Many conservatives are still licking their wounds from election night, and understandably so. It was ugly almost any way you slice it. As we move beyond the initial stages of political mourning, an intense round of Righty fratricide is on the way. There will be nasty battles over the causes of Tuesday's mess, and vehement disagreements about where the Republican Party should go from here. One of the suggested paths will be to moderate on a host of issues. This approach may be wise on certain fronts, but wrong-headed on others. That's a separate discussion for another day. What will inevitably take place, though, is the media's sanctimonious tongue-clucking about the necessity of GOP leaders to stand up to their "extreme" and irrational base. A fresh round of thumb-sucking pieces about the "endangered moderate" will crop up, too. While it's true that Republican primary voters have made a handful costly mistakes in recent cycles, is it fair to suggest that the Right is more intransigent, irrational, or immoderate than the Left? Consider the cases of Missouri and Massachusetts, two states that played central roles in the 2012 Senate catastrophe:
In Missouri, Republican Senate nominee Todd Akin made an utterly asinine statement about rape and abortion that offended just about everybody. He "clarified," quasi-apologized, made excuses, and lashed out at his critics. Even though his race was a choice pick-up opportunity for his party, Akin obstinately refused to back out of the race gracefully, as the law would have allowed. His opponent was an incumbent Democrat who had voted for every major piece of the Obama agenda -- anathema to Show Me State voters. Those voters overwhelmingly backed Mitt Romney this week, hoping that he'd undo the damage Claire McCaskill helped inflict. The presidential nominee carried the state by ten points. Todd Akin ran fifteen points behind Romney, garnering just 39 percent of the vote. Despite their strong opposition to McCaskill's voting record, Missourians concluded that Akin was unworthy of the office he sought. Hundreds of thousands of voters set aside their ideological preferences to send a message: Words and actions have consequences.
In Massachusetts, incumbent Sen. Scott Brown has served as a quintessential moderate. He boasts one of the most bipartisan voting records in the US Senate, fulfilling his promise to act as an independent thinker in Washington. Just days before the election, his job approval rating stood in the high 50s (a level that virtually guarantees re-election almost anywhere in the country). He embodies the Republican archetype liberals claim to yearn for. On the other hand, his opponent this cycle was a hardened ideologue whose aggressive Leftism managed to offend even the sensibilities of uber-statist Michael Bloomberg. Her vision for America entails even more borrowing and spending; she's hailed China as a model for government-fueled growth. She was also exposed as an ethnic fraud, having laid claim to -- and benefited from -- a baseless 'Native American' ancestry for much of her adult life. When confronted with her serial distortions, she "clarified," made (risible) excuses, and lashed out at her critics. Despite approving of his independent approach and strong job performance, liberals in Massachusetts rejected Brown, in favor of the strident ideologue with character issues.
This pattern has replicated itself over many decades. Whether you left a woman to drown in the car you crashed while driving drunk, or a brothel was being run out of your home, or you lied about having served in a war, liberals are willing to vote for you -- so long as you've checked the correct ideological boxes. Personal integrity is an afterthought, at best. The liberals who populate the media regularly lecture Republicans over their ideological rigidity while bemoaning the loss of moderating forces in politics. But when Democrats reject genuine moderates in order to elect hard-line liberals with dubious character, the hand-wringing never materializes. Strange, isn't it?