for?  
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