Friday, March 9, 2007

Principles v. ideology

Many Republicans are probably muttering about Rick Jore after learning that he won't vote for the GOP spending bills unless they are dramatically slashed -- a 13% increase is too much for him, and any federal funding for education is too much.

We like Jore and his principles even when we are disagreeing with his practical applications of them-- readers of Montana Headlines know this much, since one of our early projects was pointing out how unfairly the Billings Gazette was treating him. But Jore is showing how conservative principles can morph into an ideology -- and traditional conservative thought has never been ideological.

He can't be faulted for disloyalty. Jore promised no-one that he would be a loyal Republican -- that's why he ran under the Constitution Party banner. But in refusing to vote for the 6 appropriations bills as they are coming out of committee, he (and any Republicans who join him) will, to use Galbraith's choices that were mentioned in yesterday's post, ultimately be choosing the disastrous over the merely unpalatable.

Jore's knowledge and understanding of our country's founding documents is sound -- more so than is that of most of his colleagues. What seems not to be as sound or in-depth is his familiarity with the messy process by which the Founders and their successors in the first 50 or so years of the early Republic developed a distinctively Anglo-American system of governance.

The art of compromising on specific policies while holding principles intact is not an easy one, but it is a necessary one. Anyone can take a set of abstract principles and plug them into a decision-tree to decide whether to vote for a particular bill or candidate. More than that is needed of conservatives in Helena right now, much more.

Jore has the floor, and people are listening to him because he holds that 51st vote. What he says and does, and how he says and does it, will determine whether the principles and ideas he holds dear will gain or lose currency in Montana -- and whether he will be listened to in the future when he is no longer the dealmaker.

We're not suggesting that Jore become a moderate -- that's the last thing we need more of. We are suggesting that Jore needs to find a creative way to use his unique position to move Montana in the right political direction.

While restraining government spending is a necessary part of any such turn, just doing more of what House Republicans have already done a lot of isn't terribly creative. We certainly doubt that it would accomplish anything other than making it even easier for the Democratic Senate to justify sticking all of that spending back in.

Jore needs to come up with a different plan -- one that will leave Democrats in a bit of a dilemma. We think he can do it.


mtliberty said...

Nice encouragment. He's one of Liberties favorite representatives. Some purists, pick your example, let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I doubt he'll "end game" with that same position though. Even though he's from Ronan, he's reasonable.

Hallie said...

Can you get yourself hired as executive director of the GOP?

Montana Headlines said...

M.L. -- Good point on Jore's end game. We are hoping for something very interesting and effective from him.

Hallie -- I kind of need to keep my day-job, and it's not in Helena. I'm not exactly on the speaker list for the next party convention, either.

It's nice to know, however, that another person in Montana sees what I see: a Republican party that has the potential to go from merely being the better party to vote for here in Montana to being the party that encompassses all that is great in our state and country's traditions.

Thanks for the kind words.

Yosemite1967 said...

What does "compromising on specific policies while holding principles intact" mean? It sounds like putting whipped cream on a mud pie.

Parable: Party A wants to increase spending by X percent, thus increasing the tax burden by exactly that amount on either this generation or future generations. Party B also wants to increase spending but by less.

The public hates the existing tax burden. Do you vote for Party A's plan, for Party B's plan, or neither?

I know how I would vote, and shame on those in Party B who are persecuting someone for protecting the people from a greater burden.

Montana Headlines said...

Rick Jore is a Constitution Party legislator for one simple reason -- the Republican party made a practical decision not to run a candidate against him.

If Republicans had been ideological and rigid about it, that House District would again have elected a Democrat since Jore and a Republican would have split the conservative vote as they did in 2004.

The Montana House would be tied, and Democrats would have had a free rein to do essentially whatever they wanted in Montana for yet another 2 years. Forgive me, but I admire the GOP for making a pragmatic decision that spared us from that.

Nobody is persecuting Jore as far as I am aware. Nothing he has said in the press sounds as though he is anything but completely relaxed and enjoying his influence.

Most conservatives hope that many of Jore's principles will gain broader currency in Montana. My post was simply to suggest that spending cuts alone aren't going to accomplish that.