The Beltway buzz is almost entirely focused on how this was a defeat for
Trump campaigned hard -- in person and on Twitter -- for Edwards' Republican opponent,
But there's a far more important takeaway: that what's good for the
Edwards is in many ways a fairly conventional Democrat. But on gun control and abortion he's far more conservative than his party. Whether he holds these positions out of conviction or political necessity I have no way of knowing. Nor does it much matter. The point is that when a Democrat wins by embracing conservative issues, it's a victory for conservatives. In other words, while
Think of it this way. Imagine you are a staunch opponent of abortion. Is it better for your cause if opposition to abortion is a purely partisan issue?
By every conceivable metric -- save perhaps party fundraising -- it's better if opposition to abortion can be found in both parties, because that is the best way to ensure that your preferred policy can survive an election disaster. If your party loses its majority in
The smartest people in the pro-life movement have always understood the need for a coalition across party lines, which is why figures such as the late left-wing columnist
The calculus is different for political parties, whose primary purpose is to win elections. If by magic you could persuade all of America overnight to oppose abortion, it would be a total victory for abortion opponents -- but it would be a disaster for the
The same logic applies to gun rights. It's much easier to protect the Second Amendment if it has robust defenders in both parties, which is why the
The rise of extreme partisan polarization has blinded many ideologues on both sides to this dynamic. The conservative movement's takeover of the
As a limited-government, free-market conservative, I see the sudden popularity on the right of protectionism, industrial policy and, in some quarters, nationalized health care as a victory for progressives for the simple reason that it moves the political center of gravity leftward. Liberals should cheer these developments, yet few do because partisanship overpowers everything else. Similarly, conservatives should look at a Democrat winning on their issues as a sign of progress, but few do.
Lasting victories for conservatives and progressives aren't measured in election returns, they're measured in what voters expect politicians in both parties will do once elected. Moving those expectations rightward (or leftward for progressives) is far more important than getting
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