"As the last journey of this faithful pilgrim [has taken] him beyond the sunset... we here still move in twilight, but we have one beacon to guide us that Ronald Reagan never had: we have his example.” So said Margaret Thatcher in eulogizing the 40th president in June 2004. But three short years later, his example clearly matters less to some Republicans than others; and to most Democrats, not at all. The response in political circles to a coherent and specific apologia for courageous and wise Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CD5) against his critics among Colorado’s chattering classes might have been predicted.
If what I claimed last week in Lamborn’s defense about the natural tendency of loquacious politicos – that, with a few noble exceptions, they tend to forget the meaning of words like virtue, honor, courage, and wisdom in favor of the who-whom of the cocktail party circuit and the respectable middle-of-the-road opinion editorial – then a clear defense of Reaganite conservatism and men like Mr. Lamborn who stand unapologetically for it is likely to draw a strong reaction.
Cara DeGette (linked above) and others on the left who love to observe and magnify any division within the GOP, and who love nothing better than to see any Reaganite tarred and feathered by his own party, can be expected to phone GOP opponents of Mr. Lamborn and ask them what they think of such mud-slinging? And – outrage of outrages – when the county GOP leadership had so recently issued a call for peace!
Mr. Lamborn’s opponents can be expected to respond as they did in 2006: “Alas, these are the kinds of tactics we were talking about.”
If the incumbent were not such a man as Mr. Lamborn, if he were one who could be expected to produce the respectable middle-of-the-road op-ed with more frequency, party leadership could have been counted on to have taken a clear stand in defense of the incumbent. After all, primaries are messy and energy-sapping and divisive. Why challenge a sitting Republican when there are so many Democrats to focus on? How much more Republicans could accomplish if we would only stop bickering and unite!
When the incumbent, however, is a Reaganite conservative, primaries take a miraculous turn: they either become healthy, party-building affairs, as then-chairman of the state GOP Ted Halaby confidently stated in 2004 when the state hierarchy and then-Gov. Bill Owens united to betray then-candidate and conservative hero Bob Schaffer by backing the moderate and respectable Pete Coors in a primary against him. Or, as now-Chairman of the state GOP Dick Wadhams has said of the impending Fifth District contest between Mr. Crank and Mr. Lamborn, primaries are merely a “family squabble” that do not cause us much concern up here in Denver.
El Paso GOP officials, when confronted with hearty and true defenses of Lamborn throughout this coming campaign season, will be faced with a choice: follow the earnest chattering crowd, presume against Mr. Lamborn and his supporters, and promise to investigate their mudslinging, with nary a word about any attention to the regular and visceral stream of mud that has come from GOP ranks for over a year against their own Republican incumbent.
Or, alternatively, recognize that what lies at the root of intra-party disputes is not just competing personalities and ambitions, but a clash between a political philosophy that believes truth and virtue are worth contending for, even when they are unpopular, and a philosophy that believes what the chattering classes judge to be likeability, electability, and respectability is the only just arbiter of campaign justice and electoral rewards.
What is so pernicious about the latter anti-philosophy is that it makes truth a tool to be wielded rather than a standard to be followed – something to be shaped, molded, interpreted to fit the story we want to tell and the candidate we want to win rather than something to shape, mold, and interpret the story we ought to tell and decide the candidate who ought to win. In the end, when this philosophy has been lived for any length of time, others telling the plain and simple truth becomes a “tactic”; virtue becomes a vice; wisdom becomes an error; and a hero becomes an outright villain.
Where this kind of confusion prevails, every faithful pilgrim must protest, but none should despair. All the greatest in our midst have borne this cross, and we have what they never had: their example to guide and inspire us now and forward.