DeMint illustrates in his argument many of the problems with the conservative base today.
By Micah Hanks
During a colorful appearance on MSNBC’s Today, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint recently addressed people’s concerns over whether Tea Party Republican candidates might be too-conservative.
When asked whether his Tea Party endorsements, such as Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell, might actually hurt his party by introducing “unelectable candidates” into the general election, DeMint countered that, “These trivial political labels don’t mean as much right now, when we’re fighting for the survival versus the bankruptcy of our country.”
DeMint, who has largely favored Tea Party candidates in primary elections this year, also pointed to Florida’s Senate candidate Marco Rubio, as well as Kentucky’s Rand Paul as evidence for the Tea Party movement’s success this year in bolstering the conservative base (it could be noted in the latter of these two instances that Paul, a Tea Party-backed Kentucky Senate candidate, is shown nearly tied with his opponent, Jack Conway, in some polls).
DeMint’s philosophy illustrated here somewhat conflicts with that of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who argued on his program on Tuesday about “The Buckley Rule,” that is, the late William F. Buckley’s observation that conservatives should vote for the rightward-most candidate in an election. Limbaugh instead proposed replacing it with his own “Limbaugh rule”:
Here’s the Limbaugh Rule: In an election year when voters are fed up with liberalism and socialism, when voters are clearly frightened of where the hell the country is headed, vote for the most conservative Republican in the primary, period.
Minneapolis attorney Scott W. Johnson later commented at the Powerline blog that Limbaugh’s assessment seems “lacking on its own terms as well as in terms of the prudence one should ordinarily apply to matters of practical politics. Among other things, the Limbaugh Rule does not take account of the advantages of majority status in the Senate.” But where does all this leave us? Should we renounce Tea Party candidates, even if they are more conservative than mainstream “establishment” candidates, in favor of electing a “conservative” Republican… when what we may get in the end simply may not be the most conservative candidate? Arizona Senator John McCain, for instance, after going easy on immigration issues and liberalizing his base somewhat in a general election square-off against Barack Obama in 2008, now has argued strongly for a National Guard presence along Arizona’s border, quoted on camera in a political ad saying “complete the danged fence!” McCain’s sudden about-face was described to National Review by University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, who said, “He was willing to turn 180 degrees on immigration and the maverick label.”
Perhaps if more politicians, like Jim DeMint, were willing to set aside party cheer-leading, and instead favor the candidates whose ideals and principles were the most clear-cut, Americans would be more likely to elect these people too, rather than feeling as though they were always forced to choose between the lesser of two evils.
Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.