Conservatives don't circle the wagons around corrupt politicians

The conventional wisdom is that conservatives view both Christie (the moderate 2016 frontrunner) and McDonnell (who raised taxes) as moderates and therefore the enemy. It’s true that a handful of prominent conservatives have taken that posture. One could say the same of several previous Republican scandals – those of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, or former Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood. Conservatives were lining up there to say, “I told you so.”

But to focus on their politics misses the more obvious explanation. Conservatives do and probably should defend their own – and even defend moderates – against silly controversies like “binders full of women” or remarks that are taken out of context. But McDonnell’s and Christie’s cases are different from these in kind, and not just in degree.

Both Christie and McDonnell are far more conservative than those listed above. Still, if the allegations are true, their views cannot make up for behavior that is not just immoral and embarrassing, but also antithetical to conservative ideas about government’s role.

Conservatives’ default preference for smaller, more limited government is not based solely on the fact that big government is expensive and unnecessary. It is also connected to a deep suspicion of concentrated power even where intentions are good. When government is big, bribery, cronyism, and venality inevitably deprive citizens of their property, life and rights. Conservatives view big government’s dreams for improving the world as mere abuses of power waiting to happen.