True believers make me nervous, and not just the lefty true believers with whom I have virtually nothing in common. Conservative true believers make me uneasy too. They’re too rigid for my taste. They won’t budge from their rock-solid principles, no matter what. They are purists who would rather lose an election than compromise, a word they spit out with contempt.
Call me crazy, but I’d rather win. And while being pure is just great, if say, you’re a monk, it’s not so wonderful in the real world of politics.
During the 1964 presidential campaign, Barry Goldwater, the leading conservative politician and true believer of his day, spelled out the philosophy when he said, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” That may be so, but Goldwater carried just six states, and in terms of the popular vote he lost in the fifth most lopsided presidential election in U.S. history.
At least he didn’t compromise on his principles, right?
And now we have Christine O’Donnell, the winner in the Delaware Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. No, she’s no Barry Goldwater, in terms of stature. But she did manage to do something Goldwater wasn’t able to do: she pulled off a major upset. O’Donnell beat a moderate Republican, Mike Castle, who by every count would have been a shoe-in come November. Now, the odds are long against O’Donnell.
It’s no secret that winning a primary, which normally attracts the most ardent voters on both extremes, is not the same thing as winning a general election. Castle is a RINO, a Republican in Name Only – not Rush Limbaugh’s kind of Republican, and not mine either. But Delaware isn’t Idaho or Alabama. The conventional wisdom says a staunch conservative like O’Donnell, who was supported by the Tea Party, can’t win a general election in Delaware.