The recent reelection of John Boehner as Speaker of the House brought to light a disturbing trait among some who self-identify as “conservatives.” Boehner has been perceived as a thorn in the side of conservative interests since his first election four years ago, as he has continually acquiesced, or as some say it, “caved” to the left in his chamber, and to the president. The sentiment is captured in a landmark political cartoon showing an elephant reaching across a dangerous precipice toward an indifferent president, titled merely, “The Compromise.”
The sentiment is understandable, and shared by nearly all of us on the right of the political spectrum. But what was disturbing was the reaction of some toward their own congressmen who supported Boehner.
Raul Labrador (R-ID) won reelection from Idaho’s 1st Congressional District in November and is as steeped in his conservative ideals, and the classical liberal precepts the country was founded upon, as any conservative in Congress. There can be no question that his loyalties lie with the Constitution, the enumerated powers of the federal government, and the rights ostensibly assured thereby.
But after it became known publicly that Labrador had voted for the Speaker, an outpouring of obstreperous denunciations ensued. Comments on Labrador’s Facebook wall accused him of being a traitor, a turncoat, of betraying his conservative values, and betraying all conservatives who voted for him. Many declared they would never support him again, while others called for his recall.
Anyone with a modicum of political savvy, knows, or at least should know, that our chosen candidates, and elected officials, are not always going to vote the way we want them to, or the way we would if we were there. But the very notion of removing, or refusing to vote again for, the congressman because of one vote, even though he may a Freedomworks conservative rating of 90, on a 0-100 scale, is nothing short of idiocy.
This is a dangerous mentality that seems to be common at extremes of any ideology. “Unless you agree completely with me, or refuse to vote precisely the way I would have you vote, I’m not going to support you.” The only way to assure that your representative votes precisely as you want them to is to hold that position yourself. No one sees issues and solutions precisely the same way, except perhaps pure ideologues.
The derision heaped upon Labrador for his Speaker vote is a perfect example of how illogically and ideologically rigid some can be. Labrador’s conservatism is indisputable, and yet because of one vote, he’s called every pejorative epithet in the book, and many who share his ideological orientation throw him under the bus. This is where the ignorance of governance is so blatantly manifest. A viable educational tool might be to consider what other forms of extremism employ the same tactic that ostracizes and divides based on ideological “purity.”
A critical component to our efforts in working together in this democratic experiment is the didactic process of refining tactics based on efficacy. That includes identifying the destructive tactics that preclude the very notion of compromise, (which is essential in a constitutional republic), and contribute to the increased polarization of the body politic. This is clearly one of the most detrimental tactics; when we are so rigid in our ideological convictions that we destroy the relationship shared with others who think mostly as we do. It’s destructive to the political process, and its nascence and impetus, is based in ideological rigidity.
It’s also a tactic of some on the left, as superbly promulgated by Saul Alinsky. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Conservatives should realize that the consequences of implementing the tactic on themselves vitiates the advantages of a conservative voting block by dividing and parsing tranches based on perceived fealty to our founding principles. The result basically culls the “nonbelievers” from the “believers,” by lashing out, maligning, and condemning those who are perceived to not agree entirely, essentially ostracizing those who should be our allies.
It should be disturbing to conservatives when they learn that they employ the same tactic as other extremists, but many seem to revel in it, as if it’s a badge of honor of how “conservative” they are. That’s not a measure of political ideological integrity – it’s a measure of political ignorance of how the system works and how we have to work together in this republic of ours.
We should express our disapprobation to our elected officials when we disagree. But it’s totally illogical, and self-destructive, when we marginalize and alienate those with whom we share values, but may differ occasionally on specific votes. There aren’t many affirming or positive adjectives that can be used to describe someone who can only be supportive of, or civil to, someone with whom they agree 100% of the time.
If conservatives continue these tactics, they will succeed only in splintering and dividing themselves, granting the left victory after victory at the polls. It’s so often quoted that I hesitate to say it again, but apparently some need the continual reminder. As Ronald Reagan once said, “He who agrees with me 80% of the time is not my enemy.” Or his variation on that theme, “My eighty-percent friend is not my twenty-percent enemy.”