Growing Up is Hard
The first presidential election I was able to participate in occurred in 1988. Being a freshman in college (a music major living in the 'arts' dorm) and convinced that The Man sucked, regardless of the color of his tie, I proudly voted Libertarian, confident in my callow youth that Revolution and Change were on my side. Not surprisingly, Andre Meroux garnered nary a tenth of a percent and no electoral college votes. But I was encouraged -- I had voted! So what if my guy lost to The Man? I'd had my say, and the Machine was forced to listen!
Off-year elections in which I bothered to vote I went either with firing the incumbent or voting Libertarian where I could. I don't believe I voted in a primary until 2000.
I followed the same patterns in 1992 and 1996, decreasingly about youthful idealism and increasingly about "making a statement" -- too bad I got the statement backwards; my "statement" said more about my own political ignorance than it did to the larger bipolar spectrum of Republicrats and Demicans.
Ultimately my votes in all 3 of these elections mattered not at all, since I lived in Kansas at the time and in all cases the Republican candidate took the state. If I were not voting Libertarian at the time, I most likely would have voted Republican -- in fact when there was no Libertarian candidate I frequently went with the elephant.
Throughout this time I was more or less conservative -- despite the artistic background and my brief flirtation with liberalism in college, I was foursquare for the 1991 action in Kuwait/Iraq, and in political discussions with friends I was always the one pushing for personal responsibility, welfare reform, military support, border control, and lower taxes.
By 2000 I was 30 years old, and my youthful indignation at the Machine as well as the peculiar freedom that is given solely to young adults were beginning to fade. My older brother had been diligent about giving me books on finance and money control throughout my 20s, and I was beginning to see the world more clearly. My conservatism was beginning to form a more consistent and coherent point of view.
In 2000 I decided that Libertarianism was a nice idea in theory, but in fact was a disaster. Regardless of whether it "should" be this way or not, our political system is well-managed by having the 2-party system firmly in place. It forces everyone into one of two camps, and sometimes that means mingling with people that you might not otherwise have anything to do with.
This is the ONLY way to keep the control of political decisions even remotely easy. One need only look at the disasters that are parliamentary elections in Europe to see the results of multiparty elections. Coalitions of different parties have to come together to get elected, but once the governing begins those coalitions quickly fall apart and government is paralyzed or so hopelessly beset by constant compromise WITH FACTIONS THAT DID NOT WIN, that nothing gets done. Or worse, the wrong thing gets done.
2000 saw my coming of age politically -- I was a conservative, and the Republican party is more or less the choice of conservatives in the 2-party system.
I have to share my tent with Republicans who want government to provide healthcare, or make illegals into citizens, or even want to curtail 1st amendment political speech. But it's a big tent, and the only other viable option has nothing to do with my views, and there are simply no other options for getting candidates with my views into positions of power.
For better or worse, I became a Republican in 2000. It was obvious to me that although I thought this Bush character wasn't really what I would want, Al Gore was absolutely not an option, and my 3rd-party voting days were done. I reluctantly cast my ballot for Bush, hoping for the best. In that election, I also participated in the primaries, casting votes for conservative candidates.
Since then the sky has cracked open and we see our world in a completely different light. George Bush became a real president on that horrible September day, and my conservatism was emboldened by seeing the antics of the Democrats from that point forward.
Fast forward to 2006 and the current primary season. As always, it is "crucial" and "the most important election ever" and so on and so forth. In many ways the Conventional Wisdom is correct -- at this time, with the arrogance and blatantly anti-US-interest views that the dems hold, combined with the fragility of support for the war, mixed with some concerns over SupCourt judges that WILL retire in the next 5-6 years, and a dash of "what the hell are we going to do about SocSec" and holding back socialized medical care, THE REPUBLICANS MUST HOLD BOTH HOUSES, PARTICULARLY THE SENATE.
I don't believe the national parties ought to be involved in primaries. They should be out of the picture until the nominee is chosen, then be all-out for their candidate in the general.
I have been mortified at the party's treatment of Steve Laffey in his attempt to take out Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island. The national party has been actively working against Laffey (who is far more conservative than Chaffee), pouring money into the race and running anti-Laffey ads worse than anything the dems would do.
Predictably, Chaffee has prevailed, and now he will attempt to hold his seat in November. This "republican", a man who voted against his party's candidate in 2004, who wants us out of Iraq, and votes against every tax cut and for every tax increase, is the national party's choice.
Laffey was a dead man walking. If he had won the primary, he would have gotten shellacked against the Dem candidate thanks to the socialist voters of Rhode Island. Laffey even stated in a debate, "I am NOT conservative" because he knows that true conservatives don't get seats in Rhode Island. The seat most certainly would have gone blue, and even thought Chaffee is a terrible Republican, he is still technically in our tent and he counts toward the Majority status.
So in order to preserve the seat, and the power, the national party did exactly the right thing. They involved themselves in a primary campaign and worked as hard as possible to keep the status quo, a faithless RINO who has more in common with the opposition party than his own, in a position to retain his seat. He still faces a tough campaign and may yet lose the seat, but he at least has a fighting chance. Laffey was done before the first primary ballot was cast.
Parallel this with the Connecticut race, where the Dems threw Joe Lieberman under the bus in favor of a candidate that is more in line with what their base is demanding. Now that seat is likely to stay with Lieberman, now running as an independent, and while it won't count necessarily for the Republican majority, it damn sure also won't count for the Dem majority either.
I don't like what the national party had to do, and every conservative cell in my body is writhing in agony at the thought of having to support Chaffee. But in a fragile political age where division is deep and majorities hinge on a very small number of votes, we do not have the luxury of being idealistic and demanding that our guy gets put in power and damn the consequences.
Growing up is hard, and this is why.