Nothing in Moderation

GOP Jell-O

by Lance Thompson

In the wake of the presidential election, some Republicans are recommending that the party should soften its views, back away from hard-line conservatism, and blur the differences between us and the Democrats. These people are called moderates, and the prescription they offer is deadly.

The Democrats did not win with a moderate candidate. Barack Obama was the nation’s most liberal Senator until he became the nation’s most liberal president. John McCain, on the other hand, was a moderate Republican, with a record of reaching across the aisle and favoring Democrat views on issues such as immigration, global warming, and tax cuts. This moderate candidate was clobbered by his immoderate opponent.

In response to the election, moderates will say that we must follow the trend, that Republicans should embrace the issues the Democrats won on. They encourage us to abandon conservative principles, evolve with the times, and adopt positions more in line with the Democrats, who scored many victories.

But we can never out-Democrat the Democrats. The closer the GOP gets to Democratic principles, the less reason there is for Republicans to exist. Why would a Democrat vote for a watered-down version of his own party? We will not only fail to woo Democrats with a slightly less-liberal version of their own platform, we will also alienate the ideological conservative core of our own party.

If liberals are right, and most of the nation subscribes to their principles of peace at any cost, of punishing success with high taxes and redistribution of income, of turning America into a nanny state where all people are dependent on the government for their needs, of opening our borders and legitimizing illegal aliens, of crippling industry as a sacrifice to the false faith of global warming, then conservatives are wrong and should retire from politics.

But if conservatives are right that freedom must be defended at all costs, that success is the well-earned reward of individual initiative, that government should be small and unobtrusive, that our borders must be secure and that immigrants must follow our laws, that global warming is a chimera whose remedies will cripple our economy, then why should we moderate our views at all?

If conservatives are right, what value is there in diluting our just cause? Would you trust a business partner who is moderately honest? Would you place your life in the hands of a moderately skillful surgeon? Would you be happy in a marriage to a moderately faithful spouse? Then what value is there in a moderately conservative candidate? To whatever extent he departs from conservative principles, he is to the same extent departing from the proper course.

Moderate Republicans have already diluted tough immigration laws, voted for the financial bailout bill, and blamed the failure of the incompetent McCain campaign on Sarah Palin–the most promising new conservative in a quarter of a century. How much more damage can they do to conservative principles if their views shape the future of the GOP?

Moderate candidates do not prevail. Voters don’t rally to the banners of moderate candidates. Moderate candidates are compromised in their principles by definition.

Moderate voters are equally uninspiring. These are the ones who aren’t interested in the campaign during the primaries, don’t focus on the issues until the last few weeks or even days of the campaign, and haven’t made up their minds until the last minute. Moderate voters don’t knock on doors, work the phone, send out e-mails and plant yard signs. Moderate voters do not contribute to campaigns or financially support candidates. Moderate voters are the casual observers at the fringe of the fight, with little invested in either outcome.

The reclamation of the GOP will not be accomplished by moderate candidates or constituents. The beacon for Republicans is not straddling a fence or sitting in the middle of the road. Our destination is defined by strong, unyielding conservative principles. There is no need to qualify our creed with labels such as “compassionate conservatism” or “new conservatism.”

Much effort will be required to rebuild the Republican Party. That effort will only be rewarded if we start with a solid foundation. We must not build the future of our party on the shifting sands of moderation, but rather on the solid bedrock of conservative principle.