The Specter of Moderation

In all the hubbub surrounding the defection of Senator Specter to the Democrats, it behooves one to cut through the

In all the hubbub surrounding the defection of Senator Specter to the Democrats, it behooves one to cut through the rhetoric and view this act of opportunism for what it is. "Brave" one correspondent to The Times called. Right; joining a majority requires unparalleled courage. "The Right Wing drove him away", some harumph. Uh, didn’t that self-same "right wing" – to the extent that any part of George Bush was "right wing" – pull out all the stops to get him reelected over a conservative? "Social issues" did it? ‘Zat so? Specter himself said his (inexcusable) vote to borrow $800+ billion to bloat government created an irreconcilable split.

In short, everything you’ve read – except that Specter is a self-serving egotist – is wrong.

Susan Collins – another of the three "Republicans" who supported the intergenational theft – opined that the GOP didn’t have to lose Specter, had "we" only been more tolerant of "moderates". Poor baby!! How dare others disagree with her and have the unmitigated gall to present an alternative to the Party electorate.

"Moderate". Long have I searched for a definition for that word, without success. As respects The Times, a "moderate" is anyone who supports unrestricted partial birth abortion upon demand for sex selection purposes at public expense for pregnant minors without telling their parents, leading to the patently silly characterization of folks like Chris Smith or Bob Casey as "conservatives".

But given that Specter’s defection, and the votes of Collins and the other Maine Bobbsey Twin, Olympia Snowe, had nothing whatsoever to do with social issues, one needs to ask: what is the least bit "moderate" about perpetual trillion dollar deficits? About multi-hundred billion dollar bailouts for irresponsible financial institutions? About nationalizing auto manufacturers and the entire health care system?

At base, the only definition of "moderate" that suffices is: "one who is dependably wrong at least half the time".

The Ledger laments – presumably tongue in cheek – the increasing "irrelevance" of the GOP. The country requires, that august publication contends, "a vibrant opposition party".

Well, why, precisely? If, after all, Obama’s got it right – that unceasing trillion deficits, gargantuan tax hikes, huge spending increases, nationalization of … just about everything (and massive regulation of the rest) constitutes good policy – why does an advocate for such policies, like the Ledger, bemoan the apparent "irrelevance" of a Party which disagrees with that agenda?

Or, put differently, if the people reject free markets, low taxes, small government, personal freedom, and individual responsibility, how might a Party devoted to these principles hope to be "relevant"?

What might the GOP do to attract "moderates"? Since the issues presented are economic, should Republicans become almost as irresponsible as Democrats, willing to run (say) $750 billion deficits in perpetuity rather than Obama’s $1 trillion plus? Should we advocate "spreading the wealth" around, but not quite so much? Should we support (say) 10% less pork than the Dems? Would that make "moderates" flock to our Party?

We tried something similar for the last eight years, when the GOP acted just a little bit less irresponsibly than Democrats. How’d that play out at the ballot box?

The Democrats have a very simple – and very effective – electoral strategy: buy the votes of a substantial number of voters with other people’s money. It’s precisely akin to the Wall Street bonus programs: reap rewards for a short-term strategy at the expense of long-term growth, stability and prosperity. Leftist programs inevitably destroy the economy; just look at what they’ve done to NJ and Europe. But by the time the full consequences hit, the architects are usually long gone, leaving their kids to clean up the mess they created. And the beneficiaries, like drug addicts, rarely see – or care about – the damage they are doing; they just want the smack to keep flowing.

There exists a fundamental difference between being unpopular and being wrong. (Abolitionists, for instance, were almost universally reviled.) Why should a Party desire power for its own sake, at the expense of its principles? Are not elections supposed to be about something? If the only way for Republicans to become more "relevant" and attract more "moderates" is to adopt the same idiotic policies the Democrats already espouse, why not just become Democrats, like Specter? If the Ledger wants a vibrant opposition Party, isn’t it helpful for that Party to actually oppose the other’s policies?

Conservatives believe that government should be small, taxes low, spending modest, regulations few, borrowing restricted, freedom maximized, and responsibility expected. These principles are either (philosophically and empirically) right or wrong; whether they are popular or not is besides the point. Politicians, akin to physicians, are not hired to pander – to tell you want you want to hear – but to tell hard truths – to explain what you need to hear. If the people refuse to listen to inconvenient truths, they ultimately bear the consequences of following snake oil salesmen rather than physicians.

Just as a doctor can’t make his patients eat right, quit smoking, lose weight, and exercise – in short, take responsibility for their own health – conservatives can’t compel the people to accept their pro-freedom philosophy. But popular rejection does not make that advice any less correct.

So, again: which economic principles should the GOP abjure to attract "moderates"? Given that the three "moderates" in the GOP sided with the far left on the spending programs which caused the Specter schism, what makes the Ledger believe that a Party friendlier to their viewpoints would "oppose" at all?

It’s not that conservatives relish losing, or would rather be right than win, it’s that if you’re not right – and if nothing will change, regardless of who wins – why bother holding elections at all? Bush proved – in spades – that electing a liberal Republican is problematic in the extreme. And if the parties are so closely aligned that many folks are as comfortable in one as in the other, why bother having parties at all? They are, after all, political organizations, not social clubs.

Liberals, right now, have the more popular agenda, because the people, afraid, want government to do something. They’re getting what they voted for, Big Time. If the left is correct, that their programs can produce freedom and prosperity, they deserve to win and conservatives should be irrelevant. But if they’re wrong – and those policies have failed everywhere they’ve been tried – we may be discussing, a few years hence, how a party with 60 Senate seats so recently could be such an irrelevant rump.

And Specter, or his equivalents, will be banging on the GOP door, begging to get back in. The Specter of Moderation