An obsession with endless bipartisan compromise does not keep us free.--
conservative talk show host LAURA INGRAHAM introducing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., 7 February 2008, at which Romney announced he was suspending his actively campaigning for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
and *I* thought the Federal Constitution (or, for that matter, any given State Constitution) was all about horizontal "Checks and Balances" between the three branches of Government- Executive, Legislative and Judicial; bicameral legislative bodies (well, except in Nebraska) also checking each other; vertical checks and balances between the Federal Government and the unitary constituent States of the American Union (where not also between said States and their own non-sovereign, "created solely for purposes of the State" Counties, Townships, incorporated Municipalities and sub-county Civil Districts of various and sundry types) and other such devices to make sure that, in the main, Public Policy was reached- and then promoted- with the help of Dame Consensus.
I thought it was all about the Madisonian ideal- one that turned Montesquieu's concept that a Republic could only survive if it were limited in geographical size, where the representatives of the Citizenry could yet remain quite close to those who had so chosen said representatives, on its very head: an ideal in which a rather large number of competing factions and interests would be forced to compete with one another in their each heralding a new direction in National Policy simply because the sheer size of the Federal Republic James Madison greatly aided in crafting dictated that there would be, by very definition, so many more of them than could exist on the State or local level.
In other words, I thought it was- if only by sheerest necessity- all about Compromise!
And, yet, here we have a statement, by a talk show host (a person who, as part of that same introduction, described Mitt Romney as "the Conservative's conservative"), so eerily echoic of Barry Goldwater's Extremism in defense of Liberty is no vice; Moderation in the pursuit of Justice is no virtue from nearly four and a half decades ago!
In the end, though, it is but the plaintive cry of the True Believer in what is self-described as a "Revolution"- in this case, a "Conservative Revolution" (in its most recent full flowering, "the Reagan Revolution").
The simple problem with any Revolution (whether bloodied by Civil War or bloodless via the ballot box)- long past or of the present day- is that, at some point, it is going to have to come to coexist with that Revolution's rivals, else there is no Liberty (where the Revolutionary Lunatics are put in charge of the Asylum-- see "Reign of Terror, 1794").
The Madisonian ideal lurking within the philosophical fabric of American Constitutionalism itself was a far cry from this "Take No Prisoners" attitude as today expressed by such as Ms. Ingraham on the Right (and, to be fair here, there are also those with quite similar intolerance on the Left); at the same time, it was also a far cry from the project upon which the American Patriot Cause first embarked beside a certain "rude bridge that arch'd the flood" from which was fired that "shot heard 'round the World" that would, eventually, lead to an American Union itself a local, homebrew version of the nascent British Empire the denizens of that very Union had themselves left but a little under a decade and a half before the new Union first became effective.
Yet many of the singular players in the early. halcyon days of the Patriot Cause were not destined to be part of the early leadership cadre of the very Union that the aftermath of American Revolution had forged: Samuel Adams and John Hancock ended up giving (albeit- if only in some senses- begrudgingly) their support to the new Federal Union but both preferred to stay at their Commonwealth's level of Politics; Patrick Henry had early actually seen the need for a super-State Government more effective than the Confederation contemplated by its Articles but was to be deeply suspicious of the new Federal Union, thus he declined to participate; Thomas Paine, by 1789, had long sailed off to become a pamphleteer in a Revolution with a rather different history in France.
No, by the time the new Congress of the United States under the Constitution wrought at Philadelphia two years before was so seriously contemplating James Madison's proposed Amendments thereto as a "Bill of Rights", it was- in many cases- the souls of persons other than those who were once stalwarts of the Patriot Cause that had been, or were being, tried by the times! Such is the usual, peaceable course of all Revolutions that come to be at peace with competing factions: such is also what made the United States of America even possible in the first place!
Fast forward to 2008's attempt to place a person into the chair occupied by the highest Executive Official of the Land:
Some six months or so ago, Senator John McCain's presidential candidacy was (to here use a metaphor most familiar to that U.S. Navy in which McCain and his family so well served) "dead in the water". At the same time, Rudy Giuliani was the darling of Northeastern (and, or so Giuliani himself hoped, Florida) more moderate Republicans (though I could never quite fathom how the former New York City Mayor might actually win the GOP nomination, even had his "Florida into 'Super Duper' Tuesday" strategy actually worked); Mitt Romney was, in fact, what Ms. Ingraham called him- "a Conservatives' conservative" (meaning that, in her eyes, he was both socioculturally and politicoeconomically conservative); and the only remaining question was which GOP presidential contender would emerge as the champion of those for whom Faith mattered as much as, if not more than, Business Acumen (many of whom would come to view Romney's own faith with no little suspicion) - that, it turns out, was to be (though it would not become apparent for some time) former Arkansas Mike Huckabee.
However, 'a month is a Year in Politics and a year a Political Lifetime', so the old saw goes:
As McCain's star rose as 2007 became 2008, Giuliani's own star fell (for reasons I have already discussed in earlier Commentaries, so I need not go into them again here); to True Believing conservatives (whether this, in the end, would have proven true or not-- we'll never know, of course), Giuliani was ultimately beatable: on the other hand, McCain (precisely because of his military experience [thus, he well knows the dictum that 'War is too Important to be left to the Generals'] and his later political career as something of a maverick not afraid to buck the more dogmatic within the Republican Party and cross the Aisle when necessary) was someone of whom such "dyed-in-the-wool" conservatives were most afraid, for here was- indeed- someone who could so well appeal to those Republicans who were at least somewhat less than conservative True Believers.
Many of these True Believers (though, again to be fair, not all) came to feel that the political style of a "President McCain" would only serve to more likely betray their Revolution (it was precisely the expression of this fear at the ballot box eight years ago that was largely responsible for the derailing of Senator McCain's previous attempt to win the GOP presidential nomination), for here was a man who seems to at least attempt to understand the very Madisonian ideal of which I wrote earlier- that is: someone who understood that Compromise was- so often- the only way by which a Republican President can best hope to achieve that which Republicans, of all stripes, most hold dear.
By all accounts (though the actual delegate breakdowns still differ, even as I type this), 'Super Duper' Tuesday most determined that McCain is well more than halfway to the "clinching point" re: the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Both Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, are well behind-- Romney's numbers, obviously, suggested to him that it was time for him to "bail"; it will now be interesting to see how far Huckabee can take his campaign, let alone win many of the GOP Primaries and Caucuses yet to come.
One thing is certain (where not also rather obvious [but I here state it anyway]), if Romney-supporting conservative Republicans (whether True Believers or no) can come around to co-exist with McCain as their Party's nominee, whether they so come around next week or later, it's all over and Senator McCain will be the GOP standard-bearer... come to think of it, he'll proably be the standard-bearer in any event!
(next Commentary: the Democrats post-'Super Duper' Tuesday)