Words of Wisdom

Saturday, July 22, 2006
Betsy gives us a history lesson:

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good

Ed Morrissey had a meeting with Karl Rove to get his implants updated. I see that Rove doesn't buy into the standard line that most political analysts think controls how elections work in the U.S.

Rove also talked about the "two great myths of American politics": single-issue voters and "the base", as defined by critics. Rove thinks that those who claim to be single-issue voters actually show much more nuance when the choices cease to be hypothetical. As far as "the base" goes, Rove laughed it off as a straw man for critics of the GOP. Of late, many pundits have claimed that Rove wants to win elections by pandering to a narrow political slice of the spectrum. He counters this by noting that Bush received many more votes in 2004 than he did in 2000, even by percentage. People win elections, Rove said, by broadening their appeal, not by narrowing it.

It does seem that the single-issue voter is a much smaller group than people think. Usually a person who believes passionately in one issue, let's say abortion, and picks a candidate on that one issue, also believes in a whole constellation of issues that the chosen candidate will also believe in. As far as "the base," I just hope that those who are angry on some issues with the GOP will realize that they cannot achieve their goals with electing Democrats.

In my class on Lincoln this morning, we were looking at a letter he wrote in 1845 to a member of the Liberty Party who had not voted for the Whig candidate in 1844, Henry Clay, because Clay was a slaveowner. And Lincoln was reminding him, now that Clay had lost and Polk was elected, that the supporters of the Liberty Party were much further away from achieving their goals, because all they had done was split New York's vote so Polk won the close election instead of Clay. So the Liberty voters, for all their sanctimony about never voting for a slaveowner, simply ensured that another slaveowner was elected and that slaveowner, Polk, would pursue a policy of expansion that would lead to the Mexican War and the push to expand slavery across the continent. Lincoln, in his letter, was chiding his friend for trying to vote so purely, yet actually achieving the opposite result.

It is like those conservatives who wouldn't vote for the GOP over a certain issue such as spending or immigration. Are they likely to achieve their goals any better by allowing Democrats to win control?

Remember Lincoln's wisdom and don't let the perfect be the
enemy of the good.