"Moderation in all things" is universally considered wise counsel. The national media and Democrats (when lecturing Republicans, anyway) are forever attempting to misapply the axiom to governmental policy. Republicans should look elsewhere for advice.
Surely the above admonition was not intended to apply to our pursuit of truth, for example, or justice. Should we compromise truth or justice in the name of moderation? (Note: It’s beyond the scope of this column to convince you skeptics of the existence of absolute truth.)
Those of you who think I’m about to equate political conservatism with absolute truth, calm down. That’s not where I’m headed, as tempting as it may be. But those of us urging the Republican Party to stick (or return) to its conservative guns don’t need to go that far. We are being confronted with false choices. Let’s not fall into the trap of allowing the discussion to proceed along those lines.
When the media, the Democratic leadership and certain liberal Republicans denounce the Republican Party for failing "to encourage moderates in the party to be heard," their unstated premise is that the party’s current direction or policy agenda is extreme. That’s nonsense. So those who oppose this mad dash to the center are not exalting extremism, but principle. Besides, in many cases, the Democratic agenda is far more extreme than the Republicans’. A few examples will suffice.
Which is more extreme:
-- the view that abortion should only be permitted to save the mother’s life or that a ban, even on partial-birth abortion, is an unacceptable encroachment on the woman’s sacred right to choose?
-- The view that nuclear power should be harnessed in a safe and prudent manner or that it should be categorically opposed without regard to our energy needs, our dependence on foreign dictators, our quality of life, or any other ramifications?
-- The view that many of President Clinton’s judicial nominees should have been opposed because they engaged in judicial legislation or that many of President Bush’s nominees should not be confirmed solely because they are ideologically conservative?
-- The adoption of a balanced approach to environmental problems guided by actual science or the insistence on draconian environmental measures with a theological fervor?
Before you fine liberals out there go apoplectic, let me concede that I’m sure you could come up with some examples the other way. But that misses the point. The point is not which party is more extreme, but how the media characterizes the parties’ respective positions. When is the last time you heard the media refer to zealots who favor partial-birth abortion as pro-abortion extremists?
Why don’t the media ever scold Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt for their acrimonious partisanship? Why don’t they berate them for not "reaching out" to the so-called centrists in their party?
I think the best explanation is that the media tend to view conservatism itself as extreme and -- and this is important -- uncivil. That’s why they so often misinterpret President Bush’s campaign promise to try to end the atmosphere of incivility and rancor as a pledge to be more moderate.
President Bush never promised to be moderate. He told us exactly what his agenda was, and he has largely adhered to it. To the extent that he’s deviated at all, it’s mostly (but not exclusively) been to the center. So this talk of Bush’s extremism is simply ludicrous. And, for the record, Bush has been very civil.
The media (and Democrats) are going to continue to milk Senator Jeffords’ defection for all they can as evidence to indict Bush for failing to accommodate the "moderates." The media’s frenzied speculation about McCain bolting is more of the same.
Their complaints are offensively transparent. What would the media have the Republicans do? What do they mean when they say Republicans should accommodate the Jeffords’s or McCains? What do they mean when they say the moderate voices ought to be heard? Who’s muzzling them, anyway?
What they mean is that Republicans should become less conservative and more liberal. That only makes sense if you favor liberal programs. Republicans have enough trouble getting their agenda passed when beginning negotiations to the right of center. Can you imagine the end result if they began to the center before compromising with the extreme left of the Democratic leadership (who the media never encourage to be more moderate)?
Instead of catering to their political enemies, Republicans should stick to their principles. Besides being "right," it works. It’s called "the Reagan model."