David Frum

01.16.13

Conservatism with a Purpose

Another interesting column from Jonah Goldberg:

For the record, I don’t mind purity tests when it comes to strategy or vision. What I have a problem with are purity tests for tactics. What I mean is: I want the GOP to be a truly conservative party and dedicate itself to conservative ends, variously defined. Politicians philosophically opposed to that ambition probably shouldn’t be Republicans. But when it comes to tactics, I’m willing to cut the GOP some slack if I have faith that it shares my longterm goals. If they can convince me they know where they want to go, and it’s where I want to go too, I’m pretty flexible on how to get there. So in all the talk about how we need “another Reagan” maybe we should keep in mind that another Reagan would be principled, but he would also be a real politician, with all of the foibles that implies.

Conservative ends are good. The explicit goal of the conservative movement is to usher conservative policies into law. (Or, better yet, to get rid of progressive legislation.) What I think Goldberg and friends might be missing is that moderation can be as much a tactic as anything else.

Spin it as you will: we lost in November. And we lost big. To that end, the GOP should be working to limit its losses over the next two years and prepare to recover in the midterms. Instead, we're seeing the hucksters of the movement claim the answer is to get madder, get louder, and to really ramp up the fight. In what way do they think this moves us closer to the our desired ends? For what purpose is such rage other than to advance the bottom line of activists and demagogues? (NB: I'm not including Goldberg in that group).