By John Feehery
Karl Rove is probably a cafeteria conservative. So am I.
Cafeteria Catholics are Catholics who go to Mass on a regular, or semi-regular basis, but don’t exactly follow all the rules of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church has a lot of rules. No pre-marital sex. No masturbation. No birth control. No gay stuff. No abortion. No meat on Fridays. No food an hour before you take communion.
Lots of Catholics tend to pick and choose among these rules. The no pre-marital sex, no birth control, no masturbation rules are particularly popular ones to ignore.
If Catholic priests decided to kick out of their parish every Cafeteria Catholic, they would find that their collections plates would look mighty meager every weekend. So, they try to focus on the positive and keep the Cafeteria Catholics in the fold.
The high priests of the Conservative movement are in no such mood. They are in a bitter search to find those cafeteria conservatives and drum them out of the Conservative party.
Cafeteria conservatives are RINO’s. They must be hunted down and primaried for daring to question conservative dogma on any issue. They must be shouted down on talk radio and on the Fox Cable Network. They must be pilloried by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Marc Levin.
I have long been targeted as a cafeteria Conservative because fairly quickly I fell off the Sarah Palin bandwagon. Palin turned out to be complete idiot and for committing the high treason of calling a spade a spade, I was attacked by the Palinites, who somehow infiltrated the Conservative High Priest conclave.
And who inhabits this High Priest Conclave?
As best as I can tell, it is a group of Octogenerians who have not grown old particularly gracefully. Brent Bozell (the man who really hates the media….yep, that guy), Phyliss Schlaffly (the woman who really hates feminists), Ed Meese (the friend of Ronald Reagan who would have condemned Reagan if Reagan were Reagan today) seem to be the chief enforcers of conservative dogma.
They are buttressed by the talk radio set (Hannity, Limbaugh, Levin, Beck), and then of course, by outside organizations (Club for Growth, Freedom Works), who are always on the lookout for the evil RINO.
Karl Rove was condemned as a cafeteria Conservative (my words, not his) by Terry Jeffrey, the keeper of the conservative flames at Human Events. According to Jeffrey, Rove and his greatest client, George W. Bush, were never really conservatives. How could they be when they tried to impose accountability on education spending rather than just getting rid of the Education Department, or when they tried to reform Medicare with an innovative program to bring competition to the prescription drug benefit, rather just getting rid of Medicare, or when Rove and Bush decided to export democracy, rather than just coddle and buy off dictators.
Yep, Rove is no orthodox conservative.
Of course, Rove also was the guy who helped elect the most conservative President in history (and yes, he was more conservative than Reagan, believe it or not), the President who cut taxes more than any President in history, the President who did more for the faith-based community than any other President, the most pro-life President in history (in the modern era), and the President who did more to put conservative ideals into action than any other in history.
But I digress.
I admit it. I am a cafeteria Conservative.
- For example, I think Abraham Lincoln is our greatest Republican President. Most orthodox conservatives secretly hate Honest Abe. A lot of these conservatives proudly fly the Stars and Bars next to the Stars and Stripes, a more than curious juxtaposition of historical reality.
- I am pro-life, but I acknowledge that too much of a focus on that issue is somewhat damaging to a bigger coalition. I am willing to accept Henry Hyde’s hard-fought compromise on abortion funding as a way to move on from the issue.
- I want to cut Federal spending, but I am a bit of a realist on that front. I would rather we scale back entitlement spending and keep discretionary spending at levels that guarantees adequate investment in science funding, especially funding for research into Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases.
- I am generally anti-tax, but I am troubled that half the country pays nothing in federal taxes and that really wealthy people pay a smaller percentage than folks in the middle class. I also think we need more revenues than just 14% of GDP.
- I am not a climate change absolutist. I am not necessarily convinced that it is happening, but I am not convinced that it is not. And I would like the government to take appropriate steps to prepare the country if it is happening, much like the private sector is doing.
- I don’t hate gay people, and while I shared the concerns of Barack Obama about the prospect of gay marriage, I am less opposed to it than I once was. But I will defend the right of churches not to perform those ceremonies if it goes against their faith.
- I believe in a strict separation of church and state, but I think that people who sue towns and cities for hanging Christmas decorations are jerks. I oppose them.
- I am not a gun nut, but I understand that in America, people have a legal right to gun ownership under the Constitution. But I think we can make the process to own a gun a lot more grueling, to weed out crazy people and criminals. I also think that we need to get guns out of the hands of people who don’t have any legal rights, especially gang-bangers.
- I am all for the right of free expression. With that right comes some responsibilities. You can’t yell fire in a crowded movie theater, and if your “art” is obscene and damaging to the general welfare of society, you are being irresponsible.
- I believe that we should defend ourselves against terrorists, but I am deeply troubled by the use of drones to kill Americans overseas (and non-Americans). I understand we are at war, but that doesn’t mean we can just ditch the Constitution.
- I doubt the efficacy of the war on drugs. When you have a law that is roundly ignored and inspires a marketplace that destroys whole communities, I think you need to rethink the law. Drugs are bad. I get that. But drug violence is worse, and I think that is caused not only by the drugs, but also by the government’s prohibition policies.
- I don’t want to get rid of government. I think government, done well, helps to regulate markets, helps to bring order to communities, helps to create thriving democracies and helps the private sector to create prosperity. I don’t believe anarchy does much good, and while I am much more on the libertarian side of the equation, I understand how government sometimes must be used to compel healthy and productive lifestyles for the larger community.
- I also tend to veer towards the practical and away from the ideological. What works works for me much more than what is intrinsically conservative.
- I don’t like race-based affirmative action plans, but I believe that we have a duty to help our neighbors, especially those who live in poverty.
- I also happen to believe that Republicans do a better job of governing than Democrats do. They are more fiscally responsible, less prone to class warfare, less prone to create feel-good but wasteful government programs, and generally more skeptical of expanding the size and scope of government. They aren’t perfect, but they are a better alternative than most Democrats. That is my opinion.
I would rather see a cafeteria Conservative Republican win in a general election than to have a principled conservative go down in defeat. I would rather see 51 Republicans who I don’t always agree with run the Senate than have 30 conservatives that I always agree with stand firmly on principle as 70 Democrats jam new government spending programs down the throat of the American people.
Call me a cafeteria Conservative. Ouch, that hurts.