A strange phenomenon on the right is that many of the same people who believe Barack Obama to be not a mere feckless academic progressive but a conspirator against the interests of the United States and an active malefactor are precisely the same people who vow to stay home or write in Donald Duck if the Republicans should be so crass as to expect them to go to the polls in support of . . . Mitch McConnell, or Marco Rubio, or Rick Perry, or Ted Cruz, or Chris Christie. It is one thing to believe that Barack Obama is Antichrist Lite or to believe that Mitt Romney was something less than a vision of perfection from a conservative point of view. But while I am sympathetic to the view that what currently ails the United States may be beyond the power of elections to reverse, to believe that in terms of the presidency that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are roughly interchangeable is poppycock. To believe that, in terms of the Senate, it makes no difference whether we have Mitch McConnell or a fairly fruity Democrat is unsupportable.
My own belief is that such changes as we are likely to be able to achieve through winning elections and passing laws (as opposed to dealing with economic reality per force when the bill for those unfunded liabilities lands on the budget with a meteoric thud) is likely to be marginal, but that, over time, an accumulation of marginal changes can make a substantial difference. I do not see how those marginal changes can happen without electing Republicans and passing laws.
Which is to say, it is possible to be uncompromising as a matter of philosophy while at the same time taking a good-enough view of operational politics. Is Paul Ryan’s budget something that satisfies my every fiscal priority in a way that is absolutely consistent with my values and preferences? Not by a long shot. Is it good enough? Yes, it is. Enacting it would represent an important step in the right direction. And not a baby step, either. I like Rick Perry and Rand Paul. Marco Rubio? Good enough. Scott Walker? Double-plus good enough.
Organizations such as the Club for Growth and the various tea-party groups do important work keeping Republicans honest, and I am all for challenging incumbents in primaries. That’s why we have primaries. But when defeating conservatives becomes more important to you than moving conservative reforms forward, you become part of the problem. And don’t tell me that Mitch McConnell or John Boehner aren’t “real conservatives.” Either one would have been well on the right side of congressional leadership in the Reagan years. If you cannot figure out why you’d rather have Speaker Boehner than Speaker Pelosi, you need to take a deep breath.