Moral principles are sneered at by many politicians and capital cities are notorious for corrupting politicians who where first elected to stand for something more than their own continuance in office. For those who succumb to this temptation there is a subtle shift in priorities. To these individuals, winning is no longer a means to end but an end unto itself. For the sake of securing re-election they are willing to compromise their core principles. Perhaps like the corrupt Senator Paine in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” they rationalize that by selling out in one area they will place themselves in a position to do good in some other way.
It is easy for those who care deeply about the state of our nation to fall into the same pattern of thinking. There is nothing wrong with trying to win. In the political realm you can’t get anything done without it. But it must not become the all-consuming idol in the name of which any compromise can be made so long as it is premised upon the prospect of some future good that can be done right after we win the next election. The trouble is there will always be another election. For conservatives to hold back from championing our principles for fear of losing in the next election is to render our victories in the last election null and void. And, while there will always be a certain degree of give and take in the political realm, we might as well pack up and go home if, in order to win, we abandon the principles that we set out to fight for in the first place.
So what does it really mean to “win?” and are we really winning if we lose our reason for competing? We are sometimes tempted to think that our principles are a ball and chain to us – a straitjacket that puts us at a disadvantage. In reality they are all we have and we cannot truly lose so long as we stick to them. Nor can we truly win if, in order to do so, we abandon them. That’s why whenever I hear someone say that we need to soften our stance on our moral beliefs in order to win an election the first thing that pops into my head is “Define ‘Win’, Please.”