In my column last week, I argued for electoral pragmatism by my fellow conservatives e.g., better a Giuliani Republican than Hillary. About two-thirds of my self-identified conservative Christian e-mail respondents strongly disagreed. That response reminded me of a very shrewd observation made several years ago by Robert William Fogel: "Coalitions spawned by religious movements are more ideological than partisan."
The current Republican/conservative coalition, which started forming under Richard Nixon and reached its zenith under Ronald Reagan, never would have become a national governing coalition without the powerful impetus of the expanding religious movement in America. Without the social conservative and religious faction of the coalition, the remaining fiscal conservatives, free-marketers, hawks and country club Republicans routinely would come up short of a national majority.
But the possible conservative religious resistance to Giuliani on the basis of his opposition to outlawing abortion at the federal level -- and their willingness to accept a Hillary presidency, if necessary, as a result -- points out how little partisan loyalty may have been built up in the past quarter century of the coalition's dominance.
Consider the continued loyalty to the Democratic Party of labor unions (if not always a big majority of their members), which has persisted since FDR's time -- now almost three-quarters of a century. Even when Democrats gave them little, they stuck with them -- a partisan bond that has transcended not only ideology, but sometimes self-interest.
It remains to be seen whether the bonds that have been formed between religious conservatives and the GOP will partially dissolve in 2008. Clearly, a year before the election, some of their leaders are threatening to break. And more than a few of their folks outside of Washington have informed me unambiguously that they share that sentiment.
I still believe that a powerful moral argument can be made for compromising on behalf of one's coalition in politics. I made that argument against my own cherished policy goals when I was inside government in the Reagan White House and as Newt Gingrich's advisor and press secretary. And I plan to continue to make it publicly now.
It is the same argument that Barry Goldwater made so many years ago, when he told the conservatives of his time to grow up politically and not always threaten to walk off with the ball when they didn't like every play their team called. Only a supreme dictator can get everything he wants out of politics. For the rest of us, politics is a team sport. Even vastly popular presidents -- from FDR to Ronald Reagan -- had to compromise on things they felt passionately about.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.