Party or Principle?: Realistic Political Strategies within the Republican Party

One of the hardest debates we endure as Republicans, is the debate between principle (our political philosophy) and power (the Republican Party’s ability to win seats in Congress and control the national agenda). I have always fallen on the side of principle, opposed to a strategy of sacrificing an intellectual foundation for pragmatic political advantage. I’ve spoken with representatives from our nation’s capital and Richmond, and have tried to push, prod and pull elected officials toward a conservative, libertarian, and constitutionalist agenda.

Earlier this evening I was challenged in the most thoughtful and respectful way.

Political debates no longer take place in the putrid back rooms of popular urban salons. They happen in the more sterile halls of social media.

Earlier this evening, Rollin Reisinger, a contributer to Bearing Drift and Republican Strategist, approached me with a line of reasoning that I could not ignore. To grant context, Barbara Comstock and Scott Rigell had both voted for a $1.1 Trillion budget which threatens to undermine our future fiscal security. Articles condemning these Republicans commenced. One Virginia Blogger pointed out that it figured, since, these Representatives represented areas dependent on federal dollars. That perspective is easy to overlook and ignore, since, well, from a conservative point of view, why are we supporting communities dependent upon government dollars anyway? It’s easy to understand the arguments of those who depend on the government in favor of the government.

Then Rollin Reisinger tackled my complaints in a manner that warrants our attention.

Mr. Reisinger argued that, “Shutdowns are political suicide in VA-10. Barbara Comstock is a conservative who is doing exactly what she should: listening to her constituents and representing their interests. For all the talk of Washington being out-of-touch, one would think some praise ought to be in order for a Representative putting the needs of her district first.

Your complaint about her record would carry more weight if she lived in Harrisonburg – but she lives in McLean. Then again, if she lived in Harrisonburg, she’d have the latitude to vote more in line with her conservative values”.

I used to live in Reston, Virginia. My father works in Herndon, Virginia. Mr. Reisinger lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

He isn’t wrong.

I do not think that a federal government should warrant 200 square miles of dependent economy, but it does. I do not believe that people living in Kansas and Utah and Arizona should work their fingers to the bone, to afford the inordinate prices that businesses and contractors working within 60 miles of the nations capital charge, but they do.

This entire nation pays for the economies of Maryland and Virginia and the businesses that exist here, only because this particular kind of government exists in Washington DC. The government lives here.

Those are facts and principles, and neither, truly, matter in politics unless people are paying attention.

With regard to Barbara Comstock’s vote, Mr. Reisinger warned,

All I can hope is that Republicans outside her district would speak honestly and fairly of the circumstances and dynamics in her district, and not apply a Valley standard to a NoVA electorate. Let’s not forget that she carried water for conservatives on many occasions, including her vote against 2013’s HB2313 – a tough vote for her district, but one which should be praised by conservatives.

We should remind our Republican friends in other districts that we all benefit from running candidates who can win each district. Pointless infighting in VA-10 could imperil the Presidential race – what if Cruz is the nominee? Would conservatives want VA-10 infighting making his job harder? Republicans need a House majority to bring bills to the floor – conservatives especially. If Nancy Pelosi holds the gavel then bills from Amash, Massie, and Gohmert face high hurdles, to the dismay of conservatives.

If Nancy Pelosi retakes the House then the House Select Committee on Benghazi shuts down and Gowdy loses his gavel. Let’s encourage Republicans from all wings of the party to see the big picture and support Comstock for all she does for the party. P.S. – Check her record on HB2313. There’s no chance she would have voted as she did if she were a secret Democrat.

In other words: how would we, as conservatives, and elected to a district in Northern Virginia, attempt to act as constitutional stewards of our Republic to a mass of people dependent on Government excess, contracts and bureaucracy? Congresswoman Comstock voted against everything we conservatives want and Mr. Reisinger would like us to praise her.

Initially, that argument made me sick. However, I’ve lived in Fairfax and Reston and my father operates out of Herndon and McClain. Rollin isn’t wrong about the constituency. In the 7th and 1st districts we deal with Congressman Dave Brat and Rob Wittman. The 7th district is maybe the most conservative, engaged, and intelligent district in the United States. The 7th got rid of the next potential Speaker of the House for a brilliant economist and libertarian professor, Dave Brat. The 1st district, a dysfunctional disaster, conservative and demanding of federal dollars, gets Rob Wittman (who might be the only man able to keep both the moneyed interests and the Tea Party activists satisfied at the same time).

In Fairfax, Herndon, Reston, and McClain we’re talking about wealthy (extremely wealthy) people that depend on a functioning and prosperous government.

A Congresswoman from such an area, voting in such a way that might cause a government shut down, could cost the wealthy folk she represents, not their jobs, but more wealth than those of us working within 30 miles of Fredericksburg and Charlottesville than we could make in a decade.

As a Republican, I have a hard time saying, “screw you” to brilliant people providing technology to our government. My family offers such services. Yet, I have always argued against a federal government wasting our money on projects we don’t need and if that effected my family, at least they’d have someone to blame. Being the black sheep of the family, I’d be happy to take it.

But what about Congresswoman Comstock and Congressman Rigell? They represent constituencies that depend on graft, subsidies, contracts, etc for their livelihoods.

My response to this situation was that, “Hmmm. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but ok. Again, it’s not that you’re wrong… I guess I’m not sold on her inevitability, that she couldn’t vote more conservatively. But, I’m not knowledgeable enough about her district to take issue with your judgment”. I am and I’m not. I haven’t lived in Northern Virginia since the early 2000’s.

His response, “I don’t see it as bitter from my perspective. On the battlefield, generals set different goals for different territories. Some turfs are ripe for a full offensive where forces are expected to advance, whereas others are designated at defensive sectors where territory must be held against the opposition’s incursions. What becomes of the overall battle effort if a commander in a defensive turf allows his ego to get the better of him, breaks his orders, and launches an offensive in the name of glory? Losing a turf to be defended wastes our forces and allows opposing troops to potentially flank efforts in other areas”.

This is something we conservatives, libertarians, and constitutionalists need to deal with. Would we rather have Barbara Comstock, Republican Congresswoman who votes for legislation we hate because the vast majority of her constituents depend on the federal government for their jobs? Or, do we want to primary her, tell her constituents to go to hell, and allow a Democrat, who stands a 75% chance of sporting an even more liberal voting record than her hold her seat?

Rollin Reisinger is right. There are places like the 7th district, where Dave Brat makes more sense than Eric Cantor; but could Dave Brat run for the same seat as Barbara Comstock and win?

Should we, as conservatives, constitutionalists, and libertarians, consider the political constituency of our fellow “Republicans” before bashing them for their voting records? Should Republicans in liberal States and in liberal counties be held to the same standards as Republicans in conservative States and conservative counties?

Should we give Barbara Comstock and Scott Rigell a break, for voting on behalf of their communities business interests? Interests that depend on our tax dollars to fund them?

The folk over at Bearing Drift drive most of us, on the conservative, constitutionalist, libertarian wings of the party insane. They are always making excuses, always telling us why political power has to override political principle. It’s enough to say, “power be damned!”. But, then I watch these folks drawn to Donald Trump and I wonder, after we damn “power” toward what power do we turn?

I do not hold my principles because they are an ideal. I hold them, because they are an objectively beneficial and functionally efficient set of ideas. My principles desire power, i.e., functional and constitutional legitimacy. Yet, I would be a fool to think that these principles could override the self-interested need of those living in and around Washington D.C. I would be a fool to think that anyone representing Virginia Beach could share the same rural constitutional principles I hold.

They should, of course, hold these same principles, but they don’t. To hold them, I would require them to sacrifice their livelihoods for my own.

And that is competition we face.

Those who depend on the federal government for their salaries depend upon the governments’ ability to take money from those who work in the private sector. The more money they take from us, the more money government employees can be paid, the more entitlement dollars can be handed out to voters.

I believe we need to shut down most of our government agencies and put most of our public employees out of work. But that’s easy for me to say – I don’t work for the government. We have Virginia bloggers that are paid by political campaigns, who work for lobbyists, who get rich of this economic system. Then there are bloggers like me, who get nothing from the government. I take nothing and have little. It’s easy for me to condemn them. They get more from me than they give me.

Remember this when you read politics from our blogs in the morning. Remember, that I don’t get a cent from the government. It is easy for me to criticize Congressman and Congresswomen who represent folks who’s jobs depend on these programs that we conservatives, constitutionalists, and libertarians desire to cut.

The future doesn’t depend on government. It depends on us.






About Steven Brodie Tucker 184 Articles
Graduated From Virginia Tech with a Bachelors in Philosophy and a minor in Psychology. Studied Economics and History at George Mason University. Caroline County Resident and Activist.
  • Eric McGrane

    Nope, not buying it. The RPV creed means something. If she wants to be a republican, she needs to honor and follow the creed. If governing per the creed is hard, get out of the way and make room for someone who wants to make the case for conservative values. Bring that education to the voters. Say it loud and proud.

    Perhaps if she needs to vote like a democrat to keep her seat, and if keeping her seat is more important than good governance, then perhaps just drop the “republican” facade and save the stress.

    I appreciate the point of view, but I’ll never agree that committing real measurable harm to the country to keep one’s seat is acceptable.

    • Joe

      Comstock and Rigell both have dishonored and violated the Republican Creed regarding Fiscal Responsibility.

      And I am betting she lied ststing she voted as her Constituentson wanted. Prove it, Ms. Comstock.