In the last day, I’ve read a number of stories that blame Romney’s defeat yesterday in the Presidential election because he is a RINO. A RINO, as everyone who is reading this well knows, is someone who either doesn’t believe in Republican orthodoxy or, even worse, sometimes publicly acknowledges that he doesn’t adhere to the current GOP tenets.
Let me begin by talking about our political system. Because we have an electoral college, we have a two party system. A political party cannot long exist if it has no chance of winning the Presidency. Witness the sudden death of the Whigs and the rapid rise of the Republican Party in the 1850s. Many countries have a different system of choosing the head of state; many nations just elect legislators, then the different political parties form a coalition if they don’t have a majority.
But because we have a two party system, people have to choose which party more closely resembles their own views. Since some regions are more liberal or more conservative than others, in order to win political office, politicians take on views that differ from their party orthodoxy in order to win elections. Thus, we have politicians like Mary Landrieu in Louisiana who is much more conservative than Barbara Boxer. In Massachusetts, they had (until yesterday)a RINO senator named Scott Brown. He was much more moderate than Jim DeMint from South Carolina, but he had to be to win elections.
Many results yesterday I found particularly sad. Scott Brown was one example; Linda Lingle was another. She was as conservative as possible to win in Hawaii. In a normal year she might have had a chance; with Obama getting 70% of the vote there she was dead meat, through no fault of her own.
Because we have a two party system, we as voters have to compromise when we cast our vote. Very few Democrats believe exactly what Obama does; very few Republican voters believe in the same policies that Romney does. Everyone has to make these compromises. Congressmen and Senators have to choose how to vote on issues; sometimes they trade off something their state or district wants for their political party. Governors and Presidents have to compromise their own favored policies to get something accomplished, even if they don’t regard it as the best possible solution.
The only things that don’t have to compromise a lot are interest groups. They can be strident in their beliefs, because it is not eventually up to them if laws are enacted. So groups like Planned Parenthood or the NRA can claim to be pure in their advocacy to their members. But politicians all have to compromise. If we end up with Senators like Scott Brown or Olympia Snowe losing or resigning because the party demands rigidity, then we are all worse off.
So, if we expect our politicians to be ideologically pure, that’s fine, I guess. But don’t be surprised when we’re only electing people in rural areas or in regions where most people believe in GOP orthodox positions. We’ll be left with nothing other than an interest group representing 8 small states in the Deep South and others scattered throughout the country. Every four years, during Presidential election years, when most everyone votes, those who live in politically unpalatable locales will lose.