For those who don’t know the Buckley rule, named after arch-conservative William F. Buckley Jr., is this:
“Vote for the most conservative candidate who can win.”
Buckley never actually said these exact words but he made a similar point about Barry Goldwater, that he liked Goldwater but he just didn’t think he could win.
The actual origins of the quote are irrelevant, what matters is the meaning. So what does the Buckley rule mean? It means you have to balance principle and pragmatism. Yes all conservatives we would love Goldwaters and Reagans, Coolidges and Melons, Adams’s and Jeffersons in every office from the local water-board to the Presidency…however we actually live in a nation where strangely enough not everyone has the good sense to be conservative. And there are just places that hardline conservatives can’t win. And in those cases no matter how conservative you are you have to make choice, in a primary do I back the candidate whom I agree with 100% but will lose the general elections or do I back the candidate I only agree with 70% on most issues but whom will win against the candidate that I agree with nothing on.
The principled pragmatist says that I will take the candidate who will vote on the things that I agree with most of the time because he or she will vote for those things in whatever office I elect them to, rather than falling on my sword for principle and ensuring my enemies get power in the government.
It means that if you’re looking for a Senate campaign to support if you don’t have one to get involved in in your home state, Scott Brown* is probably a little too liberal for your tastes if you live in Arizona, but he’s about as conservative as you can get in New Hampshire and actually win…and thus he is certainly better than what would be considered a liberal in that state. He’ll vote for what you want more often than the opposition and he would help get Harry Reid out of power. Keep in mind this is not just an issue of who represents your state, it is also an issue of who holds control of which votes come to the floor and who controls the committees. And in that sense even the most vile of RINOs is better than a Democrat, if only for that reason.
I truly dislike Chris Christie…but I admit that he’s better than whatever New Jersey has for liberals because it will be much much worse.
So while some idiot populists like to endorse only people they consider ideological pure or whom they can compare to matriarchal ursidae with half-witted catch phrases and clichés…keep in mind that these buffoons in only looking at ideological purity and paying no heed whatsoever to the realities of the electorate are hurting their party. Yes you should always advocate for your principles, but you should do it in such a way that actually advances practical results. You can’t win in chess without sacrificing a few pawns and you can’t win in politics without making a few tactical calls.
And if you don’t think this is relevant I would like to remind you of two names: Todd Akin and Rick Santorum. Do you know why we even know these names? Because Democrats understand the Buckley rule. They understand it so well they have advocated for open primaries so that they can get candidates who are too (well I won’t use the word conservative as the two men in question aren’t conservative) psychotic to ever get elected. Todd Akin won his primary only because Democrats voted for him in mass. They also helped fund his election. They understand that you need to get candidates who can’t win a general election to win primaries. And the only way to counter this is to think rationally and look to principle AND pragmatism, and not a blind devotion to principle. The same goes for Rick Santorum, of the eleven states he won six were open primaries where he only won because liberals wanted the primary to go on as long as possible so Ricky could spend conservative money to hit the only conservative candidate running. And because people believe the lies of Santorum and McCain before him that Romney wasn’t conservative…well we know how this story ends.
The Democrats will work to get the most unstable candidates elected. If we give into a pure ideological outlook we are helping them.
Also keep in mind that once in office we have leverage on candidates to hold the line on important issues because we can primary them out with other moderate conservatives. It is only people who only go on their insane version of principle whom you have no control over.
Keep the Buckley rule in mind and support the most conservative candidates who can win. And then do every single thing you can to make sure they will win. Or at least don’t attack someone for only being as conservative as their district/state allows.
*I use this only as an example with a name we might all be familiar with. I would want to see a few more rounds of primary polls before picking a horse to back…but if you live in a state you should have a better idea of your own state and should probably not wait as long…remember we do need to get involved early.