I went to an election watch party last night (hosted by congressional candidate Ed Martin, Jr. (R-MO-3)) and enjoyed the shared euphoria of watching the announcement of Scott Brown’s stunning victory in Massachusetts. I enjoyed watching conservative commentors on Fox News revel in the news. In the days leading up to the event, I enjoyed the blog posts and tweets of many dedicated principled conservatives looking forward to Brown’s election.
The reasons for the excitement were – and remain – clear: Scott Brown would be the crucial 41st Republican senate vote to block the government takeover of health care and its attendant gutting of Medicare. He is also positioned to stop the job-killing cap-and-trade bill, Obama’s weak U.S. anti-terrorism policy and other liberal nonsense coming out of the Obama Administration and the Pelosi-Reid congress. This election (on top of the 2009 gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey) has every indication of being the key momentum changing event that gives conservatives a genuine shot at taking back congress later this year. Ripple effects by noon the next day included the withdrawal of controversial TSA nominee Erroll Southers and an announcement that Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) would consider a challenge to entrenched purple-state Sen. Evan Bayh. And it’s mostly because of Scott Brown.
But, after a courteous period to allow the euphoria to be enjoyed, we must also have a bit of a reality check: Scott Brown is what principled conservatives deem to be a RINO (Republican In Name Only). He is pro-choice (albeit opposed to partial birth abortion and taxpayer funding of abortions), he favors gay marriage, and he speaks the RINO language of “independent thinking” and bipartisan cooperation. This is why President Obama was so gracious in calling Brown to congratulate him and play nice. Obama knows that Brown voted for the now-failing Massachusetts health care plan in the state legislature, and thinks that his messianic persuasion will be able to bring Brown over to the dark side on health care and other important parts of Obama’s agenda (and provide cover to other RINO senators to do the same).
Health care was the key issue in the campaign and is the overriding issue for all of America right now. Brown specifically promised to be the 41st vote needed to block the health care takeover, and he must resist Obama’s charms. I believe Brown is up to the task, and Obama will fail once again.
Assuming Brown holds fast to his promise and saves American from the health care debacle, I cauti0n my fellow conservatives not to forget this historic moment the next time Brown or any other RINO punctures our idealism by joining Democrats on an important vote. There are several RINOs in the U.S. Senate, and we need every one of them.
I have written about RINOs twice within the past 6 months. In July I provided empirical data supporting why conservatives need to be more accepting of the RINOs in their mist, especially in areas like Massachusetts, Maine and increasingly liberal suburban areas where a principled conservative probably won’t carry the electorate. Parties don’t own any particular electoral district, the people do. And if the people in a particular district want more liberal representation, we need to be cool with offering that district a representative who will be liberal when they want him or her to be but still support the conservative side more often than a Democrat would. My July post pointed out how even the most conservative Democrat in the entire U.S. House voted with his Democrat colleagues more often than the GOP’s worst RINO.
The special election in NY-23, where Republican insiders nominated leftist Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, posed a special challenge to that reasoning. In that case I blogged how conservative activists were right in abandoning the ACORN-backed leftist GOP nominee and supporting Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman. But this was a rare case where supporting the conservative over the RINO in a 3-way contest was the right thing to do, even though the Democrat won the theretofore Republican district and immediately voted for cap-and-trade and health care deformed. Scozzafava would have voted the same way, and the party has an excellent shot at retaking the seat (with a better nominee) later this year.
The unfortunate fact is that, while the U.S. has a conservative plurality, it does not have a conservative majority. In that context, conservatives must be accepting of RINOs in districts where a true conservative is unlikely to prevail. (RINOs from conservative areas where there is no significant danger of a divided party losing the seat to a Democrat – think Utah – should be taken out.) Conservatives who channel 19th Century Sen. Henry Clay (“I had rather be right than President”) when sticking with principles at the wrong time have a political death wish. Conservative principles are of only intellectual value if you aren’t in a position to enact them into legislation.
So I ask my fellow conservatives today as we enjoy the tide-turning win in Massachusetts, “Are you OK with this pro-choice RINO, Scott Brown?” I am.