The Norman Transcript

Columns

June 5, 2014

Party purity and discretionary wisdom

OKLAHOMA CITY — The late Paul M. Weyrich, a man keenly interested in seeing conservatives govern after generations in the policy wilderness, once told me a funny story from the “Old Right” days of the 1960s.

Two hard-core conservatives are having their customary Friday evening drinks at a D.C. watering hole, Weyrich began. They decried the latest failure of fellow conservatives in Congress to stop this or that advance of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society,” certain to bring ruin to the nation.

After cataloguing the sins of every voting leader in both the House and Senate, the older of the two gentlemen said to his somewhat younger colleague: “You know, there are only two true conservatives left in Washington, and that’s me and you. And, I’m not so sure about you.”

This tendency is apparent approaching the June 24 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat that Tom Coburn will vacate at year’s end. When U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, is tagged a Republican in name only, a “RINO,” the term has lost meaning.

Many conservatives believe former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, is the best choice. Randy Brogdon, the former state senator in the U.S. Senate race, who ran impressively against Mary Fallin in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, will probably finish third.

Each of these fellows votes the “right” way 90 percent of the time or more. Primary voters are grappling with shades of difference (watchdog.org/127873/ok-senate-young-men-hurry-shade-difference) — deciding who among them will best advance the cause of limited government and personal liberty.

I am reminded of this emphasis on differences rather than similarities recalling the collapse of support for state Sen. John Sparks, of Norman, a Democrat I respect.

Sparks was on track to become the Democratic leader in the state Senate, proudly declaring in February, “The Democratic caucus provides contrast where it is needed; we ask the hard questions; we shine light on the dark spaces; and we hold the Republicans accountable.”

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