Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Conservatives in the House and the Boehner Plan

The Buckley rule, formulated by National Review founder William F. Buckley, advised conservatives to vote for the most conservative, viable candidate in an election.  The key word in this is viable.  Something like that should be operative in considering the Boehner plan in the House.  No it doesn’t go far enough, the out year spending cuts are a joke, and the time frame of six months doesn’t substantially reduce uncertainty.  But the expectation that conservatives can address our fiscal situation as the crow flies when the other party controls the Senate and the White House is delusional, the stuff of ideological rather than practical politics.

The metaphor of this site, of porcupines huddling together at a proper distance, doesn’t specify what that distance is and not just because it is a metaphor.  It isn’t specified because like politics it is always contingent.  There is no one right distance.  This is why campaign pledges are problematic.  On the one hand we want specificity because we’ve learned through experience that anything less will be ignored after the election, but such pledges are out of place in politics where everything is dependent on everything else, and where policy should strive for some sort of coherence rather than to a rigid adherence to a single idea. 

Viewers of Firing Line may recall that Bill Buckley, in speaking of conservative principles, often spoke in terms of a presumption in favor of the idea rather than framing it as an absolute.  That’s almost certainly not as satisfying as the alternative, but it’s the proper way to speak and act in the world of politics.

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