For the record, count me among the opponents of the fiscal cliff-averting measure that passed the House and Senate this week.
But please do not count me among those for whom this was a do-or-die litmus test for conservative veracity.
There are things members of Congress could do that would explode their reputations with me-- endorse Obamacare, back Roe v. Wade, cozy up to terrorists-- but when all is said and done, these days of intra-party angst are about differences in strategy, not goals.
From my North Texas base, I watched our area’s Republican contingent vote no, with opposition extending even to members who occasionally take heat for coziness with the “establishment.”
There was one exception-- Pete Sessions, who is about to trade his job atop the National Republican Congressional Committee for a new challenge: chairman of the House Rules Committee.
I’ve known Pete since before he went to Congress in the elections of 1996. I will hear no claims that he is weak on conservative principle. But I had to ask why he would side with John Boehner and 83 other loyalists and not the 151 stout souls who said no.
He said he was driven to solidify the Bush-era tax cuts for the deserving Americans between roughly $250,000 and $450,000 in income. He said he was compelled to seize the opportunity to do the right thing on the estate tax, alternative minimum tax and other worthy portions of the measure embraced by Boehner and his Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell.
But the measure was also embraced by President Obama, whose thirst for taxes will never be quenched. Wasn’t a momentary trip off the fiscal cliff preferable to giving in to even part of his fetish for fresh citizen wealth?
It was for me, but not for Pete. Or Paul Ryan, for that matter, whom I continue to admire. I do wish Ryan would stop couching votes like this in the language of “applying our principles to the realities of governing.” When I read that, I wince in anticipation of future surrenders.
Do Democrats wring their hands when faced with Republican presidents and GOP congressional majorities? I seem to notice they double down and fight harder at those times, even when success is unlikely.
I want conservatives to do at least as much, because when we do it, we are actually right.
I don’t care that Obama won. I don’t care that Harry Reid still runs the Senate. I want Republicans to carry conservative shields and swords into every battle.
If a measure adds to the punishment of success, it is to be opposed.
If a measure fails to address obscene spending, it is to be opposed.
If a measure compromises on core values, it is to be opposed.
For some reason, it is not a universal Republican core value that government has too much of our money already. Apparently conservatives will spent 2013 and beyond waging ideological warfare with Democrats and strategic skirmishes with other Republicans.
Far better for us to unify and let the chips fall where they may.
I am well aware that we may lose a number of battles on that road until we can flip the Senate in 2014 and nominate a reliable, tested conservative for the presidency two years later.
Along the way, vote by vote, if we win, we win. If we lose, America gets to see what happens when we lose: The steps we take toward turning into Greece, the mountains of debt we shovel onto our kids and grandkids, the dimming image in the rear view mirror of the nation our founders intended.
Rather than looking for ways to compromise with those who would lead us to ruin, let us fight for what is right, convincing allies with fainter hearts that there is little time to waste.
We should not scold or berate our leaders who seem comfortable with the security blanket of an establishment path. We should lead by example, energizing new followers with an upbeat, unapologetic devotion to wrestling our nation from the hands of those who refuse to seriously address the one fiscal problem that fuels all others-- spending.
If we can attract loud enthusiasm from voters we persuade to our cause, that is the kind of thing that can unite the Ryans and Rubios, the Rand Pauls and Pat Toomeys, even the Boehner-backers and grassroots firebrands.
Here come the sequester votes, debt limit fights and a host of other battlefields where conservatism will be measured. Barack Obama is energized by his success at further soaking the Americans most able to create jobs.
He will never tire. Nor should we.