October 02, 2003

The Eleventh Commandment

National Review still admires Reagan's 11th Commandment: Never speak ill of another Republican.

This is one of the dumbest political rules I know about. It's the reason both political parties get defined by their wing-nuts instead of by their moderates.

Thankfully, liberal Republican Adam Sullivan pitches the 11th Commandment over the side, and is still at war with right-wing lunatics.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 2, 2003 05:29 PM

It depends how far you take it. One might argue that Prof Larry Sabato's analysis, released just today, supports Reagan's intuition: "Competition is fine, but divisiveness spells defeat."

Posted by: Hovig at October 2, 2003 06:24 PM


I get told all the time that I shouldn't criticize Democrats or the left. Phtt to that. I've no time for that nonsense.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 2, 2003 07:08 PM

Michael -- It depends upon the context. If the issue is one of policy, a case can be made that you should argue all you want behind closed doors but then accept the will of the majority for the purposes of speaking to the public. (I am not willing to carry this to its logical conclusion, however. In the event of deeply held beliefs, personal integrity may trump party loyalty -- most issues do not fall into this category, however). On the other hand, if the issue is one of integrity, then you should speak out -- e.g., the Republicans were right to dump Nixon after Watergate, and the Democrats were wrong to support Clinton after he lied under oath.

Posted by: Ben at October 2, 2003 08:14 PM

From Prof Sabato's analysis, I merely observe that election victories typically occur at times of cohesion. Reagan may have been wrong to believe cohesion should be enforced, but he was astute to realize it leads to victory. Perhaps you therefore should fight all the harder to convince your party to cohere around your vision.

Posted by: Hovig at October 2, 2003 08:20 PM

I think Reagan's dictum applied mainly to candidates for office. He always appeared optimistic and never criticized other Republican candidates. I think that's a big part of what made him a winner in elections.

I think candidates lose when they come across too pissed off. I think that may be a problem for Howard Dean and it certainly was for Barry Goldwater.

Posted by: Pug at October 3, 2003 06:10 AM

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 2, 2003 07:08 PM

I think it sounds worse than it really is.. In perspective, conservatives tend to fight so much among themselves (over small issues) that someone had to say enough, try to come to a consensus... Also, consensus ecourages moderation.

It's nothing like the no enemies on the left attitude that allows the far left to do the things they do without any criticism.

The Pat Buchanan’s et all are shunned by mainstream conservatives. I don't think we have much to be ashamed of.

Posted by: Thomas at October 3, 2003 09:20 AM

Not to spoil the party or anything, but I just listened to Glen Beck ream hypocritical Republicans over the Arnold "Its all in his past" Republicans who are acting like Clinton's supporters did in the late 90s.

The dude went off on a screaming rampage, hung up on a caller and said that the partisian political animals sounded like they had traded scripts with the Democrats and that every single one of them were a bunch of power whores.

I'd say Reagan probably would not have approved.

Posted by: Roark at October 3, 2003 09:28 AM

The general level of viciousness in political fights seems to increase over time in proportion to the size and rate of growth of the legalized pipeline out of the treasury. Therein may lie the seeds of solution.

Posted by: Stephen at October 3, 2003 10:53 AM

I am a conservative who is willing to forgive past misdeeds. I firmly believe that redemption is a possibility for everyone and that people who have put their pasts behind them deserve to be treated according to how they act in the present. Everyone has some skeletons in the closet, and I am not comfortable holding other people to a standard that neither I nor anyone else could meet.

That having been said, how the past is dealt with is a major issue. GWB put alcohol behind him, so he should not be tarred as an alcoholic. Arnold has appologized for past misconduct and has apparently cleaned up his act, so his past conduct should not be held against him. The same could not be said for Clinton, who continues to deny that he did wrong in attempting to impede the Paula Jones lawsuit.

Moreover, I do not propose that any of the people I named (nor anyone else, for that matter) should be insulated from the consequences of their actions: if crimes were committed, prosecutions should go forward where appropriate. Part of redemption involves taking responsibility for prior misconduct.

Posted by: Ben at October 3, 2003 01:21 PM

Adults know that panaceae do not exist and make pragmatic choices between available alternatives. I speak no will of Conservatives because I understand who the alternatives are.

BTW, Michael, are you calling Phyllis Schlafly a "right wing lunatic"?

Posted by: SlimyBill at October 3, 2003 08:37 PM


Let me just politely say that Phyllis Schlafly is not my favorite person. I wouldn't put her in the same category as Pat Robertson, but she's no moderate.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2003 09:52 PM

In times like these where the electorate is divided almost evenly between the two major parties, both parties face the difficult balancing act of keeping the support of their "kooks" without becoming defined by their "kooks".

Neither seems to be succeeding particulary well.

Posted by: tallan at October 5, 2003 11:40 AM


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