This is essentially the question that Matt Lewis is asking this weekend in his Daily Caller article, The enemy of my enemy is my friend: Why conservatives are always defending the indefensible. In it, Matt puts forward the question of whether or not somebody is worth defending – even if they have the potential to do more long term harm than good – just because they are also the enemy of someone we oppose. He delves into a few different examples, citing Donald Trump, Ted Nugent and … Matt Bevin?
Political candidates who pick the right enemies are too often supported, regardless of their failings. Most recently, we have seen this in the effort to oust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell, of course, is no conservative hero, but conservatives were too quick to latch onto a flawed replacement.
Matt Bevin’s campaign has been plagued with mistakes and odd revelations (did he really go to MIT?), the most recent of which is that he signed a letter in support of TARP. Bevin’s in a different category from Trump and Nugent, but conservatives are supporting him for many of the same reasons, including the fact that he has the right enemy. For a lot of conservatives, it’s better the devil you don’t know than the devil you do.
I’m really not sure I’d lump Bevin in with the rest of the cast of characters in this article. While he has turned out to be a less than productive candidate, many of the “charges” listed against him are largely superficial, and this may be nothing more than yet another case of insufficient vetting rather than some sort of dangerous wolf in sheep’s clothing. In the end, Bevin’s opposition to McConnell is surely still just as valid as the protests expressed by many conservatives who wished to see McConnell removed. He apparently just wasn’t the best candidate to carry the message to the polling stations.
As to the rest of the subjects listed, Lewis has a point to make which is rather hard to argue with in general terms.
It’s time to break the cycle. Having the right enemies is hardly a qualification for robust support. That’s because you and I will (fairly or not) be associated with the people we support. When we endorse the wrong person, their actions reflect on us.
So here’s my modest proposal: When conservatives vet someone (assuming they do), they should consider some additional criteria, including: “Is this personal really a conservative?” — “Is this person just using us?,” and (just as importantly) — “Do they have the character and integrity worthy of our support?”
No matter how much you may love to hear some people set their own hair on fire and spout out some really over the top, world class invective, Matt’s point is a fair one. Winning in politics involves, well… winning, and there are still some lines that are only crossed at significant risk. Some actors on the political stage tend to cross – or completely shatter -those lines, and while the entertainment value is high, they risk becoming clowns in the eyes of many voters who may be more cautious. And when you endorse the clown, you become part of the circus by default. The enemy of your enemy may indeed be your friend, but we probably all have had a few friends that you really wouldn’t want to bring home for Sunday dinner with the family.