Take a look at the comments responding to Ed Morrissey’s post asking whether Ann Coulter jumped the shark when she said she’d be campaigning for Hillary if McCain is nominated. They prove—as if we needed any proof—that the conservative base can be just as emotional, doctrinaire, rigid, deluded, selfish, and self-immolating as any liberal ever was.
Not every comment falls into those categories, of course. There’s a heated back-and forth between those who suffer from McCain Derangement Syndrome and those who are cautioning pragmatism. But there are enough examples of that first group to give one pause.
It’s not that I think they must like McCain; I understand it if they don’t. And it’s not even that I think they have to vote for him if nominated by their party. Nor is it just that they are seriously out of touch with political reality in this country, although that’s certainly part of it.
It’s that they have elevated party purity above considerations of the good of the country. In the end, not only is this bad for the country, but I think it’s bad for the Republican Party.
Many of the commenters on that thread have forgotten the Law of Thirds. What’s the Law of Thirds? I made it up, and described it here. The following is a short recap:
[M]y law refers to the fact that the populace of the US seems to be divided roughly into thirds, at least in the political sense: one-third on the entrenched left, one-third on the entrenched right, and one-third in between….Anyone from either radical third who thinks the American people will be happy to give his/her third a permanent ascendance in American political life is quite wrong, IMHO, and that person will be soundly rejected by said American people if he/she arrogantly and openly displays the hubris of thinking so…
The McCain-hating commenters on the Captain’s Quarters thread not only are making this error, but they are willing to throw over the good of the country and all the gains made in Iraq in order to set up some sort of backlash to a Democratic administration, a corrective reaction that they believe will finally lead to the election of a true conservative. The logic—if you can call it that—is to allow the nation to hit rock bottom, somewhat like an alcoholic, in order to finally see that its true salvation lies in electing a conservative purist.
Here’s a sampler of the sort of comments I’m talking about:
McCain is no different than Hillary other than the (R) after his name. I too will likely vote for Hillary because if someone is going to create a Nanny state with government programs and destroy the economy – I WANT it to be a democrat.
I can explain to you why I will sit out or even vote democrat instead of vote for John McCain. Because, at least in the end, when we get everything that a liberal piece of garbage will give to the USA, Americans will know who to blame and finally vote Republican.
This one’s the worst, in a way:
If America is to go to hell in a hand basket , at least let it be under the watch of a Democrat. With Hillary we’d manage to get the House and Senate back.
Remember: It took four years of Carter to give us a Reagan. (It was worth it)
Let that sink in: Carter was worth it, to get to Reagan. This not only supposes that Reagan could not have been elected but for the Carter years (a supposition I’m not at all sure is correct, because Reagan had his own strong appeal that was not primarily about policy but that transcended politics and was personality-driven), it also supposes that whatever Reagan did was important enough that it canceled out the damage done by Carter.
This ignores Carter’s disastrous Iran policy, to take just one example. It can be argued that Carter’s incompetence was instrumental in creating the present-day threat from Iran, which has been a worldwide state sponsor of terrorism for many years.
It’s also a tremendous gamble, with many assumptions that are both untestable and highly suspect. Those who think McCain will be as bad for the war in Iraq as Hillary or Obama, for example, simply haven’t been listening. And those who think the nation will be outraged enough at whatever Hillary or Obama does to inevitably vote a conservative Republican into the Presidency are not paying attention to the makeup of this country.
Extreme candidates on either side do not do well in general elections. But extremists think their side is so clearly right (and this applies to extremists on the Left, as well) that the electorate needs only the proper lesson to get it to see the light and finally vote them into power, where they should have been all along.
Well, tell it to Newt Gingrich. His day in the sun was short-lived, although some commenters at Captain’s Quarters consider it the conservatives’ finest hour next to Reagan’s election. A truly conservative candidate would probably fare much as Goldwater did in 1964. Reagan’s election may have been one of the worst things to ever happen to true conservatives in terms of hubris; it convinced them that the shift to conservatism was going to be a permanent fixture of American life, and when it has not turned out that way they became hopping mad.
Hopping mad, and with a sense of entitlement. Like Horton the Elephant, they want their patience rewarded: it should be, it should be, it should be like that. But the election of a truly conservative President as a reaction to a Hillary or Obama in the White House is almost as unlikely as the birth of Horton’s elephant-bird. Certainly, it cannot be counted on.
Here’s a conservative commenter at Captain’s Quarters who seems to have some sense:
The anti-McCains…remind me of the Air America folks who can’t comprehend their poor listenership… and demand that something be done to balance the airwaves…If you trust free markets, trust the voters…
And there’s this one:
As a tried and true military conservative, this hyper-emotional whine from “conservatives” regarding McCain is manic and highly aggravating. This kind of crap I can understand from liberals but makes me want to slap the s**t out of you people that call yourselves conservative. Get over it. McCain may not be perfect, but neither was Reagan for those of you with short memories. McCain is going to be our nominee and unless we want one-party liberal rule with a super majority, we had better get behind McCain with full force and determination.
If you think McCain is unhealthy for the conservative movement, what in Sam Hill do you think Obama/Clinton will do? If they unilaterally pull troops, the effects upon us will be devastating and damn near irrevocable. If they institute socialized health care, we will have all the success turning it back that we’ve had with Social Security and welfare. If they put two or three more judges on the Supreme bench, we continue to abort four million children a year. Do you want the flu or the cancer? For the love of God and country, take the damn medicine and vote for McCain!
Conservatives who are young remember the Reagan years and forget they were unusual. Look at the previous Congresses, and even the Presidents since FDR—from 1932 to Reagan’s election in 1980 (forty-eight years) there were two terms of Nixon/Ford and two of Eisenhower, both hardly true conservatives. That’s it. The rest, all Democrats.
Candidates don’t win by ideological purity. That’s a delusion to which the extreme wings of both parties are subject.
But it turns out that for some, it’s not even about winning. It’s about party purification, about who owns the soul of the Republican Party.
It reminds me of the Biblical wandering in the desert. Forty years of that, and the Jews were ready to enter the Promised Land. In this case, the Promised Land is the land of true conservatism:
My feeling is that if McCain gets his ass kicked by his own party, it will give the remaining republican prospects for the future something to think about as far as sticking with their party on political issues. They have to know that a ‘Maverick’ will NEVER get elected president. It will also give those goofy ass RINO’s a clue to wander back to the democrat party where they belong and still support.
John McCain has given his party the finger to his own party for years, this year he gets it back from me.
Ah, now there’s the grownup serious attitude conservatives pride themselves on! Here’s another example:
I’m a lifelong Republican — voted Republican from Nixon through both Bush 43 terms, and I had decided before Ann even said it that I will vote for EITHER Democrat to keep McCain out of power under a hijacked banner that happens to belong to us conservatives.
I guess we’re finding out who the REAL conservatives are.
Yes, it’s a line in the sand, folks. Who are the real conservatives? The ones who will vote for Hillary or Obama rather than McCain—who gets a much higher rating as a conservative than either of them, by the way? Sounds like a looking-glass world to me.
The purists have forgotten, of course, that hero Reagan was no purist either:
Reagan is dead. He was unique. As far as your eyes can see and cannot see, there is no 2nd Reagan.
By the way, Reagan raised taxes after he cut them, Reagan granted amnesty to illegals, Reagan withdrew from Beirut without a fight after the barracks were bombed.
Well, I’m with this commenter:
Better our nation suffer so the Republican party can rediscover itself? Are you people serious? You put the party before your country. The same country young men and women are fight in Iraq for? This is exactly how bin Laden and his ilk think, their movement over everything else. Well I for one will vote for the person I feel will do the best for our country, the country I love. I refuse to sit back and hope it fails in the hope it will strengthen my party. You people are just as sickening as Democrats that hope we lose in Iraq.
There truly is something sickening about this reification of party purity over all. It’s a sort of fanaticism that doesn’t appeal to me whatever side it may be found on.
[NOTE: The Anchoress agrees.]