SMART – AT 10:24 A.M. ET: Elections are about winning. In politics there is no prize for second place. You don't get to be first runner up, ready to take over should the winner not be able to serve.
So I was glad to see some leading, and respected, Republicans give some sound advice yesterday on the need to avoid ideological purity tests for presidential candidates. From Fox:
Leading Republican politicians warned fiscally conservative and religiously devout voters Friday not to impose "purity" tests on candidates seeking the party's 2012 presidential nomination.
"In politics, purity is the enemy of victory," Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told an audience of approximately 400 attendees at the first annual Faith and Freedom Coalition conference at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel in Washington. "We can't expect our [presidential] candidate to be pure. Winning is about unity, not purity."
Barbour's friendly but stern admonition carries weight because even though he opted, after much deliberation, not to run for the presidency, he is still widely regarded as one of the party's savviest strategists and most prodigious fundraisers. He spoke as the GOP presidential field continues to settle, with aspirants each week announcing either their intention to join the contest to unseat President Obama, or to watch it from the sidelines or seek lower office.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, obliquely addressing the Tea Party voters who have sometimes exalted their own candidates over those selected by the GOP establishment, echoed Barbour's call to unity. "The Republican Party is not in competition with the conservative movement," Priebus said with an almost plaintive tone. "The Republican Party is part of the conservative movement."
COMMENT: That is good advice. Each party has its share of rigid ideologues who'd rather see the other side win than concede one minor point of their precious ideology. Hubert Humphrey and the Democrats lost the presidency in 1968 because leftist ideologues within their party stayed home on election day, rather than vote for Humphrey, who'd served as vice president under Lyndon Johnson, whom they loathed. A good lesson there.
Obviously, avoiding ideological purity tests doesn't mean abandoning ideals or strongly held positions. It just means that reasonable flexibility is necessary to hold a political party together. In politics it's much better to have 75% of something, than 100% of nothing. Right now, in the presidency, Republicans have 100% of nothing.
We hope the lessons of Barbour and Priebus are taken to heart.
June 4, 2011