No easy form for choosing conservative candidates

Talk radio host Glenn Beck had an interesting point the other day when a Tea Party organizer called to complain about a candidate not fully responding to a questionnaire her organization had sent out to determine the candidate’s views.

It turned out that the questionnaire was fairly extensive and Glenn wondered if the woman was in the process of searching for “no candidate.”

This problem arises because conservatives have become so beat down by politicians who ask for their vote, then immediately start ignoring their wishes and in some cases the Constitution, that they’re just trying to get a little insurance before they give their support.

What was especially interesting about the call to Beck was that the politician being complained about was Marco Rubio, GOP gubernatorial candidate in Florida, who is the poster child for a conservative uprising and Tea Party power.

The caller admitted that the list was fairly long, I think in the neighborhood of 14 or 15 questions, which probably goes past the point of bedrock principles and gets into the shifting sands of everyday policy.

Another person on the program asked if she had considered the other Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who has fawned over President Barack Obama and had a political record of reaching across the aisle so often and so far that all that was left on the conservative side was an overly tanned shadow. The caller admitted that she thought Rubio was the best candidate; she was just irritated that he hadn’t answered all of the questions.

In circumstances like this, it’s not that you just ask a lot of questions, but that you concentrate on the important ones and the quality of the answers. If we get the right answers to the right questions from sincere candidates, we will get the right response on other issues at the right time.

Employing an overly broad exclusion process can mean missing out on some pretty good candidates.

For instance, a lot of conservatives are leery of politicians, but the definition of a politician is almost as elusive as those it seeks to define. If just holding prior public office is enough to get someone excluded from election for being a politician, then we would have missed out on Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater and Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was not only a politician, but one with a spotty record of winning elections.

If not for some good judgment in switching generals in 1863, he probably would have lost his 1864 re-election bid to the Democratic “peace party” candidate — whose platform was to negotiate with the Confederacy to end the war.

In that instance, the Democratic candidate was the nonpolitician, Gen. George McClellan, whose prior military misadventures and party policies would probably have resulted in us having to apply for a passport to go to Florida.

We should probably start with the really important questions, such as whether a candidate believes that the Constitution surrounds and limits the power of government over the individual and whether he or she rejects the idea that it is a constantly evolving hodgepodge of ideas, subject to endless interpretation based on the whims of popular culture.

Many candidates seem to agree with our president, that the Constitution is a set of “negative liberties.” This phrase is nonsense and has no meaning in the American lexicon. Instead, it is a sort of partisan code, complaining that the Constitution’s limiting construction of federal power restricts the statist impulse.

If a candidate does not think that the document can evolve to the point that walls become doors and understands that crushing taxes and debt rob citizens of the very liberties the Constitution seeks to protect, that candidate is pretty far down the road toward becoming a good choice.

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong, which can be reached through the blogs entry at


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