Philip Klein is out with a new e-book titled “Conservative Survival in the Romney Era.”
The e-book shouldn’t be necessary. Everything Klein writes should go without saying. Except it doesn’t. And it won’t. And for this reason, his might be one of the most important books of the year — that is, if we take it to heart.
Conservatives shouldn’t confuse being the leader of the Republican Party with being the head of the conservative movement. Conservatism, while often allied with the Republican Party, is an entirely separate thing. One is a long intellectual tradition and the other is a political vessel for those seeking power. Conservatives must avoid mixing up the two to prevent the philosophy from being corrupted, or redefined, by whomever happens to be at the helm of the GOP. Furthermore, if Republicans assume that conservatives will enthusiastically support them no matter what, they’re much less likely to govern as conservatives.
This is a very good point. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and so if the left complains while the right acquiesces, which direction does a politician go? You guessed it, he will placate the side making the most noise. This is one of the things that makes politics very annoying. But it’s how the game is played.
(This isn’t about Mitt Romney, by the way. This would be good advice regardless of the nominee.)
More Klein …
There’s always some argument partisans will make to discourage conservatives from criticizing Republicans. In the coming months, those of us who criticize Romney from the right will be told we should save it until after November, or else we’re just helping Obama. When we do so after the election – should he win – we’ll be told he deserves a honeymoon period and needs to rack up a few accomplishments first before moving to items on the conservative agenda. Eventually, it will be that we can’t weaken him before the midterm elections, and then later, that we have to loudly support him, or else he’ll lose reelection to an even worse liberal boogeyman (or boogeywoman) in 2016.
I can’t tell you the number of tweets and blog comments I’ve received making this exact argument — that I should just shut up (unless I want to re-elect Barack Obama.) But Klein is right. There’s never a convenient time to say the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. But the emperor needs to know when he’s naked. It does him no good for his friends to pretend otherwise.
Part of the problem, of course, is that technology has changed things and blurred the lines between journalism and activism. In many ways, this is healthy. But it’s harder to distinguish between bloggers whose goal in life is to elect a Republican president, versus a conservative blogger whose goal is to practice journalism, tell the truth, and/or advance conservative ideas. Depending on which motivation you begin with, you’re likely to come to a radically different conclusion.
This is all a way of warning you that I will now be using Klein as cover to continue doing as I’ve done.