Back when I lived in Northern Virginia, a fellow member of the Arlington County Republican Committee launched a quixotic bid to take on County Democrat stalwart Mary Margaret Whipple when she launched her bid for the state Senate. On every issue sacred to the Democrats, Whipple towed the party line, marching, for example, in lockstep with NARAL on abortion.
Well, while her challenger was not pro-life, on every bill related to abortion introduced in the Virginia General Assembly, he would have voted with the pro-lifers. But, that was not enough for some leaders of the pro-life movement in his jurisdiction. They refused to support him unless he declared himself to be pro-life.
Similarly, in a special election for the Virginia House of Delegates, a conservative friend balked at helping the Republican because she, who happened to be pro-life, wasn’t pro-gun. She would have voted with him on every other issue–and considerably better than her Democratic opponent, but wasn’t worth his support because she wasn’t ideologically pure enough.
I see a tone of this in some coverage I’ve been reading about the Illinois Senate race of Republicans (and even some Hillary Democrats) refusing to back Mark Kirk should he prevail in the Groundhog Day contest for the GOP nomination. Now, I’ll grant you that Kirk is far from perfect. He voted for Waxman-Markey (cap and trade), but has since relented. If conservatives don’t like Kirk, then they have until next Tuesday to rally support for his more conservative primary opponent Patrick Hughes. Indeed, if I lived in the Land of Lincoln, it’s highly likely I would be voting for Hughes next week.
Note the use of the conditional in the previous sentence; I use that tense because I don’t know enough about the candidate to make a definite choice in the matter. I do see it as a good sign that he’s gotten a lot of support from the Tea Party people, hence my conditional support.
That said, should Kirk win the GOP nomination–or, say, should Tom Campbell win the party’s nomination here, I’d vote for them, even though each has been less than perfect on fiscal issues. There’s that Kirk vote on Cap ‘n Trade. And Campbell’s refusal to sign the Americans for Tax Reform Taxpayer Pledge.
Still, Kirk did vote against the “stimulus” and against Obamacare. He may not be as good as Hughes, but he’s better than whatever Democrat the president’s party nominates. Campbell may not been as solid on fiscal issues in this campaign as Carly has been, but compared to Barbara Boxer, well, there is no comparison.
It’s one thing to fight against a more moderate Republican in the primary, it’s another to refuse to vote for him (or her) in the general. Now, of course, there are exceptions, when a Republican is ideologically indistinguishable from (or, to the left of) a Democrat. But, with folks like Kirk, Carly or Campbell, you’ll get something far better than the opposition. No, not ideal, but then again, Scott Brown is not ideologically ideal.
You will, at worst, have someone voting for you 60% of the time, instead of voting against you 90% of the time. Not just that, if conservatives walk when a moderate or even a moderate/conservative wins the party’s nod, what message does that send to moderates should a more conservative candidate win the nomination? Will that encourage them to remove their marbles from the game and play some place else?
In those aforementioned Arlington races, the Republican may never really have had a chance, but once in Richmond, the Democrats who won towed the party line, voting for more liberal policies on abortion and against fiscal restraint. Their Republican opponents may not have been ideal, but the victorious Democrats were a disaster.