A Bridge to Bass

American government is based on the concept of the half-loaf. From the moment Jefferson scratched the first careful words of the Declaration onto paper, the entire identity of our nation has been marked by frequent and illustrious appeals to compromise. It is not unusual, then, for the principled citizen to embrace negotiating with those he would consider his philosophical opponents, especially if those opponents are at least nominally allied to him by party.

Political parties are, at best, an organizing shorthand for the advancement of a governing agenda. Too often, however, they become the agenda itself, sacrificing the intellectual higher ground for the baser instinct of acquiring power. It is ugly but not unexpected that the leftist Democrats would behave this way, considering their ideology’s radical lust for regulating all human action. Yet, conservatism, rightly understood, is the rejection of ideology, and consequently the rejection of the lust for power. Asking conservatives to abandon principle for “unity” should fall on deaf ears. Such bargains are equal to accepting two drams of poison instead of four. Principled conservatives are pleased to patiently wait, secure in the ultimate vindication of history.

Former US Congressman Charlie Bass, the Republican nominee for New Hampshire’s second US Congressional district, then comes to us. Although victorious in the primary, Bass must surely acknowledge the irony of his position: an “establishment” Republican advancing in a heated anti-establishment era, a moderate in a time of accelerated conservatism. While 57% of 2nd District GOP primary voters rejected his bid to return to Washington, their inability to coalesce behind a united conservative option allowed Bass to pull ahead. Bass and those voters are now at a standoff, compelled by American compromise to deal with one another or face the nightmare of a left-wing Congresswoman Anne McLane Kuster.

Bass’s success in earning the support of those conservatives will now depend on his ability to answer questions:

1. Voters are already familiar with his opposition to developing natural energy resources in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge – but few are aware of the full range of his environmentalism. Bass has also voted to ban development of off-shore natural gas resources. When western property owners lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in value due to the abusive application of the Endangered Species Act, Bass voted against reimbursing them for the loss. In other cases, when American citizens were forced to surrender their homes and businesses to the government because of the evil capriciousness of Eminent Domain, Bass voted against allowing them to sue in federal court. Kuster would have cast the same votes. Bass should answer: is there a Constitutional wall between the property rights of the citizen and the greedy reach of the activist state? What criteria does Bass use to define it? Does Bass believe that free market capitalism is an obstacle to environmental protection?

2. Bass’s support for the vague notion of “Campaign Finance Reform” has resulted in multiple troubling votes. He has supported extending FEC regulations over grassroots organizations, and over internet tools such as blogs and e-mail messages. He simultaneously benefits from hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from out-of state PACs. Bass should answer: does he believe that “political speech” as understood under the first amendment excludes financial contributions by private groups of citizens? Is he personally comfortable with the quantity of the PAC money offered to his campaigns from unions and pro-abortion advocates? Does he believe that the federal government has the constitutional authority to prohibit ANY political contribution, so long as appropriate attention is paid to transparency?

3. Last month, as the United Nations opened another annual session, one world “leader” after another rose to the General Assembly podium and denounced the United States and her allies. As an institution, the UN is bureaucratically sclerotic at best and actively malicious to our national interests at worst. That, however, did not prevent Congressman Bass from casting votes to 1) use taxpayer dollars to renovate UN properties throughout our country, 2) use taxpayer dollars to finance the contraception-boosting UN Population Fund, and 3) use taxpayer dollars to prop up the anti-American corruption machine known as UNESCO. Bass should answer: does the United Nations currently have any tangible relevance to our national security interests, and if so at what cost? Should the United States participate in UN commissions which overtly prohibit the participation of the state of Israel? Should the United States at least curtail – or preferably end – the taxpayer subsidy of the UN altogether?

4. Bass states regularly that he is “pro-choice,” which in the moderate, somewhat libertarian circles of western New Hampshire, serves him well. Yet, one vote in particular shows the horrifying breadth of his position: you are the parent of a fourteen-year-old girl. She is raped by a boyfriend. She becomes pregnant as a consequence. Her home state has enacted a Parental Notification law and she is reluctant to face it. Not to worry – various “reproductive rights” organizations will happily load her into a van or station wagon, occasionally in darkness, and motor her to a neighboring state, where she will undergo invasive surgery by a medical team she has never seen before. Without ultrasound. Without counseling. Without a waiting period. Without licensing regulation of the facility – and without you ever knowing a thing about it. US Senate bill 403, introduced in 2006, would have made such interstate transportation – for the explicit purpose of circumventing Parental Notification laws – illegal. Bass voted against it.

Was that vote absolutely necessary? Are there no limits to “choice?” Is Bass’s environmentalist myopia so severe that he literally cannot see American family values for the trees?

This is not the consummate catalog of questions for Charlie Bass, but they will do as the first steps over a bridge. The candidate of 1994 might have won without addressing them. However, the candidate of 2010 has a record that requires review, and a country in so dire a condition that the electorate cannot afford to get this wrong. Bass is justified to expect that second district conservatives would be loathe to cast a ballot for Anne McLane Kuster – but those same conservatives would be equally justified in demanding a high price to re-elect him.

They do so demand, and Bass should answer.