So Rep. Bill Cassidy a quarter-century ago expressed skepticism about the Strategic Defense Initiative and more defense spending in general. That these remarks of the then-Democrat, now leading Republican candidate for the Senate in Louisiana got reported at all underscores a phenomenon about the propensity for Democrats to make themselves into a ring and fire outwards at their political enemies, while Republicans do a 180 and fire at each other.
Since then, Cassidy has become considerably older and wiser, as his lifetime American Conservative Union voting record of nearly 87 attests, higher than the chamber’s GOP member average of around 84. Yet among some conservatives, he still remains suspect with all sorts of convoluted and unconvincing efforts to paint his as the same as the incumbent that he challenges Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu, no doubt rooted on by the Landrieu campaign that hopes this results in discouraging enough of the conservative vote to fail to turn out to vote in Cassidy and/or has his campaign waste resources by feeling it must respond to the baseless charge that he is not conservative enough.
Only this past week another presumed answer for the small cabal calling Cassidy impure, state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, passed on a candidacy and then endorsed Cassidy, while new Louisiana resident Rob Maness picked up the first substantial endorsement from conservatives that Cassidy has not gotten, which gives him a chance to pull in third-party spending of about 10 percent of what Cassidy has on hand. And don’t be surprised if it wasn’t Landrieu opposition research that found the 1988 letter to the editor now being publicized.
If so, it’s because Landrieu instinctively understands what David Horowitz recently and brilliantly laid out as to why Democrats can win campaigns despite having a message contrary to the reality majorities perceive, precisely because lberalism is not built on reality but appeals to emotion. Horowitz, who began his political life as a committed Marxist, understands well that the political left is built on faith, not reason, with a true belief that it is on the side of history’s inevitable path, and that apostasy to that faith is a sign of immorality whose adherents must be crushed. This panting need to affiliate behind the use of government to bring this transformation provides exceptional unitary impetus.
By contrast, conservatives don’t see themselves as part of a transformational movement simply because they see government not as something to alter human nature (which is immutable and therefore this attempt brings tyranny), but as a necessary evil to temper the worst aspects of human nature. There’s no call to collective action rallying around faith that dislodges reason and unites as in the case of liberals, but instead engages in critical appraisal of government-as-Prometheus, precisely because when unbound it can produce collective action that threatens freedom. This rejection of sublimation of individuality to pursue the collective in favor of equipping individuals to fight sublimation by the collective makes it naturally harder for conservatives to pursue a unified agenda and arouses suspicions that real or imagined “backsliders” already have submitted to sublimation.
Thus, the left tries to exploit these divisions for its own gain, and some are more than willing to be the useful idiots being played. There’s nothing wrong when there is healthy debate and dissent within the right, because this is the strength of conservatism in America in that its ideas are tested and proven through this process, whereas the left hangs on to its bromides regardless of the facts and logic that expose their invalidity, with its preferred method of debate being to shout down opponents by indulging in name-calling, shifting to non sequiturs, and proclaiming inconvenient truths as illegitimate. But at the same time, among Republicans creation of false controversies (egged on by Democrats) and elevating trivial differences over issues into schismatic ruptures only plays into Democrats’ hands.
The Maness campaign is a classic example of this tendency, highlighting a few narrow differences between him and Cassidy, then using this as the basis to declare Cassidy and Landrieu as largely indistinguishable. No serious or studied observer would buy this. In this particular race, with credibility one can campaign on conservative credentials, ability to influence policy, electability, and candidate image, but there’s none with proclaiming Cassidy a RINO.
But the likes of Maness continue to peddle this, Landrieu operatives amplify it, and the media is more than happy to report on it to gain audiences and in the minds of many within it to facilitate liberalism. So do not expect the “challenger to the right of Cassidy” narrative to go away from months to come, because it serves the interests of both certain conservatives and liberals.