Thursday, November 07, 2013
I didn't follow the elections this year, but I am hardly surprised that pundits
are drawing two completely different wrong conclusions from yesterday's results. The highest profile results were (1) the landslide reelection of New Jersey's Republican governor,
Chris Christie; (2) the squeaker win of Democrat Terry McAuliffe as governor of
Virginia; and (3) the loss of New York City's Republican mayoral candidate. Errol
Louis, although correct that there is a "civil war" going on in the Republican
Party, sums up both wrong lessons in his post-mortem:
The Republican civil war, decades in the making, will come to a head in the next 36 months, as we begin the run-up to the next presidential election. Expect Christie and other moderate candidates to point to Virginia, New York and other losses as missed opportunities -- the price for choosing to win arguments instead of elections. And expect the tea party to respond that pursuing politics without principles is no way to lead a country.The choice for the GOP isn't either sticking to principles or governing. There is plainly enough discontent with the leviathan state Presidents Bush and Obama have left us with that a message of individual economic freedom can gain traction and win elections.
Unfortunately, too many Republicans embrace principles that are at odds with this message. So what if we lower taxes or make parts of our economy freer if the government simply turns towards intruding more elsewhere, such as by preventing some consenting adults from enjoying the same legal protections as everyone else in committed relationships? There is a contradiction between arguing for economic freedom one moment -- and against sexual freedom the next. Democrats sense this on a level and happily associate the medieval religionists faction of the Republican Party with the "libertarian" wing whenever they get the chance, and scare voters into supporting them.
The problem with the GOP is not that it is a coalition between sell-outs who win and dogmatists who lose (as if principles have no objective basis or practical value), but that it includes both factions that value personal freedom and factions that actually oppose it. So long as the GOP message ends up being merely, "We'll control a different aspect of your lives", the electorate will see no real alternative and go with the devil it already knows. This last fact explains why selling out, and running on "competence" or "maturity" as Christie seems to have done might seem like a good strategy. But this will lead to freedom dying out in the long run, and is completely unnecessary, as our principled founders demonstrated over two centuries ago.