While I’m not especially comfortable with the topic, I thought I should amplify the discussion of the litmus test for Republican principles in my previous post about Arlen Specter.
Glenn Reynolds linked this discussion of whether the NRSC is about to abandon Toomey, and within that, I found the following statement from Senator Jim DeMint:

Yesterday, Jim DeMint, South Carolina’s conservative Senator, said, “I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.”

While that has an emotionally appealing sound (especially to those who are fed up with the business-as-usual sellout GOP), is that really the choice that’s facing the GOP?
Presumably DeMint would include himself within the 30 who believe in freedom (if we overlook his previous statements that pregnant women and gays should not be allowed to teach), and presumably he thinks there are a number of others who share these principles already there in the Senate. So in logic, the choice is not between them and 60 unprincipled RINOs. I suspect that his argument is more along the lines of “let’s get rid of the 30 RINOs, and leave only those with ‘principles’.”
The appeal of this argument is obvious, as many would agree with DeMint. But is purging the party of deviationists the way to build a majority coalition?
I suspect that DeMint is concealing an argument against the Big Tent coalition with a false dichotomy.
There’s also a big debate now over whether the Republican Party has moved to the right. I don’t think it has; especially at the rank and file level, things are pretty evenly divided. The people I’d call the WorldNetDaily right, though, are louder than ever, and if you talk to them, they’ll tell you that they and only they are “the base.” Naturally, the left is delighted to echo their claim, which is endlessly re-echoed by academia and media. And they can be depended upon to scream, loudly — well into the next election — about how the “new” “far right” Republican Party ran Specter out.
Public perceptions being what they are, I think it would be a mistake for the GOP to deliberately whittle itself down to a small minority and abandon the coalition approach.
But my bias may be showing. I am, after all, just a Goldwater liberal who thinks it would have been a good idea if Reagan had followed Barry’s advice and given Jerry Falwell that good proverbial kick in the ass. (He could have gotten away with it then, but it’s too late now.)
On social issues, Toomey is less of a libertarian than Bush was, and he might be to the right of Santorum. Whether that means the party is shifting rightward, who knows? It’s too early to say.
I held my nose and voted for Bush, and if I still lived in Pennsylvania I suppose I could in theory even hold my nose and vote for Toomey.
But must I also show enthusiasm?