Conservatives in America, I have a mea culpa for you. Being outside of America, I must confess that I've experienced a baffling inability to understand why any conservative Americans would have any level of reservation about squishy, RINO Republicans in the Congressional House or the Senate. That is, until now. Recent events here in Canada have opened my eyes to dissatisfaction with those supposedly on one's own side of the political line. I've chided those who would stay home and not vote for the likes of John McCain and Mitt Romney, despite the misgivings they had about them (and I shared, I must admit).
Let me first establish the reason for my original thinking on this. In Canada, having spent decades under federal Liberal leadership with exceedingly liberal policies often bordering on socialism, conservatives had been starving for a seat at the table let alone any sort of victory. Decades of being excluded a la Obama's "I won" and Republican exclusion from 2009 until recently, will allow you to forgive those less conservative than yourself, if they at least expressed some level of dissatisfaction with the status quo. While it was easy to identify with the goals and concerns of the disparate Tea Party movement in the U.S., understanding their tactics often escaped me.
Why bash those who want to move in your direction if only less so, or less rapidly than yourself? They are a potential ally against the greater threat of progressivism/socialism. Why try to replace Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe in Maine when someone more conservative could very likely not win there? Surely a broken wrist is better than chopping the wrist off entirely.
What I was questioning was the spirit of compromise from necessity rather than the desire to move the country back towards it's spiritual roots of true liberty. The movement, in my estimation would take time and require these compromises but on a declining basis over time. Conservatism could breed conservatism, just as progressivism had bred progressivism over time.
In any case, my fault was not I believe in my thinking, but in my ability to misunderstand the nature of the frustration of many American conservatives and their desire to overcome these hurdles.
Two events recently in Canada have opened my eyes to the frustration of conservatives in America. Conservatives here have recently made strategic or tactical errors that have led me to the same frustration. I'm not sure yet if it has led me to the point of wanting to "throw the bums out", but it certainly has given me pause for thought.
Firstly, the federal Conservative Party is facing an election this year. Coming of their third consecutive government, but first majority government (having led the country since 2006), they have undertaken a number of populist positions in order to aid their re-election bid. Many of these positions have been strategically sound politically, though not necessarily conservative in nature. One position in particular has irked me considerably. Recently they created a new tax break targeted specifically at families. On the surface it's seemingly a wholesome conservative position. The tax break applies to families with children under 18 living at home. But there are a large number of people for whom the tax break reminds me of the government choosing winners and losers. Sound familiar in America? In my case I do not qualify for it. Sour grapes on my part? Certainly there is an element of that, I will not deny. But the argument I make still holds true, since there a vast number of empty-nesters or families without children, or singles for of people for whom the tax break does not apply.
In my view this is not really a conservative tax break, it's a targeted political and/or social engineering driven tax break. It's the government either trying to engineer more families and/or trying to win votes by targeting a sizable, but not universal constituency. That notion aside, the government is choosing winners (tax break recipients) and losers (all others). That's not cool, and it's not conservative. It's no different than the progressive liberal notion of progressive tax rates - the more you make, the higher the rate you pay. That's inherently biased much like mandated racial quotas in hiring practices - different in nature, but similar in intent and desired outcome. Social engineering AND/or political gain. I do not expect conservatives to be above aiming for political gain. I do not expect them to use liberal tactics to achieve their aims. And I certainly do not want them causing, intended or not, social change based on policy decisions. Let the people decide for themselves. that's bigger than democracy, it's liberty.
Secondly, and more colloquially, the provincial conservative party in my home province of Ontario, having been out of power for the better part of the last 50 years, once again was facing a leadership race. My member of provincial parliament, the leading candidate, lost her bid to a younger candidate, a member of the federal parliament. He seemed to be a weaker choice, and for the third time in a row, they've picked a candidate who cannot win the provincial election (at least it appear to be the case so far). Are conservatives in Ontario comfortable being perceived as a party with no interest in women as leaders? Does the level of experience of the leader not matter?
Rant over. My point is that in Canada we have been starved for conservatism for so long (at least as conservatives we had been), it had been easy to get the low hanging fruit and please all conservatives because any movement towards the right by the government was good news to us. Now that has been done, and the Conservative party needs to maintain it's governing role, it can no longer please all of its constituency and some are going to be displeased. I am among them.
Now I am in more of a position to say to American conservatives to suck it up and vote Republican despite your individual misgivings because it is far better than the socialist alternative that dwells within the Democratic party. The irony is that I am less inclined to say it now. I still believe it's the truth, and I will still live by it. Despite having written the Prime Minister about this very concern and suggesting that I may not be able to support him and his party in the coming election (having supported conservative politics since before I could even vote), I will still do so. Having voiced my displeasure directly (and indirectly via my blog), I've said my piece. I'm a team player and I'll suck it up for now and support the conservative team. But make no mistake, I will do my part to see that these sort of decisions are made with a more conservative, yet strategic-thinking impetus in the future.