In my experience a lack of “electability ” is used almost exclusively to denigrate conservative political candidates whom the speaker would otherwise lend his support to. Personally, I think it is time we stopped worrying about that concept – at least as it is commonly used.
In my state senate district (Texas SD 10) we used to be represented by a radical, left-wing, virulently pro-abortion woman, Wendy Davis. You see, while the part of SD 10 that I live in is solidly Republican, the district includes precincts that lean the other way. This makes SD 10 the only swing senate district in the state of Texas. Wendy got that seat by defeating an establishment and all-round only-as-conservative-as-he-should-be Republican candidate. She kept it by defeating another Republican contender of the same stripe. It wasn’t until a Tea Party Conservative named Konni Burton got into the fight that SD 10 as once again wrested from the Democrat Party. Now you’d think that in a district that elected a liberal like Wendy Davis, a more moderate candidate would have a better chance than a Conservative like Konni, but the fact of the matter is, she did what two moderate conservatives could not do, and she did it in a swing district where she shouldn’t have had as much “electability” as they did.
Contrast this with what has happened on the national stage in the last two presidential elections. Establishment, moderate, Republicans, after dropping staggering amounts of money to beat out more conservative candidates in the primary, have gone down to defeat twice.
To be clear, we ought to be concerned that the individual we choose to champion our beliefs in government be sane and as well-spoken as possible. But it does not matter how articulate, telegenic, and charming that individual is if he does not represent our fundamental beliefs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having the gift of communication. Ronald Reagan was the greatest president in modern history and was both eloquent and personally charming. But it was not this alone that made him special – it was the fact that these traits were found together in a man of genuine conviction and principle. He demonstrated that he was willing to take immense criticism for standing on those principles. While we look back on him fondly, we must not forget that a lot of people despised him for that. He was nothing if not a polarizing character.
As conservatives we had better understand this: No matter who the candidate is, if he has a track record of fighting for good causes – of actually doing conservative things as opposed to just saying them, he will be painted as a radical by the media and they will attempt to marginalize him with that label. Only death and taxes are more certain than that. We shouldn’t listen to that any more than we would listen to the same people if they told us to jump off a cliff. Remember, they’re not on our side. They don’t want us to win. (The same goes for most of the “political pundits” – i.e. Carl Rove and company.)
So rather than worrying too much about electability, let’s focus on finding candidates who courageously champion our beliefs because they share our core values. You can tell the really good ones because they will have made enemies. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can stand for something good without being hated. You cannot champion conservatism, and especially social conservatism, without being hated. (The people who oppose us are very good at hate.) By all means, let’s find candidates as articulate and as smooth-talking as they can be, but above all, make sure they have a track record not just of talking but of doing. That is the right thing to do and that’s how we can win.