Interesting op-ed on the Republican Party, where candidates scorned by conservcative opinion leaders, are the only men left standing in the race for the nomination.
Mike Huckabee signed a no-new-taxes pledge and campaigned on a (borderline-crackpot) tax plan to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and institute a national sales tax. Yet he found himself caricatured as a “Christian socialist” because he had raised gas taxes and cigarette taxes while governor of Arkansas. Merely acknowledging that some corporate chief executives might be overpaid and some working-class voters might be struggling was enough to get him dismissed by George Will as a “radical” who had supposedly repudiated “free trade, low taxes, the essential legitimacy of America’s corporate entities and the market system allocating wealth and opportunity.”
The conservative critics of Mr. McCain and Mr. Huckabee weren’t wrong on every issue. But in their zeal to read both candidates out of the conservative movement, often on the flimsiest of pretexts, the movement’s leaders raised a standard of ideological purity that not even Ronald Reagan could have lived up to.
This sort of purism would have been folly in Mr. Reagan’s era, when conservatism was an insurgency with its greatest victories still ahead of it, and there were real liberal Republicans to slay along the way. It represents political suicide today.