Republicans: Chameleons or elephants?

If Coleman’s political history is indicative of anything, it’s that his decisions are made according to the likelihood of his re-election.

by Jake Perron

My sympathies go out to young Republicans voting today if they believe in traditional Party values. Is there a candidate who will defend them unequivocally, or is winning the only criterion for their national leaders? Even the Christian Right is troubled by the unpredictability and fuzzy defense of the party’s conservative doctrine – enough so to threaten a third party.

Elections in 2008 will be a challenge for any voter to separate opportunists from pragmatists, principled platforms from corrupt motives, and Democrats from Democrats posing as middle-of-the-road Republicans.

While less attention is paid to internal party platforms, focus on superficial actions is increased to better the chances of being elected. This is the prevailing theme for popular Republican hopefuls whether they are running for president or a seat in the U.S. Senate.

A Republican governor in Massachusetts, the land of the Kennedys, running for president against a former Republican mayor of New York City, where family values aren’t confined by white picket fences? A Minnesota Senator who holds dinner parties with President George W. Bush? Ten years ago these statements would have been considered oxymoronic.

Aside from Bush’s support in raising $1.2 million at a private campaign fundraiser a couple months ago, Coleman’s compliance with the president’s policies have decreased simultaneously as Bush’s approval rating plummets and Norm’s re-election campaign sets into motion.

Most notably, Coleman voted “aye” on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Having supported SCHIP, a bill that would promise health care to children with families too wealthy to qualify for Medicare, yet unable to afford private insurance, is but one recent instance of Coleman’s apparent strategy to have it both ways, and his gradual disassociation with President Bush.

Norm Coleman’s critics often accuse him of being a rubber-stamp for the Bush administration – but this criticism is only half true. Coleman has found a way to reconcile at least seven votes, this year alone, against changing policy in Iraq with his membership in a bipartisan effort opposed to a troop surge. And all the while, he voted “nay” on a Senate resolution with a Statement of Purpose that reads as follows:

“To reaffirm strong support for all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces and to strongly condemn attacks on the honor, integrity, and patriotism of any individual who is serving or has served honorably in the United States Armed Forces, by any person or organization.”

But Coleman’s tendency to tango with liberalism comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen photos of his youthful anti-war activist years or read his articles in the campus newspaper declaring why he should be elected to the student senate: “These conservative kids don’t f*** or get high like we do (purity, you know). Already the cries of motherhood, apple pie and Jim Buckley reverberate thorough the halls of the Student Center. Everyone watch out, the 1950s bobby-sox generation is about to take over.”

The uncertainty as to exactly what Coleman stands for should be a matter of concern for Republicans in Minnesota. Three years after Coleman was elected Mayor of St. Paul on the Democratic ticket, he became a member of the Republican Party and was re-elected the following year.

If Coleman’s precarious political history is indicative of anything, it’s that his decisions are made according to the likelihood of his re-election, not the principles of the Republican Party or his own core values (if he should have any).

To juxtapose this Republican propensity of precarious platforms, neglected principles and motivation only to win with the Democrats yields a rather humorous truth. That is – Democrats are amid a polar opposite conundrum to their opponents where they are either struggling to win a majority, or once they do, they are politically ineffective. They will risk losing elections rather than betray their beliefs and overriding philosophies.

How else could Ralph Nader receive any support if Democrats’ aspirations to win elections weren’t trumped by their staunch adherence to principles?

Questions of modern conservatism and liberalism have evolved into who is willing to compromise the most in order to win. Voters are left having to choose between a Republican candidate who can’t be trusted to adhere to their campaign promises once elected and complacent Democrats unwilling to transform their opinions to accommodate a larger vote.

On this premise, the very worse for Mike Ciresi, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and Al Franken if they should lose to whatever character Coleman becomes for this next election, is that they lost because they stuck to their principles.

Norm Coleman has never wrestled with this predicament. He just holds his finger to the wind.

Jake Perron welcomes comments at [email protected].