Let's At Least Get Our Class Warfare Right

It has come to my attention (thanks to Ace and Allahpundit) that certain politicians are presenting themselves as the champions of middle-class, tea party, solid conservative Republicans against the … and that’s where the storyline diverges.

OK, enough with the scare quotes. For the rest of this post, just add them in yourself where you think they ought to be.

What is a RINO? The label means Republican In Name Only, of course, but it is a term without meaning outside of a small group who would really as soon be in some other party, were it not for the power they wield when more principled people are forced to make deals to get their votes.

A RINO stands out from real Republicans because he or she is willing to vote against his or her party on any issue at any time, with regard only to strategy, personal advancement, or electoral advantage. RINOs, in caricature, are unconstrained by ideology, in other words.

But few hold a party line position on every issue. Even liberty-loving, highly doctrinaire conservative tea partying Redstate Republicans like me have dreams of dragging our party into the light on an issue or two. Where to draw the line on who is a RINO and who is a true Republican, then, is clearly a matter both of degree and of individual perspective.

So as a matter of political necessity, we band together and agree to ignore, for now, the 10% of issues on which we disagree in favor of the 90% of things in which we’re in agreement.

And while there is some kind of loose correlation between old money and the Big Government Republicanism we came to despise in the Bush administrations, the blue bloods are not the problem, or at least, they don’t define the full extent of the problem.

So when Ace says

I’m really not digging what I find to be a crudely reductivist, single-dimensional model of politics that many have seized on (Palin most prominently), that politics currently consists of almost nothing at all but “elitists” vs. the common.

I tend to agree, in part because I think we’re all searching for a simple explanation for something that may not be simple.

Because if there is a problem with the blue blood, country club, Wall Street Republicans (as opposed to Wall Street Democrats), it is that are willing to work against our party on any issue at any time, with regard only to strategy, personal advancement, or commercial advantage. Blue bloods, in caricature, are unconstrained by ideology, in other words.

There is nothing wrong with being part of the Establishment per se, unless you want to be part of the Establishment because it’s the Establishment. That is, we should no more reject a person’s ideas because they are part of the Establishment than we would like to be kept from being in the Establishment because of our ideas.

Erick’s “squish” label comes closest to defining the real battle. What separates “us” from “them” is not money. It isn’t positions on a given issue or set of issues. It’s believing that issues matter in the first place.

Because squishes are willing to work against our party on any issue at any time, with regard only to strategy, personal advancement, or political advantage. squishes, in caricature, are unconstrained by ideology, in other words.

For many in Washington (and in statehouses), ideas are to be trotted out at election time and when the cameras are on, while they focus on the acquisition and administration of political power. While they may believe in the primacy of the Constitution, in limited government, or have deeply held personal beliefs on social issues, they use the ideas to win elections, rather than wanting to win elections to advance the ideas.

There are many Republicans, even those who are largely conservative, who view the government as a tool for advancing themselves in commerce. I’m not talking about those who want the government to stay in its Constitutional box because that is best for the economy as a whole, but those who manipulate its special favor. As Erick says,

Likewise, the quest for these exemptions and deductions has had a corrupting influence within the conservative movement as businesses pay conservatives to support particular tax exemptions and deductions regardless of the merit. Some of the most vocal critics of streamlining the tax process in this country are coin operated conservatives who profit from lobbying for individual exemptions to benefit individual companies at the expense of everyone else.

In all of these cases — the blue bloods, Establishment, the squishes, the elites and the RINOs — the real problem is not what the person believes, but whether the person is advancing ideas or advancing themselves.

So next time someone responds to your plea for conservative principles with the importance of committee chairmanships or a majority in the Senate, understand that you’re dealing with a … well, with one of them.