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April 21, 2014 1:45 PM More Conservative Than Thou

By Ed Kilgore

As we begin to enter the heart of the 2014 primary cycle, I hope that last-ditch defenders of “both parties have surrendered to their extremes” false-equivalence perspectives notice a rather significant difference between Democratic and Republican candidates. The latter, regardless of how they are regarded on some objective spectrum, almost invariably identify themselves as “conservatives,” or “true conservatives,” or “constitutional conservatives,” or “strong conservatives,” or “conservative reformers.” They are forever shouting about their “conservative values” or “conservative record.” I’m looking at a batch of campaign literature from Georgia my mother-in-law sent me. There are multiple items from Senate candidate Phil Gingrey, whose slogan is “Always Delivering on His Conservative Principles.” Rival Jack Kingston, generally considered a time-serving Establishment stooge in the House, cannot utter a breath without touting his bogus National Journal rating as having “the most conservative record in the race,” and described himself in a debate over the weekend as “a long-term soldier fighting for the conservative cause.” 11th District U.S. House candidate Tricia Pridemore wants primary voters to know she is a “devoted conservative activist;” another, Ed Lindsay, calls himself a “proven conservative reformer.” And they may be the least ideological candidates in the GOP field in that particular race.

The last congressional or statewide GOP candidate I can remember calling himself a “moderate” was Michigan’s Rick Snyder in 2010. Maybe I’ve missed a scattered self-identified “moderate” in New England or something, but it’s not a crowd.

Can anyone imagine Democrats behaving this way? Yes, there may be a few primaries in deep blue country where one candidate insists he or she is more “progressive” than another, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. But by and large, it’s just remarkable the extent to which Republican candidates act as though it is almost literally impossible to be too conservative. I keep half-expecting some GOPer to broadcast the slogan: “I’m insanely conservative.” But I guess Paul Broun doesn’t have the money to run ads.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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