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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Offense to Party over Principle

--posted by Tony Garcia on 6/13/2006


I have been characterizing a large part of the GOP delegation as acting in the interestes of "Party over [their] Principles". In fact, I use it to describe the group...they are the Party over Principle crowd. This is not just limited to the GOP, btw, the DFL suffers the same thing. I would argue that they have suffered more intensely than the GOP and for a much, much longer period of time than the GOP. In the case of the MN GOP it is the size of this faction that is the cause to me for speaking out against it. And quite frankly, if the DFL eats itself from within I do not care. The GOP, however, provides good candidates (but not-so-great incumbents) and a more focused, more open-minded GOP serves my ideologies better.

Recently I provided the defense of the conservatives (some of whom started a movement to stop the liberal spending habits of GOP incumbents) who are feeling more compelled to stay home in November than support the candidates whose campaign promises are akin to "Read My Lips--No New Taxes". Some people say this is akin to "taking your ball and going home". I'm not rehashing this line of discussion...go to that post and see the discussion on that.

However, another continuing theme is the idea that voting for anything besides one of the two-party candidates is selfish. It started with this post at Water Cooler Wisdom.
I've talked with so many conservative activists that say they would rather have a Democrat win and "teach the GOP a lessson" than have a moderate Republican in. If anyone can explain how that makes one iota of sense, I'd like to hear it. I see it as a completely selfish exercise. It may make you feel better, but it will be damaging to U.S. policy.

This is no different than the Dems who are trying to force out an experienced senator like Lieberman or those who say Hillary is "too moderate".
As I mentioned before either voting at all is selfish or it is not...there is no some-are and some-are-not selfish. But the idea that voting for third parties or not voting at all because you are not happy with the place you normally park your vote is selfish is, well, wrong.


I would prefer to let that thread continue on the post, but a comment by Nordeaster has caused that discussion to merge with something unaddressed by me.
I resent the party over principle argument. That doesn't hold in my case or in a lot people's case.

My principle is this. Regardless of party, one candidate will always be better for the state/country than the other even if just minutely.

I will always vote for that candidate which gives my state/country the best chance to succeed and prosper (which by my definition would almost always be the more fiscally conservative).
As I mention in the comment response, I don't mean to offend any of you personally but I hope the resentment and offense you feel by being labeled "Party over Principles" makes you take a deeper look at what factors you are putting over your own stated principles in order to justify supporting incumbent or "experienced" Republicans.

Let us use this year's gubernatorial race as a hypothetical. The ballot in this example looks like this:
...Pawlenty (R)
...Hatch (DFL)
...Jeffers (ind)
Now, once a candidate passes the test of character the next most important thing for my consideration is fiscal conservativism. Rank these three from most conservative fiscally to the least. Objectively I think most will agree the list will look like this:
1. Jeffers
2. Pawlenty
3. Hatch

So, who should I vote for? Not Hatch, his platform is not fiscally conservative. Not Pawlenty, his performance is decreasingly fiscally conservative. That leaves Jeffers.

Social issues I am probably more mixed with all three. Pro-life at point of viability...so none of the three are good for me. Gay-marriage issue is a state issue...none of the three see it that way. Gambling laws should be stricken from the books, as should the drug use laws, etc...Jeffers may be closer to my views but I do not know. You get the idea. But to me the most important thing is their character and their fiscal platform. Their principles on government are next after that. Are they a Small Government, Smaller-than-the-other-guy Government or Big Government type? I opt only for the Small Government type.

So who should I vote for?

In the case of Nordeaster, who should he vote for?

If you vote for your principles (not MY principles, but your own) then consideration of Jeffers should NOT be dismissed by any fiscal conservative. If you vote for other considerations then your principles are taking a back seat to those other considerations. That's your perrogative, but it is no less selfish than those who vote in line with their principles. But the Party over Principle is accurate. Voting for "experience" is likely worse because it is putting Careerist Politicians above your principles. And in all honesty the best first terms in Congress have come from outsiders.

If you take offense from being a part of that group...sorry, but the change needs to be your own reflection on how you prioritized the items on which you will be voting. Jeffers-Pawlenty provide a great example of this in the fiscal conservative lens. Bachmann provides a great example of this in the character matters lens. Kennedy-Shudlick provided a great example of this in many smaller lenses (e.g. integrity, process, respect). Kiffmeyer provides this in the competency lens. And before you start taking this as a GOP bashing theme I suggest you do the due diligence to understand WHY these are good examples or else be uninformed...your choice. I do support very much Johnson for AG, Anderson for Auditor and my State Rep. (My State Senator voted for the stadium and is one of the free-spending Republicans...I will not be voting for him...and in all honesty I think the DFL candidate is LESS liberal than he is.)


There are two things going on here. One, who do you vote for on the above hypothetical ballot? And why? What are your principle for a candidate and is that list exactly the same as the reasons you listed for supporting you vote? Two, is it selfish to actually vote (or not vote) as your principles dictate?

From what I am hearing, the reasons for a fiscal conservative to vote for Pawlenty are:
1. He's better than Hatch
2. He did well in the first 2 years
3. He is the incumbent/has experience already

Did I miss any? These are horrid reasons to vote for anyone.

1) 'better than so-and-so' is the Anti-so-and-so vote. NEVER, NEVER vote against something/someone. (Well, vote against a referrendum...that is the very purpose of those Yes/No questions.) Just as with the Anti-Bush crowd in 2004, you may know what you do not want in office but if you are not FOR something how do you know what you are replacing. For example, voting AGAINST Pawlenty because he is not fiscally conservative enough could lead to voting for Hatch...just to teach a lesson, just to get Pawlenty out, whatever the logic would be. But it is not FOR something and you would have no reasonable basis of expectations with your selection. It could be worse. However, being against Pawlenty and then finding someone closer to what you are expecting (Jeffers, maybe) is actually voting FOR someone and you have an expectation should you be on the winning side...an expectation that you are supporting and hoping for. So, the "better than Hatch" line is severely broken in its logic. Why should someone vote FOR Pawlenty, not vote against Hatch?

2) "He did well the first 2 years"--yeah, but what about his last 2 years? No excuses please (narrow margin in the House, blah, blah). He has the power of the veto and using that would have driven the House rightward. It is not that he had slimmer margins in the House. He actually advocated for things that he used to be against. The Health Impact Fee was to end the government shutdown. A govenment shutdown, btw, the GOP in 2005 said was a good thing and in 2006 the GOP says had to be ended. Furthermore, past performance is not a guarantee of future results...just look at Ramstad. His first term was great and he has been a disappointment since. Politics is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. Yes Pawlenty was great the first two years but he has been horrible the last two. Which is the real Pawlenty? The first 2 years when he was still licking the wounds from the Sullivan contest or the last 2 years where he was getting GOP incumbent protection and gearing up for re-election? Use the last 2 years...why should a fiscal conservative vote FOR Pawlenty.

3) Experience/incumbent--sorry, this is the WORST reason to vote for ANY candidate. This shows two things: support for career politicians over citizen representative and support for politics as usual always. Even when I was against term limits I never thought "experience" was a good reason for a candidate to be returned to office. What has he done, what will he do...that is all that should matter. Not, "he is there right now so let's keep him there." And you generally find this arguement when a party has the seat in question...it is a party-first line of thinking.


So here are the questions:
I...Why should a fiscal conservative vote FOR Pawlenty?
II...Why should a fiscal conservative not vote FOR Jeffers?
III...Is it selfish to vote for your principles?

And please, all 3 questions go hand-in-hand so answer them all.

The party faithful who think this is just a GOP Bashing posting should stop that knee from jerking. Answer honestly. In all seriousness the strength of your party used to come from taking on these questions honestly and openly. So take these on thoughtfully, openly, honestly and without assuming I am bashing/trying to tear down the GOP.

********** UPDATE **********
Nordeaster replied to the aforementioned post before I was able to get this one completed. His words, again, show the level of thought that should be had in this kind of discussion (so, Swiftee may not be allowed to participate--thoughtful guy, I'm sure, but his discourse lacks thought).
I enjoy this debate. I think it is an important one with some very strong and valid feelings on either side. If you would like I would be happy to engage in the discussion on your show.

You are correct. If polling for Jeffers was close, then of course I would consider her. I'm not sure it's a given that she's a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, but assuming so, then yes she becomes valid candidate.

I would differ and argue that electability is extremely important. It doesn't matter one bit how conservative your candidate is if they don't hold office. No office, no conservativism. Period.

I guess that's the key to our differnce. I would take 30% or 50% of something rather than 80% or 100% of nothing. Others, like yourself may not be willing to make that compromise.

I would sum it up this way. I will always support the most conservative candidate that realistically could win. In a very red district, that means holding the line for a true privatize public schools, repeal the 16th type conservative. In San Francisco it may mean supporting a Feinstein if the alternative is a Pelosi or Boxer.
He admits and accepts the reasoning behind his decisions. He acknowledges the conflict (having to sacrifice as much as 70% of his positions in order to get 30%).

I have learned two things this past year that complicate my voting. One, conservative candidates are not always of character. That makes "always voting for the most conservative" a not so written in stone mantra for me anymore. So, character test...and then I vote for the most conservative candidate who passed the character test. Two, with very few exceptions you will get 30% from any candidate. When it comes down to it you will rarely find a candidate where you can expect more than 70% agreement when you look at the votes made. The idea that compromising your own positions for the electibility of a candidate is not as strongly needed as many perceive. Also, if you vote for fiscal conservatives and lose elections the spending and its harms will be seen. Hard to undo? Not really. Why aren't the spending policies and social programs undone now? Because there are not fiscal conservatives, but slick talkers more concerned about re-election instead of fiscal conservativism.

I see I'm going to have to do a different post on this topic.


Blogger Nordeaster said...

I really do like this discussion. I hope we're not beating a dead horse, but I think this may be the single most important issue facing Minnesota conservatives regarding the upcoming election.

So here are the questions:

I...Why should a fiscal conservative vote FOR Pawlenty?

He is the most conservative candidate with a realistic chance of winning.

II...Why should a fiscal conservative not vote FOR Jeffers?

See #1 - She has no realistic chance of winning.

Can you say war chest? Name recognition outside the metro? Political campaign infrastructure?

No, having those things are not reasons to support a candidate, but not having them are reasons not to if they add up to 10% at the polls.

III...Is it selfish to vote for your principles?

Your question is somewhat leading. My position is based on conservative principle every bit as much as yours.

By definition someone's vote is usually both selfish and unselfish. Selfish in the sense that you are voting the way YOU believe is best. Unselfish in the sense that you genuinely believe those principles the candidate you vote for will be better for the majority of others as well.

If you waste your support/vote on a candidate that has no shot or if you just stay home, then the first part applies. However the 2nd does not because you allow a candidate victory that moves society even farther away from the principles which you so strongly believe are better for everyone else, not closer.

Ask a tree hugging Bush hating Floridian who voted for Nader in 2000 if they would like to take that vote back. As one who stayed home if they wish they didn't.

June 14, 2006  
Blogger Nordeaster said...

When I have made comments on this topic before, I didn't use the word "selfish". Instead, I quoted Dennis Prager and used the phrase "masturbatory excercise". An act that feels good, but society gains virtually nothing from it. Perhaps that is a more precise way of wording it.

June 14, 2006  
Blogger Tony Garcia said...

"Selfish" came from your original posting.

June 14, 2006  

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