As one who has been a Republican all of my life and have so voted, beginning with my ballot cast for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, I am becoming increasingly concerned at the utterly inane and destructive food fight between "Establishment Republicans" and "True Conservatives," which threatens to divide us into modern day "Hatfields and McCoys."
Webster defines a conservative as one who tends to adhere to and maintain traditional and existing views, methods, conditions and institutions. This portrait conforms to the more cynical Ambrose Bierce's entry in The Devil's Dictionary: "Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wants to replace them with others."
Today's liberal or progressive Democrats would have you believe that Conservatives/Republicans are not only out of touch with the voters but also cater to the wealthiest among us at the expense of the poor, the older adults, the children, minorities and, recently, the middle class.
Conversely, Republicans/Conservatives advertise themselves as limited government capitalists, Constitution-strict constructionists and individual freedom adherents who believe in low taxes and private enterprise.
In my father's and my lifetimes, Republicans have been deemed the standard bearers of conservatism while the Democrats have embodied the more liberal and bigger government style of exercise of authority. Most often, the party leadership from both sides of the aisle has been able to strike an agreement which, while not entirely satisfactory to either faction, resolves the issue.
Sadly, since about 1992, in today's political arena, the widening gap between Republicans and Conservatives has been aggravated by none other than self-appointed conservative pundits and radio hosts. Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole was attacked as insufficiently conservative to face the obviously more liberal Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush was twice elected despite vilification by the same cabal.
Current Republican candidates are forced to run the gauntlet of radio talk hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and other self-appointed critics who toss out derogatory terms like "RINO" (Republican in Name Only), Establishment Elite and Republican Light, to show their disdain for those who don't measure up to their ideal as true conservatives. Along with at least one of the candidates, they invoke the late President Ronald Reagan as their model.
A simple reality check would prove these critics so far out in left field that like Elvis, "they have left the building." Ronald Reagan, a true conservative and a gentleman, espoused two values regarding Republicans: (1) "an 11th Commandment that thou shalt not speak evil of any Republican" and (2) that a Republican who supports the party position 80 percent of the time is worthy of the name and nurturing.
They also ignore the "Buckley Rule," which is named after William F. Buckley Jr., conservative author, commentator and founder of National Review magazine. The rule states to vote for the most electable conservative option — the Republican/Conservative who can win. Otherwise, you invoke the late Walt Kelly's Pogo Standard: "We have met the enemy and he is us."
The 2012 presidential election is arguably the most important of our lifetime as those of us who expect to support the Republican ticket see the country as barreling pell-mell toward statism and national insolvency without a serious effort to contain the growth of bankrupting entitlements. This is no time for Republicans and Conservatives to be fighting among ourselves as to who is the "most conservative."
The November ballot will not have a Conservative Party choice instead, for those not interested in re-electing President Barack Obama, the sole reasonable option will be to vote Republican. The last time I looked, the Republican Party did not grant to Rush, to Hannity, to South Carolina's Senator Jim DeMint nor even to Sarah Palin the political responsibility of determining the electability of the party's candidate — the decision is yours.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.