Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Digging Out Of The Pigeonhole

When the great Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi was asked if he was a Hindu, Gandhi is said to have replied: "Yes I am. I am also a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, and a Jew."

I thought of Gandhi when I was listening to the thought-provoking keynote talk former Republican State Representative Terri McCormick gave yesterday at the Democracy Campaign's annual membership meeting.

McCormick made clear she was born and raised a Republican and unmistakably remains one. She paid homage to her Republican heroes – Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and former state lawmaker Earl Mcessy. She spoke fondly of Ronald Reagan. But she also spoke admiringly of JFK. And she said what America really needs now is another Harry Truman.

While she talked mostly about political integrity, the culture at the Capitol and what the current system does to well-intentioned people, McCormick also touched on a wide range of other topics. She struck a classic Republican pose on business regulation, but sounded like a fair-trade Democrat on NAFTA.

Terri McCormick is a conservative. And a moderate. And a liberal. Maybe that's why she lost her last election. The political world doesn't cotton to split ideological personalities.

Normal people are philosophical mutts . . . conservative about some things, liberal about some, and in the middle of the road on others. Only in the political world do people have a corn cob stuck you-know-where over ideological purity.

I suspect I don't see eye to eye with Terri McCormick on a fair number of issues. But I'm like her in one respect. I am conservative, and moderate, and liberal. When it comes to personal finances, I am conservative to the extreme. My family doesn't make a lot by current middle-class standards, but we make a good deal more than we spend. And we have no debt. No home mortgage, no car payment, no credit card debt. There was a time when such habits qualified you to be a Republican. Not any more.

A belief in limited government also has long been seen as characteristic of Republicans. But if that belief takes the form of a conviction that government has no place in the bedroom or the doctor's office or at the death bed, that gets you excommunicated from the modern Republican Party. Litmus tests are all the rage in today's politics. Pass 'em all or you can't belong to the club.

I think Terri McCormick wants to run for public office again. Personally, I hope she does. But I wonder if the political world will tolerate her kind. I think she might be too normal.

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