I’ll acknowledge that a primary contest which devolves into an idealess food fight is a real risk, and one the GOP should avoid. However, a substantive contest of ideas should not only be countenanced; it should actively be encouraged: because it will help to invigorate and strengthen a GOP that urgently needs new ideas and new public-policy proposals, and for both substantive and political reasons.
Substantively, the GOP needs to address the great and pressing issues of our time: fractured countries and failed states, international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, a weak and fragile financial system, runaway entitlement spending (which threatens to bankrupt our country), chronic under- and un-employment, a lack of economic growth, et al.
If primaries were really about two candidates sharing their ideas on how to tackle pressing issues of the day, that would be one thing. But as Jeb Gonklin shows in a rebuttal to Guardiano, such battles are every the high-minded fight of ideas that Guardiano supposedly longs for. This is what he has to say about a GOP primary battle going on in Illinois between moderate Mark Kirk and conservative Andy Martin:
In a substantive debate on the issues that Guardiano highlights, Kirk would welcome a primary “battle” to focus on which candidate has the best ideas and which candidate is the most qualified to serve in the United States Senate. In five terms in Congress, Kirk has more than displayed his bonafides and his leadership skill on the most important issues of the day… like opposing Iranian nuclear proliferation. I don’t oppose a primary fight because it would focus on substantive issues but, on the contrary, because opposition to Kirk has nothing to do with the issues. The Tea Partiers opposing him don’t care that Kirk is the most qualified based on experience, the most intelligent, the most fit to win a general election, the best on Iran, the best on defense…..they care that he had the audacity to disagree with them on the bailout and on gun control — all issues which only primary voters disagree with him on. Guardiano calls for innovative and independent policy thinkers, yet it is Kirk’s refusal to toe the far right’s version of the “party line” that so upsets some conservatives.
If the debate were about issues, Andy Martin would not be running radio advertisements which mention a so called “solid rumor” that Kirk is gay. If this race were about issues, Lake County Republican leader Ray True would not publicly observe that Mark Kirk has “surrounded himself with homosexuals.” If this race were about issues, the rightwing blogosphere wouldn’t be buzzing about how “gay” Mark Kirk is. But this debate isn’t about issues. This debate is about how a small group of conservatives are upset that Kirk appeals to a more moderate group of voters. The opposition to Kirk doesn’t have a thing to do with issues.
The recent race between Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava and Conservative Doug Hoffman was basically a mudfight calling Scozzafava everything but a child of God.
My own skeptical take is that Guardiano is not pleased with the more moderate Kirk and wants a "high-minded slugfest." But such things rarely exist, especially when the moderate is battling a conservative who deems his opponent just wrong on issues, but a traitor to the party.
I'm all for sharing ideas, but not when it resembles a wrestling match.