Patterico's Pontifications


Kevin Murphy Reviews Hewitt’s Book

Filed under: Principled Pragmatism — Patterico @ 10:18 pm

Kevin Murphy claims that I “badgered” him into posting a review of Hugh Hewitt’s book. Well, if I did, then I’m glad I did. It’s an excellent review.

I agree with Kevin that Hugh’s taxonomy of the Republican party omits a faction Kevin calls the “Liberty wing.” Any classification will be an oversimplification, of course, but I have to admit I felt left out of the Republican party Hugh described in his book. Kevin’s Liberty wing captures my philosophy better than any faction described by Hugh.

Kevin says:

Choice is more important than Party. If there’s not a “dime’s worth of difference” between parties on an issue you find critical and there is a third choice available, you are literally voting against your interests to vote for either major party.

I think this is obvious, and perhaps a bit of a strawman. The tougher question is: what to do when there is a dime’s worth of difference — but no more? Or when your party is better than the other on many of your issues — but weak on one single issue you believe is very important? In such cases, Hugh would advise you to suck it up and vote the lesser of two evils. And that is probably pretty good advice — in most cases.

The problem is recognizing when to reject that advice. Kevin points out examples where standing on principle serves our interests:

There will be candidates that suck, standing on issues that appeal to few. Demanding party unity here is damaging to the coalition. See Duke, David.

There will also be candidates who seem unappealing to the middle but make the rank-and-file swoon. . . . Let your base have their try, they might just win. See Reagan, Ronald.

Nicely put.

Kevin concludes:

In short, Hugh hasn’t sold me, and I remain a principled partisan with pragmatic tendencies: a free-market, pro-immigration, small government, pro-war, libertarian non-social conservative.

A very thoughtful take. Go tell him what you think.

3 Responses to “Kevin Murphy Reviews Hewitt’s Book”

  1. I appreciated Kevin’s take very much. I did not–however–agree with it.

    The portion I most disagreed with was this …

    If there’s not a “dime’s worth of difference” between parties on an issue you find critical and there is a third choice available …

    This hypothetical exists nowhere in the political realities as we see them today. Far more than a dime’s worth of difference, there are vast differences between the two major Parties and their respective candidates. This is all the more so since the Democratic Party hurtled leftward since 2000. Let’s say we’re disappointed on “an issue [we] find critical.” There are so many critical issues now that we would have to have taken leave of our senses to be blinded to the bigger picture and cut off our nose to spite our face over even a critical issue. Because a Republican ticks us off on a cherished issue–or even more than one–we will have more issues of basic agreement than disagreement with Republican candidates.

    Further, a “third choice available” means nothing unless the “third choice” can actually win; otherwise the third choice is merely an opportunity for a squandered vote, hence squandered political capital.

    Kevin’s post is so content-rich that an in-depth response will take some time. I hope to respond to it more as time allows.

    clark smith (967f89)

  2. Clark–

    Note the word “IF”. Also, you omit the context. I use the example of the died-in-the-wool anti-war voter who wants to bring all the troops home from everywhere. Neither party has ANY functional difference here, only on where to deploy them and why. For such a voter sho care little about anything else, there is no lesser evil.

    Another example that I gave was the deficit of the late 80’s, early 90’s. Neither party was responsible here: Bush 41 spent more on social programs ($1 trillion (1990) in 3 years on means-tested programs), adjusted for inflation, than anyone ever had. By far. And then asked for tax increases in a recession. THe Democrats spent, oh yes, but the Republicans were no better. Along comes Perot and says “I stand for this issue and they don’t.” Yes, Perot was a jerk but he was a valid (and effective) political choice.

    Kevin Murphy (9982dd)

  3. Note that in 2008 a Democrat deficit hawk would be an viable candidate.

    Kevin Murphy (9982dd)

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