Tony Blankley

Those of us who have stayed in the fray have had to wrestle constantly with our consciences as to whether we are making a reasonable compromise or whether we are becoming power-mad political hacks. Those arguments went on constantly in the Reagan White House among many of us who came into politics not for power, but to return America to its founding principles, values and greatness.

No doubt, there is a danger of becoming precisely the sort of swamp creatures we came to Washington to rid the nation of when we said we wanted to drain the Washington swamp. But perfect purity of principle in application is not a functioning governing process -- it is a posture.

And whether one is a Washington professional or a citizen voter, anyone who considers himself a person of good conscience must have the courage to judge whether the net effect of his political decision advances his moral objectives.

It is certainly true that Ronald Reagan had an unerring sense of how far to compromise -- and when to stop, come what may. He governed for eight years and never lost his sense of principled direction, while many other principled people have come to Washington and lost their way.

But I believe that people of conscience -- very much including voters across the country -- have an obligation to struggle with the stress between principle and political pragmatism -- even at the risk of failing to make the right judgment.

Politics is the zone where one's religious and ethical habits are not always the only and best guides. We can make a 100-percent commitment to, for example, obey our marital vows or adhere to the teachings of our churches -- and consciously strive never to fall short.

But in the practicality of democratic elections, we cannot make such a similar commitment to every one of our governing ideals. Elections are very specific and limited choices between different outcomes. The decision not to vote or vote for a third-party candidate with no hope of winning is itself a moral choice for the outcome such a vote will effectuate. People of conscience will have to decide whether feeling pure by voting "none of the above" is the highest ethical act or not.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

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.

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