The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Ideological purity in the Republican primary

I wrote in my last article predicting the Newt Gingrich surge that occurred in the polls over the weekend that he was the latest person to be the “Conservative Alternative” to Mitt Romney.

This is a bit of a misnomer.

Several articles I have seen in the last few days pointed out Gingrich’s long record of ideological heterodoxies in contrast to the conservative message, which some have suggested is comparable to Romney’s flip flopping. The implication from these articles is that Gingrich’s boom to frontrunner status won’t last because he isn’t pure enough of a conservative to win over the base.

I contend that this is not a primary concern of the base. The issue with Mitt Romney has not been one of not being conservative enough, as right now, he is in line with all of the Republican Party platform. The issue with Mitt Romney is that he doesn’t appear to the base to be principled enough to tackle the major issues of our day, namely entitlement reform and the debt crisis, at least not to fix them from a conservative perspective.

His record in Massachusetts was not one of a conservative crusader fighting for legislation that was in the spirit of conservatism, but rather one of being more concerned with passing anything the Democratic legislature would send him.

So while Newt Gingrich does have issues with being ideologically in line with the Republican base, on issues such as global warming for example, that will not be a huge problem with the base.

His record of success in conservative entitlement reform (welfare and Medicare), even with a Democratic president to compromise with, shows that his record is one of principled compromise, not throwing away ideals in pursuit of a consensus,.This is what makes him so attractive to the base.

While the search for ideological purity might have been more prevalent earlier in the primary process, it was the fighting spirit that was always most important.

Michele Bachmann was the most ideologically pure candidate, the furthest to the right (although I am sure I will get responses that Ron Paul is further to the right, that characterization of him requires a different definition of what constitutes the right). Because of this purity, she did enjoy some time at the top of the polls.

She also promised to fight for the issues she believed in, but her record in congress was not one of success.

All the legislation she fought against passed anyway. Conservatives fled from her because they wanted someone who could successfully fight for their cause.

Ideological purity did create a problem though for Rick Perry, but not necessarily because of the reasons one might think. Rick Perry’s crash started when he called opponents of his immigration policy, which were most of the conservative base, heartless and implied racism as well.

What wasn’t the problem was the betrayal from conservatism, but rather the hatred for those who disagreed with him.

His poor ability to sell his success in passing conservative legislation in Texas certainly didn’t help either. He was too busy reminding conservatives why Romney was so bad, which they already knew, and didn’t spend enough time talking about why he was a good choice as someone who could succeed in conservative reforms.

So while Newt Gingrich is not a particularly conservative candidate, that will not be a primary concern as voters start to give his record a look.

Their true concern will be for make sure that the candidate will successfully solve the problems they see in America, and to do so in a way acceptable to conservative members of the Republican party, not if he agrees with them on every issue.

Tucker Keene is a sophomore majoring in political science. He can be reached for comment at [email protected] 

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