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Of Moderates, “Extremists”, and Winning Elections

May 1, 2014

Over at Utah Policy, Lavar Webb argues that Republicans have to tone down their rhetoric in order to win elections because governing is harder than just throwing red meat to the base. Webb is a fan of “moderates”, thinking they are the key to broadening our base of support and therefore winning elections.

Maybe. But too often we focus solely on winning elections for those with an R next to their name without thinking about what they’ll actually do once in office.

It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans did win most of the elections, holding the White House and both houses of Congress for the first half of the 2000s. We gave the Webbs of the world exactly what they wanted and what did we get? Expanded entitlements, massive deficits, and more cumbersome federal education bureaucracy. In other words, terrible policy. And because of it we lost credibility with the public and then all subsequent elections, giving back first Congress and then two terms (at least) of the presidency. We have to not only win elections, but win elections for those who will govern well and govern conservatively.

Getting someone into office is the easy part, imo. Get an approachable candidate people can relate to coupled with a better PR team than your rival and you can win over voters. With perhaps the exception of the first Bush, that’s what got every presidential winner of my lifetime elected. No, getting elected isn’t really about being right or having the best policy ideas. But getting reelected often is. And maintaining Party dominance most certainly is. And that’s the reason Republicans no longer hold sway in Washington DC.

So political consultants like Lavar Webb can strategize election victories all day, and they can caution candidates about rhetoric and red meat, staying “moderate” once in office because you don’t want to overreach or go too far in the push for conservative policy. But based on the track record, I’d settle for a Republican majority that first does no harm.


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