It wasn’t that long ago that I was all for ideological purity; the unpolluted refusal to compromise one’s political beliefs regardless of the cost. Now, I have begun to see that a single-minded, slavish devotion to an ideological extreme can result in more harm than good.
Take, for example, the recent open carry legislation before the Arkansas state legislature. The newly-elected Speaker of the House, Davy Carter, had been given his position over establishment favorite Terry Rice by the slim Democrat House minority and a few upstart Republicans. Carter had openly voiced his opposition to open carry and assigned the open carry bill to a Democrat-controlled committee, where it failed with the help of wimpy Repubs. (Don’t read too much into which committee the bill was sent to. Terry Rice’s inept planning in preparation for his supposed Speakership had only given the GOP majorities in three committees and Judiciary wasn’t one of them.)
And so the open carry bill failed to clear committee, twice actually. Did it matter that Davy Carter had passed legislation allowing concealed carry in church, a bill that he had opposed a year or two ago? Not at all, knee jerk conservative reactionaries across the state immediately labeled Carter a tool of Democrat Governor Beebe and consigned him to the ranks of RINO sellouts.
Something similar has happened with the passage of the appropriations bill for private care in the Arkansas House today. Solid conservative legislators have spent literally hundreds of hours trying to come up with a way to deal with the impending approach of Obamacare. Their solution was to come up with the “private option,” a way to use federal funds earmarked for Obamacare to set up health care exchanges with private insurance companies. The idea is to get people off of Medicaid and onto the new exchanges as well as to cover people that Obamacare would have missed. This would provide an opportunity to inject some free market principles into what would otherwise strictly be a gov’t incursion into healthcare via Medicaid expansion.
Somewhat predictably, a lot of conservatives freaked out and saw the private option as just another way to implement Obamacare. Did it matter that Charlie Collins, one of bill’s strongest proponents, is a staunch conservative who sponsored the campus concealed carry bill (which also passed into law, thank you Speaker Carter) and income tax cuts? No way! The same conservative activists who championed him in the past immediately tore into him as a traitor to the cause and a sock puppet of Beebe and Obama.
Additionally, the political action committee to which I belong, Conservative Arkansas, has been painted as being owned by liberal lobbyists and being less than “true conservatives” because we haven’t come out against the private option. Instead, we chose to put together two town hall meetings on short notice at the request of Randy Alexander, a northwest Arkansas Republican representative, featuring legislators both opposing and supporting the private option in an effort to further educate the public about this complex issue. (At one point, the board of Conservative Arkansas considered whether to endorse the private option but chose not to since the board members themselves were divided on the issue.)
Local and state conservative activists have made it clear to us, however, that promoting public discourse and direct interaction between constituents and representatives isn’t what is required, nor is it permissible to sit on the sidelines in this matter. Conservative Arkanasas must march in lockstep with them, think as they do, believe exactly as they believe or we are no longer “true conservatives” regardless of anything we have done in the past.
This kind of group think which right wingers like to ascribe to the left is pervasive among the modern conservative movement. Are we as conservatives so short-sighted that we cannot see where this type of thinking leads, what it has caused? Are those who refused to vote for Romney happy with the start of Obama’s second term? Sadly, no one seems to be learning from his/her mistakes. The ultimate result of such tunnel vision is to have its practitioners left sitting there with their principles but without their rights because they attacked those who could have preserved them. They deserve their fate and, if the conservative movement cannot rise above petty bickering, we deserve to fail.