Fred and the establishmentThere has been no small amount of talk among certain quarters in the blogosphere about whether or not Fred Thompson is a bona fide conservative. I do not have any doubt that Fred Thompson is a movement man. What people fail to realize who are making noises that he is not is the unfortunate reality of politics-that if you expect to get anywhere, you must make friends within the establishment (whatever "the establishment" happens to be at any given level). That doesn't mean you are a sellout or that you can't be trusted. The only way to know that is to judge you by your record. Since Fred Thompson has been a U.S. Senator, we can say with confidence that he has a good record on issues that matter to conservatives. Is it perfect? No. Is it better than any other major Republican candidate? Without question.
Much ado has been made, for example, of Fred Thompson's longstanding friendship with Howard Baker. Baker is seen as the epitome of the moderate, monied establishment of the GOP, and rightly so. However, if I were a young attorney interested in politics in Tennessee and in making headway for the Republican Party in the 1970's, Howard Baker is definately a man I would want to be in touch with. He is someone whose help I would certainly need if I intended to get involved in public life or run for high office at some later date.
One thing that is often forgotten about our establishment friends is that they have an interest that far exceeds their moderate ideology, and that interest is in winning elections. If they believe that a conservative can win an election, they will back him or her. In 1976 they went crazy over the idea that Ronald Reagan might get nominated by the Republicans. They could not possibly allow that to happen, and they did everything they could to help President Ford eek out a victory for the nomination. When Ford lost the General Election, they learned their lesson, and in 1980 they backed Reagan when it became clear that the establishment candidates were going to go nowhere and the people wanted Goldwater's vision 16 years later. Reagan did make a concession to the establishment in picking their man to be his number two-he had wanted someone more conservative.
Trying to say that Fred Thompson is not a conservative because he has had dealings with the establishment and made establishment friends is like saying Reagan was not a conservative because he dealt with the establishment and made establishment friends. It is an unfortunate reality of politics that if you intend to win, you do what you must do to get there.
It has never been a secret that the Wall Street wing of the Republican Party and the moderate Country Club crowd are not my cup of tea. That just isn't me, and it isn't me in a myriad of ways. I have always believed that the Country Club Republicans are as out-of-step with Middle America as the liberal intellectual elites who run the party opposite. I am not a Rockefeller Republican, and as far as a person-to-person level I would probably say that I have more in common with Harry Truman and his bourbon and poker train than I do with Thomas Dewey and his bridge and martini train. I am not stupid, however (contrary to the popular belief in certain quarters). The Republican Party would enjoy little electoral success and few conservatives would ever be elected at any level if the moderates were shut out of the party. The right wing of the bird may be stronger, but you need both wings to fly.
It can't justly be said that Thompson is not a conservative, his overall record simply does not lead to that conclusion.
Labels: Presidential Election