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May 12, 2006
No Sitting, Just No Dimes

I have written extensively on the malaise and disaffection rising in conservative ranks, a trend reflected in declining approval ratings for both George Bush and Congress. I wrote yesterday that movement conservatives may be washing their hands of the Bush administration, frustrated by its big-government approach and its vacillation on border security. Some took this as an indication that I have joined an effort to convince conservatives to sit on their hands this November -- in other words, to boycott the midterm elections in order to teach the GOP a lesson. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I wrote a week ago, we have no particular requirement to keep our voices silent when any of our elected representatives enact bad policy or fail to act in what we see as the best interests of the nation. In fact, we have a duty to do so when we can do so effectively. That requires us to stay engaged in the electoral process, to ensure that our views and policies get the attention that comes from positive effort. We have to stay engaged in the process to receive the credibility we demand. Taking our ball and going home only paints us as unreliable, dictatorial people who can never engage in -- and win in -- the negotiations that policy implementation requires.

Instead of staying home, we need to get more involved. If your Representative or Senator votes for pork, bigger government, and ignores border security, look for a credible primary challenger to represent conservative values instead. Organize and speak out on behalf of candidates and politicians who do the right thing, even if they don't represent your district or state.

Most of all, do not donate to political drives controlled by leadership that no longer acts responsively. That means withholding contributions from the Republican Senate and Congressional re-election committees and redirecting your contributions to individual races instead. Those committees serve to enhance leadership control over the caucuses, and contributing to them only reinforces the current direction of the policies we have seen for the past five years. When Congressional and Senatorial leadership starts promoting smaller government and works to eliminate pork, then by all means support them once again.

However, we still have to vote in November. If our preferred candidate does not win in the primaries, we still have to act responsibly and choose between the two major party candidates in the general election. Not only will abdication result in a loss of control over our own representation, the failure of GOP candidates has national implications that will wind up hamstringing the politicians that really have worked on our behalf -- the Tom Coburns, the John Boehners, the Jon Cornyns. And by sitting on our hands, we will have proven too inflexible to be dependable -- which will only encourage Republican candidates to reach out to the center-left more than ever before.

No sitting on one's hands, not now and not in November either. We call ourselves the party of personal responsibility, and it is up to us to demonstrate it.

UPDATE: Bruce Kesler worries that I have acquired conservative battle fatigue in my criticisms of Congress and the Bush administration. I disagree; what I have decided is that silence and cooperation has not forwarded the visions of limited government and border security. If we are to be taken seriously, then we must speak out. I still would vote for George Bush if 2004 came back around, and I still support him, but I disagree with a number of his policies. As I write here, I'm attempting to exercise the influence necessary to change them, not to toss him under the bus altogether.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 12, 2006 12:59 PM

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