The pointless triumph of pragmatism

Bob Novak writes on Townhall:

Last Wednesday, leaders of conservative and moderate factions in the House Republican conference sat down to discuss a joint call for new leadership elections. No agreement was reached, and the events of the next 24 hours destroyed the budding coalition while exposing the ineffectiveness of current leaders. Abandonment of oil drilling in the Arctic failed to appease the moderate bloc, and the leaders pulled down the budget-cutting bill late Thursday.

Demands for new leaders are aimed at Rep. Roy Blunt, the elected House majority whip and acting majority leader. But critics who want Blunt replaced by Rep. John Boehner concede they have no solution for a malady that afflicts the Republican Party in the Senate as well as in the House. At the very hour that a handful of House Republican moderates torpedoed the budget bill, one Senate moderate stalled tax legislation in the Senate Finance Committee.

Actually, the Republican Party never has been so united ideologically, but the tiny moderate faction can provide the balance of power in the House and to a lesser extent the Senate. To frustrated conservatives, moderates look like the tail wagging the Republican dog. The events last Thursday suggest the folly of seeking ephemeral legislative victories by sacrificing principle.

This is why principle matters. Political pragmatism is ultimately not pragmatic at all. It is always the principled on both sides, the Ronald Reagans, Margaret Thatchers and the Hillary Rodhams, who are successful in effecting change. The pragmatists have the ability to take the reins of power, but once there, they have no ability to drive the horses anywhere.

It is not enough to win an election. If you don’t have any reason for winning it, your victory will be hollow, pointless and ultimately self-defeating.

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