True Believers Make Me Nervous

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.

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  • Bill C.

    I ripped thru all the posts, so at the risk of being redundant, read “The True Believer”by Hoffer…I’ve read it three times over my 59 years: one of the 3 most thought-provoking books I have ever read. (never mind the other two here).

    Don’t care what your pursuasion…do not fail to read this book sometime in your short, brutish life. (yeah, never mind if you don’t know the attribution)

  • Xavier Lerma

    It is a relief to see the Tea Party and O’Donnell on the scene. It still bothers me that anyone was fool enough to vote for Obama 2 years ago. I hate to say it but over half the country is ignorant. Perhaps the swing voters admit their mistake. I wish we could give them all a one way ticket to Iran.

  • Mark P.

    I was surprised to read that you believe Mike Castle is a moderate republican. You write “… Castle votes with Republicans only half the time. Isn’t that better than having a Democrat from Delaware in the Senate, who will vote with the Republicans none of the time?”
    NO. The logic is flawed because it doesn’t take into account the nature of the legislation in question. If the “Rhino’s” voted with the Democrats on legislation of little consequence it would be only a little problem. But the Senator you are defending:
    “Voted for budget-busting stimulus spending.
    Voted for the bailouts.
    Voted for Cap-and-Trade.
    Voted to ban ANWR and offshore drilling.
    Voted for Cash-for-Clunkers and tax increases while earning an “F” rating from Second Amendment supporters.
    Even voted to allow the courts to remove “God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.” (According to CHRIS FREIND)

    Mr. Goldburg, if a Rhino has this kind of a voting record he IS a Democrat. And we are left with asking ourselves if compromising our core principles just to vote a Republican into office is worth it when we are getting the same outcome as having a Democrat in office. Put another way, if we are getting the same outcome from the Democrat or the Rhino, why do you find it necessary for us to compromise our principles in the process of voting? Should we be satiated because he voted on some inconsequential legislation like naming an airport after Pres. Ronald Reagan? Does that balance things for Republicans? Here is a thought; why don’t the Rhinos compromise their beliefs and vote for constraint?
    In my opinion it is the Republican Party that needs to wake up and act like Reagan Republicans. If not, then we need to acknowledge that we don’t have a two party system with different paradigms. We have just one party; half wanting to spend a trillion dollars fast, the other half wanting to spend it just a bit slower. And in the end, our children’s children will recognize that the legacy we left them was a life burdened by a debt they never accrued.

  • T

    R. Kean, I would love to respond to you but I’m currently focused on my initial request. Maybe someday we can engage in a debate, but for now … I will defer.

    Besides, It’s obvious who is displaying arrogant behavior when comparing our posts.

    Have a great day,
    Mr. Craig

    • Terence A Craig

      I’ve noticed Ron Kean likes to “Chime in,” but runs away when you press him with a question.

  • Anthony

    The definition of insanity is continuing the same behavior expecting different results. Unless you root for the Red Sox, Cubs or any particular sports franchise or long shot you prefer.

  • Terence Craig

    Bernie, I agree with what your saying in this column; the Republicans should go with their most viable candidate.

    The issue that strikes me is the “media bias” angle that you so often speak of. Regarding Christine O’Donnell, here’s a woman than has so many “skeletons in the closet” – the door is coming off the hinges. A few voices at Fox News “called it like it is,” but where is the venom and the nightly beating like in the Joe Sestak “so-called” bribery case.

    Joe Sestak was made out to be a villain when he turned down any job offer, he was the hero in the story. We don’t see the repeated scandal association comments and “scandal” graphics with Ms. O’Donnell and there’s a treasure trove of topics to investigate.

    Of course, Fox News tips their hand when they do things like this, it makes us wonder who the real “lamestream media” really is.

    Maybe you could confirm my ban from your discussion forum (because I questioned the rude comments from your moderator.) I think I’m owed a response; your sign-in page says to contact administration yet, I never get a response or an answer in my request to review the situation.

    Looking forward to your next appearance on O’Reilly.


    • CCNV

      How about a little cheese to go with that ‘whine’?

    • Ron Kean

      Are you still here? Say ‘Thank you Bernie’.

      1. Hello…No one wonders who the real ‘Lamestream Media’ is.

      I’d rather see a woman who mentioned abstinence than a bearded Marxist any day.

      I demand that the administration not repeat not give Terrence a response. I’ve been here from the old format. I have rights. I demand that the administrator boot Terrence.

      I’m not done. You talk about the many things we can and should learn about O’Donnell’s past.

      I’m still angry that nobody I mean nobody cared to go to Columbia Univ. and look into our President’s past. His records are probably sealed so that nobody can see them. Nobody!

      He was promoted to be editor of the Harvard Review and nobody knows how. What did he write to merit that?

      He’s spent literally millions of dollars hiding his birth certificate. Ask yourself when you first heard about a Certificate of Live Birth. Why do you even need them?

      Apologize to the administrator for your arrogant behavior..

  • JDO

    You know, to add to O’Donnell’s electability vs non-electability, I believe her opposition is making a huge mistake dredging up 20 yr old “Witchcraft” stories. They are severely underestimating the “Harry Potter” factor. Do they not realize that the pre-teens who started when they came out and grew up reading the entire series of Harry Potter books (not to mention watching the movies – the latest coming out this November) are now of voting age? Labeling O’Donnell a “Witch” may not be the worst thing in the World for her right now. 😉

    • Terence Craig

      How about using campaign money for living expenses? How about the candidate in question has never had a real job, she was a “wannabe” reality tv star all her life. How about the candidate in question is supposed to be a fiscal conservative but she can’t even manage her own living expenses. The witch thing is the tip of the iceberg, I wonder what Maher will trot out this week.

      • JDO

        Hilarious! Didn’t we just elect a President who never really had a real job? Ok, ok, that wasn’t fair. Anyway …
        I read the rest of your post this way:
        Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Maher blah blah blah blah blah. – Not neccessarily ’cause of the content, but because you were actually serious in your reply to my obviously tongue-in-cheek post. Well done, laughter is the best medicine (soon, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and their ilk will be covered by Obamacare, isn’t that exciting? … thinking about it, maybe just Stewart)!

  • Scott

    What would be the point if we elected “moderate” Republicans if all they did was vote along with the Obama-agenda anyways? The “Buckley” principle makes no sense to me in this regard. If Christine O’Donnell loses big, then so be it. At least the voters in Delaware have sent a message that this garbage, 2-party system is on the way out. It’s going to take a while break their stranglehold but this is a start.

  • Herschel Williams

    The reference to Buckley: “I want the most viable conservative to win, Bill Buckley used to say. Viable, as in electable.” does not apply. There was only one CONSERVATIVE in that election. Now we need to back her to the hilt just as we would Sarah Palin if she becomes the Republican nominee in 2012. Also in 2012 we will have one of the two Senators from Maine to replace as well. Liberals need to be purged; including McCain and Graham. Both are too anxious to show how reasonable they are. McCain is our guy this year but we can’t continue to elect liberal leaning representatives and senators and expect to bring this country back to a constitutional republic.


    This is another fantastic write up by you Bernie. The logic was very lucid and the writing a sheer master piece. Keep it up.

    • Bernie

      Thanks very much Adolf

  • Ellie Velinska

    People like Castle and Scott Brown make me uneasy – they are spineless creatures that appear to be able to stand and even pretend to be some kind of conservatives.

    I’d rather lose than pretend that I won.

    • CNP


      • Ellie Velinska

        Bernie says that the RINOs vote with the republicans half of the time.

        Yes, when they are voting for bills to honor some high school sports champion.

        When it is time for real bills we have Miss Olimpia letting the ObamaCare out of the commission, Mr. Brown gave us the financial reform, and the Castle was fine with the Cap-and-Trade.

        They vote with the republicans mostly when they approve the Congress salaries and benefits.

        • Ellie Velinska

          Plus, O’Donnell talks about sex, witchcraft and doesn’t pay her taxes – she has a liberal resume :) May be she is a moderate after all.

  • JohnInMA

    I think the “true believer” energy is so strong this time in reaction to the uniformity of the Dems and the reality of their behavior. For example, if health care had even been remotely bipartisan, even if nearly as expensive, it’s my opinion that there would be less energy for “purity” of conservative thought and action. Call it an effort at an “equal and opposite” reaction. Should the next two years be more balanced, legislatively, I think this purity movement will be much less supported in 2012.

  • Jay Thompson


    I could not agree more! Why do “principled” conservatives find victory in something so Pyrrhic? Look above at the comments made by well-intended readers. In the face of anecdotal Goldwater precedent, these views aren’t principled – they are gullible. I agree with you – and in the world of politics, where black and white rarely ever “win,” the gray area is where the trenches are. ‘Tis a pity that such a fine movement as the Tea Party is insistent on less than the finish line…

  • Dan Farfan

    “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.”

    I suppose my primary grievance with “too rigid”, “won’t budge” “purists” isn’t when they’d rather lose than compromise, it’s when they’d rather “believe” than “think.” My heartburn is when they’d rather fight than solve.

    We’ve seen the formula play out so often, it’s practically cliche.

    pol #1: “The American people are with us on this issue, the polls prove it.”
    pol #2: “The other side is offering a compromise that gets us almost everything we want.”
    pol #1: “No, no, no. This is a fantastic campaign issue. We can fund raise on this big time. That’s how we’ll win, by painting the other side as… ”

    True Believer? True believer… in winning at the expense of solving?
    If I may be so bold to pay homage to Sen. Goldwater and his speech writers,

    “Winning elections at the expense of solving problems is no triumph.”

    In my opinion, the typical modern politician’s priorities rank:
    self, party, donors, voters, and then country.
    Trouble is, that list should be in exactly the reverse order, in my opinion.

    When we eliminate the inequities of majority rule (in both houses of Congress) then people can get busy on solutions instead of governing for the next election cycle – which is really always the current election cycle because there is no longer a time when our “leaders” are governing instead of campaigning.

    – “The Next 10 Amendments”

  • JDO

    I wasn’t alive in ’64. Can I assume that Buckley didn’t vote for Goldwater?

    • Bernie

      I’m pretty sure Buckley voted for Goldwater. His observation was about Republicans running in primaries — that he’d pick the most electable conservative. but once it comes down to a liberal democrat and a conservative republican … a conservative votes for the latter.


      • JDO

        Oh, I certainly agree on the latter, conservative repub over a liberal democrat, but I was more wondering about the primary, and should have said so. Heh, I would’ve expected him to vote for Goldwater in the general election.

        It’s a complicated issue, “electable” vs perhaps someone you’d rather vote for. Heck, we got Clinton ’cause of that exact problem, imo, though, again, that was in the general election.

  • Dan Farfan

    “I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.” Me too, Jim, but in the real world, the Democrats would shove whatever left-wing programs they want down those 30 conservative throats – and there wouldn’t be a damn thing DeMint and his 29 conservative pals could do about it.
    Which is exactly why the “inequities of majority rule” (in both houses of Congress) must be eliminated if America is to rationally address the large, systemic problems plaguing the system (and the people) instead of perpetuating the 2 party stranglehold and endless political hostage situation.

    The only way to do this is by Amendment.

    – “The Next 10 Amendments”

  • David

    Bernie….Castle is not a moderate Republican…at least he’s a Democrat…and may be a closet Progressive. What is a moderate Republican? One that votes for cap and trade…all the bailouts, TARP, the stimulus? Might as well vote for the Democrat…you know what you are going to get with them. I don’t think voting for a RINO is winning…..the leadership of the old Democratic party are Progressives….the new Democrat party are the current Grand O P’s…

  • Anarchocapitalist

    Come on Bernie, this kind of attitude is what made the Tea Party in the first place. Finally a decently sized group of people are rising up against “big government” and choosing actual conservatives with real values and not just war-mongering, deficit spending, Medicare Part-D George Bush Republicans. Yeah O’Donnell is a bit a weird but at least we know that before she gets elected (if she even does) unlike some other Republicans caught trying to solicit homosexual intercourse in a public bathroom. I am sick of these so-called conservatives who claim to distrust government but then someone comes along who wants to privatize social security and they act like they are extremists. Look Bernie, you either approve of government programs or you don’t, don’t try to have it both ways. The same goes for rest of the kool-aid drinking Fox News crowd. There is no point criticizing liberals and MSNBC, their failed policies and idiocy are enough. But for conservatives claiming to not want gov’t healthcare but want to preserve Medicare, try standing behind your principles for once. The same goes for Reagan, he wasn’t the God you all claim he was, he was just as progressive and liberal as the rest of them. Someone who explodes the national debt and raises Social Security taxes four years in a row is no hero to me.

  • Kathie Ampela

    This is one of your best columns ever,’s exactly how I feel. We need more independent thinkers and less blind kool aid drinkers. This is the best election season ever in my lifetime, with more people getting involved than ever before. Having said that, I think that Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer were right when they said Christine O’Donnell was unelectable. If I were voting in Delaware it would be for her, but I wouldn’t be happy about it. I would be voting against the Marxist guy. Based on her background, I just don’t think she is the one who would “stand on principle.” She has spent 20 years as a professional publicity seeker, and not a very good one at that based on her financial issues. And I don’t like that fact that she cancelled her appearance on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace today. If she had really been serious, that would have been the perfect venue for her. Not loving and not hostile, just tough and fair. Now it seems as though she can’t handle anything but a friendly setting. How can she convince voters who might be on the fence about her to think otherwise?

  • Ray C.

    Bernie – well said (as usual), however, you’re leaving out the ‘cutesy’ factor…

    You know darn well, by 21st century standards, Christine’s youthful image will garner votes from a large segment of our young voters…when paired with her Democrat opponent dressed in a tweed sport coat, she’ll collect the ‘looks’ votes by a landslide…

    If she’s smart enough to plaster her portrait all across the State, along with the usual disgusting splurge of TV ads showing her smiling image, she will indeed have an edge over her older, male, ‘establishment’ opponent…

    Have you ever watched the late night shows when they interview the ‘man on the street’? You know, the common citizen that can’t name our Vice President, but know all the Jersey Shore characters – I rest my case!

    Ray C.
    Lodi, CA

    • JDO

      I get what you’re sayin’, Ray, but I seriously doubt those “man on the street” people even vote. It makes me shudder to even think that they produce children.

      You are correct in that O’Donnell does have the “cutesy” factor, but she looks a little too much like Katie Couric for my tastes, lol.

  • EddieD_Boston

    But if she wins it’ll be HUGE. And liberals…err progressives still
    won’t get it.

    • Bernie


      I completely agree.


      • paul courtney

        Bernie: If she wins, it’ll be great. If she doesn’t, conservatives may find “sticking to principal” consoling. Having bare majority in Senate not all it’s cracked up to be. Remember C Dodd & minority stopping reform of Fannie Mae? If standing our ground now means losing Senate now but better chance for true conservative government in future, then it’s all good. And if we take House now, we’ll have the even wider-eyed look on Nancy’s face when they take back her plane! That should be RNC campaign motto, “take back the House and we’ll take back the Plane”.

  • Bruce A.

    The people of Delaware pay the same Federal taxes as everyone else. I am sure they are just as angry as the rest of the country about the sad state of our country.
    I can’t remember the commentator who said it but to paraphrase it “In this country revoultion happens at the ballot box”.

  • Ron

    If we are indeed a center right country then we should have the votes to elect O’Donnell. The professionals on both sides are all to willing to cut deals to further benefit their careers. The name of Republican or Democrat means nothing to them and they will turn on a second.

  • Buz Chertok

    Christine O’donnell may not be much but she certainly espouses the thoughts and advocates the policies that you, Rove, Krauthammer et al agree with. Castle,like Spector say the right things but their records clearly show that they do not believe them. Castle voted for the ruinous stimulus and Obamacare and has clearly stated that he would never vote to repeal it. In that,he mirrors the democrat candidate which is abhorrent to you, Rove, Krauthammer and the rest of us. That is why she beat him.If you think that she was an unwise choice, nobody on our side wants to hear it and harping on it not only does no good but actually does great harm so I wish that you and the rest of our conservative leaders would cut it out. Look, her opponent is an admitted Marxist who would support Obama, the closet Marxist 24/7. He’s got to be defeated by O’Donnell, our elected candidate. So I ask that you direct your fire at the democrat miscreant and do your best to see to it that the public knows what a disaster he is. You may not be able to build her up but you can surely tear him down. Next to him she is Joan of Arc.

  • John

    Bernie, you agree with me on this one. I’m the most ardent and adamant independent I know, yet I’m also a realist. Revolution only works accompanied by violence. Incrementalism is the only rational, persuasive way to accomplish peaceful social change. Don’t we already have daily examples of how radical fundamental transformation is being rejected? Good job, your logic is well-reasoned, and I hope we’re both proven wrong at the polls, but I don’t think so.

  • Stan

    Electing Castle and seeing himj pull a “jumping” Jim Jeffers / Arlen Specter on the GOP when they a ?? 51-49 majority?
    What’s the point in supporting or voting for those RINOs.
    And ALL the GOP elites said we were supposed to support them
    because they were electable!!!!!!

  • Michael Harris

    Kudos Bernie, Elections have consequences. Look at the Obama nightmare. Did Sean Hannitty, ann Coulter et al defeat John McCain? Maybe not but their attitude was rathe lose now to clear the decks for the coservative revolution. The fact is we are a center right country and need to reach out to the center except in some states where the electorate is conservative. But Delware is not South Carolina.

  • Kevin F

    Bernie you’re wrong . It doesn’t do Conservatism any good to have someone like Castle in the party , if he votes for the stimulus , TARP , and cap-n -trade . I only wish those 2 RINO’s from Maine had primaries this year so that they could’ve been sent packing also . These 3 aren’t conservatives , democrats or republicans . In reality they’re PROGRESSIVES that thnk government is the answer to every question .

    • Bernie


      So you’d rather have liberal democrats in congress if that’s what it comes down to — since conservative republicans would have a very tough time in a place like maine.

      as i said before, Kevin: true believers make me nervous.

  • Sharon Filipski

    Come on Bernie give her a chance. She can’t be a bad as a Marxist being there. Castle didn’t stand with the Republicans. Sure everyone has skeltons in their closet but no one’s perfect. Support her and help her WIN……..We need “Change” but not what Obama has delivered.

  • Ron Kean

    She is the product of backlash.

    We’re told her opponent has Karl Marx on his resume.

    She’ll need to drive that point home.

  • Soul

    I practice the guitar and listen to music to play on the guitar frequently. Sometimes i wonder how often do people listen and understand the lyrics? I figure probably not that much. Most of us like the beat and melody most.

    At the time, I thought that is part of the reason why Obama became elected. He told us his ideas in books and speeches about his far left vision for America. And yet many seemed to become emotionally enchanted with the beat not the lyrics. Now that many see the President’s ideas on government in action, most are finding they don’t like what they witness.

    Maybe the same will happen in liberal Delaware, where a farther to the right conservative like O’Donnell is typically not voted for.

    I wonder too how much of a chance Mike Castle really had to win in this election.

    Anyway, time for me to look forward, and hope she wins.

    I like the smaller government ideas the Tea Party supports. And glad the Delaware guy O’Donnell is running against seems to be an extremist to the left.

  • Berg

    In politics you choose for the least worst option. Sometimes it’s a good one. Other times you just have to compromise.
    One should hope that O’Donnell’s victory wasn’t a Pyrrhic one.

  • Cap’n Eddie Ricketyback

    My opinion is, it’s time to make a stand. We’ve been slipping into Socialism since the New Deal, and now are slipping, or rather plunging, into Fascism. A few RINOs may slow it down but not stop it. This election and the next one is as good a time as any to find out what the people of this country deserve. Whatever it is they will surely get it.


    There’s a difference in O’Donnell’s primary victory (and maybe in the general) and
    Barry Goldwater’s defeat: The influence of the news media in l964 and the lack of
    influence it has today, thanks to people like Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and honest
    journalists who are willing to speak out like yourself. Sorry that you do not prefer
    principle over winning, however. …I agree with DeMint!!

    • Bernie


      I consider myself as principled as you … or any of the other purists. I understand politics. Not sure the purists really do.


      • Phil Kaiser

        Bernie, we understand politics as well and we are practicing real TERM LIMITS as spelled out in our Constitution, why is that so hard to understand? Castle is gone now (thankfully), and his brand of RINO-ism will not return to the House, period. We also understand getting us back to our roots is a dirty business and sometimes you have to lose to win, remember George Washington? He lost all the time, but won the war in the end. We’re tired of our opposition trotting out our RINO disasters and pointing to them as “moderate” when they are no such thing, they only say it because our RINOs agree with them, and are dismissed quickly when they don’t. Sometimes we have to stand for something Bernie, or we’ll fall for anything!

        Phil Kaiser
        Searsport, Maine

  • John Hageman

    So, I guess Castle was a shoe-in as a RINO, the conservatives would have won. Just like they ‘won’ with Collins and Snowe, eh? I guess the ‘logic’ is that ALL the Castle voters are going to turn either away from O’Donnell by staying home, or voting against her. Certainly possible in the land of Biden, but I don’t consider Castle a win and I do believe more people responded to O’Donnell than Castle, so maybe, just maybe there is a worm that can turn in Delaware.

  • Ken Besig, Israel

    At this point, it doesn’t matter who kicks the Democrats out so long as they are kicked out, and kicked out HARD!

    • Richard

      Couldn’t have said it better myself!!! It’s time to hand more than a few Dems their eviction papers.

    • adolf

      That is a very passionate response Ken. I would prefer either a moderate republican or a conservative Democrat. Since 2000 America has had dogmatic leaders who put dogma over rationale and objective evaluation of problems. The simple truth is that a pragmatist is needed in the white House. A pragmatist that knows that solving america’s present problems will involve a mix of conservative and liberal policies.