What happened to the right? It used to be pragmatic and sensible. In America, the right held its nose and voted for firmly centrist but electable Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George Bush, to keep out left wingers like Adlai Stevenson, George McGovern and Michael Dukakis. In Great Britain, the Conservative party even put into power leftists by today’s standards, in Macmillan, Heath and John Major to keep out socialist Labour. The right’s voting strategy was pragmatic yet strategic; because just how we got the “7 dwarfs” I mentioned above, we also put in Reagan and Thatcher when the time was right. Those two changed our respective countries for the better. The right, unlike the left, was disciplined, pragmatic, and tried to get their best, most electable, candidate into office.
Toby Young of the Spectator has been campaigning to “Unite the Right” or as he calls it recently, “Country before Party”. I agree with his aims, although like Paul Goodman I am skeptical the strategy can work in practice. Ed Miliband should never be Prime Minister, and will not be if Conservative and UKIP vote could be aligned. Recently, You Gov/Sun polling puts the Conservatives at 34% and UKIP at 13%. Together that is 47% of the vote, and even if only half of the UKIP’s 13% would vote Conservative, 41% would mean a majority Conservative government. However, raw politics and numbers rarely sway the ideologically pure voter, just look at America, where about 3 million conservatives stayed home rather than vote for the moderate Romney. That may have cost Romney the election. The right does need to unite, but before it can, its two wings need to understand each other. The “ideological” right needs to be sensible and the “pragmatic” right needs to be sensitive.
Pragmatic Right- Be Sensitive
When I refer to the “pragmatic” right I am referring to those on the right that will implement some left-wing policy out of political expediency or because they actually hold some left wing views. While the pragmatic right is very good at being strategic, they very often forget that the people who put them into office are the ideologically conservative. The pragmatic right should not forget about those people. In America, there is a long tradition of political candidates being very ideological during the presidential primaries than “running to the centre” during the presidential election. In Great Britain, many Conservative leaders talk to their local constituency about how much they love small business than return to London to talk about how great a “living wage” would be for the country. This sort of “double speak” has turned good, honest, patriotic, conservative people against their own party or at least made them disillusioned with it. If politicians are willing to dance to a conservative tune for votes in their local constituency, they should be willing to fight for them while legislating.
Conservative politicians or “establishment” figures should also remember that some of the conservative issues that the politicians don’t particularly care about (or oppose) are held very dear by their ideological allies. In both the UK and US, pragmatic conservatives generally don’t see immigration as a bad thing and rarely oppose gay marriage. There position is understandable; they generally live in large metropolitan areas where gay people and immigrants are commonplace. However, they should not dismiss everyone they disagree with as bigots. A rich corporate conservative often benefits from increased immigration because it means lower wages for the businesses they often own or invest in. But they should remember that more immigration also often means loss of jobs and cultural identity, as well as the increasing of local taxes, for ordinary Britons or Americans, many of whom are passionately conservative in their views. Furthermore, many of their supporters are very religious and oppose gay marriage not because they hate gays, but because they believe gay marriage harms a sacred ancient institution. Conservative politicians and elites should dialogue with their voters, rather than disparage or “brow beat” them. In the UK, I think they are handling immigration appropriately but I think passing gay marriage as early as they did was, at least politically, daft. If you want support from your base, treat them with respect and forthrightness.
Ideological Right- Be Sensible
Ideological Right….the way you sometimes behave on the internet or at rallies in the past couple of years is making many think you are truly “swivel eyed loons”. In America, the Republicans do not control the Senate because Tea Party zeal for “pure” candidates usurped long established and winnable candidates in favour of candidates who said weird things that alienated moderate voters to turn to the Democrats. In Great Britain, UKIP is enabling a weak and ineffective Labour party to possibly return to power despite the Conservatives cleaning up their economic mess in a very effective way. Tea Partiers in the US rant and rave about “establishment” Republicans being the same as the Democrats, and Ukippers talk of a monolithic “ConLabLib” establishment. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Conservatives are not the same as Labour or the Liberal Democrats. Who is giving you a vote on the EU referendum? Who cut income taxes? Who has reduced the deficit? Who has capped welfare and is planning on capping it even further? Who cut immigration levels and is limiting EU migration? Who deported Abu Qatada? Who has turned around an economy that was in the doldrums to the fastest growing in the developed world? Whose economic policies led to record amount of employment? The answer is the Conservatives did all those things, despite Labour opposition to all of it and the Lib Dems attempting to block further spending, welfare, and immigration cuts and opposing a EU referendum. This Conservative-led government is 100 times more Conservative than the big government policies of Heath and Macmillan or the Europhile policies of John Major. You want even greater change? Support the likes of Jacob Rees-Moog or Iain Duncan Smith in your local constituency but don’t in effect cast for vote for Labour by voting for UKIP. UKIP has no chance of being in government, and may not win one parliamentary seat. Ghandi said “be the change you want to see in the world”, I’m sure the change you Ukippers want to see is not more left wing, pro-EU policies in Great Britain, do you?
In America, ideological conservatives often suffer from the same lack of sensibility. In Texas, Republicans have for three decades controlled the state, and made it arguably the America’s most economically successful. Why then do they want to purge the “establishment” politicians who have created this transformation? On the national front, tea partiers blame the Republicans for “caving” on Obamacare. Yet the Republicans only control one house of the US congress, not one Republican voted for Obamacare, and the only “cave” they did was agreeing to give up their defunding of Obamacare tactic to end the “government shutdown” so as not to risk a US government default. What more should they have done?
Conservatives, on both sides of the Atlantic, need to win elections. There needs to be a Conservative majority government in the UK, and in the US, the Republicans need to win the Presidency and Senate. This means ideological conservatives will need to swallow their pride and vote for a centrist candidate once in a while to win elections. But this also means pragmatic conservative politicians need to deal forthrightly, and in an understanding way, with their ideological base. Be proud of your ideology, the left is proud of theirs.
Besides the preservation of the union, there is no more important cause for the United Kingdom than peace and unification of the right. As Benjamin Franklin said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand”.