I think I am about as outraged by the recent actions of the Maine Legislature as anyone.
In particular, I am extremely disappointed that lawmakers — certain Republicans –surrendered to the siren’s song and decided to take the easy path by raising taxes on Maine families.
LePage was right to veto the budget. It was a bad “compromise” crafted by people too eager to abdicate their responsibility to confront the difficult realities inherent in their jobs. In overriding the governor’s veto, a shocking number in the minority party gave it their blessing out of a misplaced desire for conciliatory compromise.
In the aftermath of the vote to override the governor’s veto, however, the outrage among the conservative community has intensely focused on these lawmakers, usually accompanied by dramatic declarations of the impending death of the Republican Party due to the spinelessness of so many of its elected officials.
I’m certainly angry at the vote and generally demoralized by the chaotic mess that is the Republican Party in Maine, but I am not lighting torches nor looking for my pitchfork.
The fact of the matter is the conciliatory attitudes among pragmatists and moderates in the Legislature regarding the budget were naive and misplaced but more or less well-intentioned.
Maine people appreciate a desire to work together and compromise, but, sadly, when you lose an election, compromise hurts you a lot more than those in the majority.
The impulse toward political self-immolation does absolutely nothing to help. I personally have no real interest in the purity purges or ideological inquisitions that many in the party are calling for right now.
Purges do not advance policy we care about, nor do they make policy victories any more likely in the future. Summarily ejecting anyone labeled a “compromiser” from the ranks of the GOP won’t then inspire electoral success of the newly “pure” remnants.
The reason is simple. Imagine a U.S. Senate of 50 principled conservatives and 50 spineless moderate centrists. Imagine the bold conservative things that would come out of such a body. You would likely have a balanced budget, lower taxes and wholesale entitlement reform.
A U.S. Senate of 50 principled conservatives, and 50 liberal Democrats would produce virtually nothing. The Democrats would set the legislative agenda, block every piece of conservative legislation and would defend the status quo and force the conservatives to stand by and watch while government continued to grow.
This is why I am now and always have been a strong believer in the so-called “Buckley Rule,” put forth by conservative icon William F. Buckley in 1967. It calls for Republicans to support the most conservative candidate who can win, not simply the most conservative candidate.
Such a philosophy is not a defense of establishment, moderate hacks over principled conservative candidates. It is not an exhortation to vote for the candidate “who can win by the largest margin,” or a call for moderation generally.
Indeed, I supported the conservative insurgent candidacies of Mike Lee in Utah, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Marco Rubio in Florida and Ted Cruz in Texas. Those states all had moderate, establishment candidates running but would easily have supported a more conservative, “movement” candidate.
At the same time, however, I did not and never will support candidates in Democratic strongholds who are conservative but who have no rational electoral path to victory. (I’m looking at you, Christine O’Donnell.)
I will happily take somebody who agrees with me 70 percent of the time over somebody who never agrees with me at all.
The growth of taxes, spending, entitlements and government bureaucracy has been slow and consistent over the last 80 years, and it has been because Democrats have embraced this strategy of pragmatic incrementalism. They do not turn upon themselves like we do.
Bringing it back to Maine, is anyone under the impression that the same lawmakers who voted for the override would choose tax hikes in a budget they themselves drew up in a majority?
One look at the budget drawn up by the Republicans two years ago should answer that question. As should welfare reform, health care reform, tax reform and all the other conservative things done (and the liberal priorities not done) in their two years in power.
We need to put down the long knives, be responsible about our disappointment and smart about who we punish and promote, in order to give ourselves the best chance of getting the policies we care about enacted into law.
It isn’t the sexiest argument to make, but it is the only way to build a real, long-term movement that affects real, durable change.