Ramesh Ponnuru is a smart observer of conservative politics. He is also kind of a conservative freak when it comes to his own policy ideas. But he is worth reading because of his insights into what the conservatives are doing. Earlier this week, he asked an interesting question, Do Conservatives Actually Want to Win Elections? In answer, I ask, “Does it matter?”
He brings up three points. First he notes that it is madness that CPAC is claiming that Chris Christie isn’t a “real” conservative. As I’ve argued: when it comes to core conservative ideology, Christie is as extreme as any of them. Second he notes that it is just bad politics to require not just that Republicans vote no on Obama nominees, but to also filibuster. And third he notes that the Club for Growth is in the process of funding primary challenges against incumbent Republicans who have strayed a little bit from the party line.
These three points are all the same; purging heretics:
Ponnuru ends the article by quoting Michael Kinsley from decades ago, “Liberals were always looking for heretics while conservatives were always looking for converts. But that was a long time ago.” What we have with the modern Republican Party is a revolutionary movement. Those who are in control know that under most circumstances, they will never gain power; their ideas are toxic. But under the right circumstances, they can gain power.
What’s more, these revolutionaries are are supported by establishment types like Ponnuru. They understand only too well that by skewing the political debate so far to the right, the Democratic Party has yielded half the playing field. Now even when Republicans lose, they win. And soon enough, a charming radical like Chris Christie will come along who will be elected as president and he can finish the job of destroying the last bits of the New Deal and the Great Society. And when the country is laid to waste, we will elect a Democrat who will come in to see if the carnage can be managed a little better: the poor fenced in, the dead buried more promptly. But there won’t be anyone screaming for equality and democracy—at least not one who is given any attention. Because that’s crazy talk. That’s a non-starter. Everyone knows that reasonable people don’t believe in that kind old fashioned thinking.
You see, the Republican Party doesn’t really need to win elections—at least not often. You see, they have a secret weapon: the Democratic Party.