An Interesting Upset

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Yesterday's email brought me a missive from reader Dismuke bearing the following intriguing title, "Principle Apparently Pays off in Congressional Race". I found the story, about an unknown Tea Partier defeating a fifth-term incumbent heavily favored to win reelection, to be both encouraging and troubling.

First, the good news is that some pernicious conventional wisdom among conservatives has been turned on its head: You can make a stand against your district's own government favors and win, if that stand is part of a principled objection to government redistribution of private wealth:

Feeling comfortable in his home crowd, [John] Sullivan proudly defended his support for the NatGas Act during a debate two weeks ago. But Jim Bridenstine spoke to the inner-core of the conservative Oklahoma crowd. He called the bill a "big-government boondoggle" and boldly declared that "we ought not let Washington, D.C., control free markets with tax subsidies."

As they say, the rest is history.
The bill in question was an "alternative energy" scheme of subsidies related to natural gas-powered vehicles, backed by T. Boone Pickens, that would "benefit" the district. I agree with RedState's Daniel Horowitz that:
This must serve as an enduring lesson for those who desire to let the free market work - at least in the most conservative parts of the country.
But this leads me to the troubling part of the news, and to another lesson I hope free market conservatives learn: Bridenstine is extremely "pro-life". In one sense, this is no big deal since Sullivan is, as well: At least theocrats have no reason to crow about that issue leading Bridenstine to victory. So far so good, but such a stand represents a serious flaw in Bridenstine's understanding of individual rights. Should this misconception be common within the Tea Party or become common, it will ultimately undermine it, by alienating secular voters, inducing those who hold such a position to support government action that violates actual individual rights, or both.

Perhaps the Tea Party and GOP as a whole could stand to learn a lesson in addition to the above from the general electoral success of the Tea Party a couple of years ago:
As you know, as a result of the election which was held earlier this month, the Republicans will control the U.S. House of Representatives. Do you think the Republican victories in the House races are more of a mandate for Republican policies or more a rejection of Democratic policies?
The result:
The blue portion of the chart, clocking in at nearly three quarters of those polled, corresponds to the answer, "rejection of Democratic policies." "Republican mandate" is less than a fifth.
See the pie chart at the link immediately above.

Should the Tea Party fail to heed this lesson (or the GOP continue to do so), it will find its message of limited government compromised in the eyes of voters who want the government to quit groping us as well as stop picking our pockets, and its national electoral fortunes will suffer accordingly.

-- CAV

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