Jonah Goldberg

Third, Republicans and conservatives aren't the same thing. This distinction seems lost on lots of people, including cable television bark-show bookers and partisan Democrats and Republicans alike. To a principled conservative, it is bad news when the Democrats lurch to the left, even if it makes the Democrats less likely to win elections. Why? Because when the Democrats move left, so do the Republicans.

In American politics, when one party moves left or right, the political center of gravity moves that way too. Bill Clinton, whatever his flaws, moved his party to the right. His triangulation infuriated Republicans because it is always vexing when someone steals your lunch. Democrats despise Bush's compassionate conservatism for similar reasons. A Republican president promising to "leave no child behind" annoys Democrats as much as Clinton's denouncing of Sista Soulja irked Republicans. When the Bush presidency is over, it will be more obvious in hindsight how much he moved the GOP to the left - by making the Nanny State bipartisan.

It all boils down to what matters to you most. As a conservative, the extent I root for the GOP depends entirely on how successful it is in moving the political climate of the country toward fiscal restraint, limited government and cultural decency. Single-issue voters understand this point best: Pro-lifers would dearly love to break the GOP monopoly on opposing abortion, just as abortion rights supporters dream of the day when both parties are pro-choice. Many conservatives, including yours truly, would have agonized over a choice between a reliably pro-war Democrat and George W. Bush in 2004, particularly if judicial appointments weren't so important.

The point, dear liberals, is that some conservatives who criticize the Democrats or offer them advice do not do so solely to salt wounds, but in the hope that someday we will have a real choice on Election Day - and not between the lesser of two evils.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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