Sunday, September 9, 2007

Conservatives vs. Republicans

There were many memorable Warner Brothers cartoons from the 1940s and 1950s, the golden age of animation. There is one in particular that keeps resonating in my head, everytime I watch a Republican campaign. It features a big dumb lion who keeps catching a smart-alecky mouse, but who then fast-talks his way out of being eaten. After each successful escape, and before ducking in a hole, the mouse always turns around, smirks, and gently says, "Suckerrrr!" This annoys the lion to no end; he turns red each time and bangs his head against the tree. At the end of the cartoon, the lion tries to rationalize his decision-making -- but his attempts ring hollow even to himself, and so finally he pulls up a mirror, and stands there yelling "Sucker! Sucker!" at himself.

(Maybe I should point out that the folks of my generation define "sucker" as someone who is particularly gullible. I'm sure there are trendier definitions.)

A psychologist would say the lion has progressed beyond denial and is now ready to deal with his problem -- which, in his case, is terminal stupidity.

As a conservative who has voted for every Republican candidate (with one or twp exceptions) since 1972, all I can say is, I know exactly how that lion feels.

The beginning of political wisdom has been achieved when one finally realizes:

1. Politicians of both parties as a whole are more liberal than the electorate as a whole.
2. Politicians of both parties keep their jobs, generally, by pretending to be more conservative than they really are.
3. Democrats are reliably liberal.
4. Republicans are either unreliably conservative, or not at all.

It isn't symmetrical. The relationship between Democrats and their liberal constituents is harmonious; they are natural allies. The relationship between Republicans and conservatives is tense and uneasy. Politicians of both parties tend to want to do liberal things. Democrats don't have to be cajoled into acting like liberals, but Republicans have to be threatened by their conservative constituents to get them to accomplish anything even remotely conservative

It's not hard to get a Republican to talk like a conservative, however. Just make him run for re-election. That's when you find out he's actually the second coming of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, and likes Mom, apple pie, the girl next door, and Buicks. He's no closet liberal, he's just misunderstood.

What's a conservative to do? My buddies and I have argued a lot over this. Most of them believe half a bottle is better than none, and thus it's better to have a Republican who occasionally does dumb things than to have a liberal Democrat who has dedicated his life to doing dumb things. They tell me, hold your nose if you have to, but vote Republican because "The Democrats are so much worse." I see their point. However, the problem with this is it doesn't provide any incentive for Republicans to act more like conservatives. If you want someone to quit doing things you don't like, you have to stop rewarding them.

Looking at the current crop of Republican candidates, it makes me feel like I'm Simon Cowell, looking for the next American Idol at a karaoki party for Goth kids. Sorry, Rudy, but I'll never vote for anyone who's comfortable with abortion -- Western civilization's homage to child sacrifice. Go find a Baal worshipper to vote for you. Sorry, John, I know you spent years in a Vietnamese prison camp and that you are therefore entitled to my respect; nevertheless, you took a wrecking ball to the First Amendment with your campaign finance "reform" laws, and have taken the wrong side on the immigration debate. Each remaining candidate seems to have his own share of flaws, from the conservative perspective. However, I could probably be talked into voting for one of them, at least once.

But as my pastor says, you know someone by his non-negotiables. Republicans have trouble with non-negotiables, which in large part is why I have trouble with Republicans. I think conservatives should let their consciences be their guide. As for me, I will not, cannot, vote for Rudy or McCain. Period. That's not negotiable.

I'm through looking at myself in a mirror and screaming, "Sucker!" Next time I catch the mouse, I'll eat him.

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