Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Purity vs. Pragmatism

ABC News has a piece on a proposal for the Republican National Committee (RNC) 2010 meeting that is intriguing (but a bad idea). The debate is whether or not the RNC should be funding moderate candidates. The proposal is that any candidate that wants RNC funding must agree with a set of policy positions to be eligible (thus proving that he or she is sufficiently conservative).

After the 2006 and 2008 electoral losses the Republicans suffered the debate raged between those that thought the party had drifted too far to the right and those that thought that it was not conservative enough. The proposal for RNC funding is another manifestation of that divide. Should the party focus on the core of the conservative element of the party, or should it rather expand the coalition of the party by recruiting and assisting more moderate candidates as well?

Political parties are at the core coalitions that are formed to win elections. The Democrats were successful in 2006 and 2008 in part due to their excellent recruitment of more moderate candidates that prevailed in Republican leaning districts. I happen to agree with one of the people quoted in the article:

“I appreciate where people are coming from and the desire to make sure we are a cohesive group,” RNC member and Bush 41 adviser Ron Kaufman told ABC News when asked about his reaction to the proposal.

“However, we’ve also been the party of states’ rights. That is a binding principle. I’ve always believed that people in Massachusetts shouldn’t tell people in Indiana or Mississippi on who the candidates should be. There is nothing more fundamental than that in the party,” Kaufman added.

Political parties in the United States are broad coalitions with great regional variation. The national political parties will be more successful if they are pragmatic and support the candidates they think will be able to win them seats, not only those who are ideologically pure enough.

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