Question on the LAT (Leadership Aptitude Test): Hey, conservative Christian, you've just helped to reelect a president and strengthen the GOP in Congress. What are you doing next?
Four common answers since Nov. 2: (a) We're going to Disney World. (b) We're dictating surrender terms to the rest of the country. (c) We're begging for some crumbs from the GOP table. (d) We're becoming coalition co-leaders.
Hmmm. Pleasant as it might be to go on vacation for the next four years, I'd suggest eliminating (a). Exciting as it is to enjoy irrational exuberance, we should also steer clear of (b). Comfortable though a supplicant's position may be, we can do better than (c).
I'd propose, with history as our guide, that conservative Christians choose (d). That's what "religious right" leaders in the late 18th century such as Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams did. To defeat the big-government British they formed a coalition with libertarians.
What they and more recent coalition leaders knew was this: Compromise within the coalition but don't destroy the coalition by compromising with people on the other side. Win support not by whispering sweet nothings but by showing that your policies work. Make sure leaders respect key coalition players.
That's what President Bush should and will remember. Mainstream media folks are hectoring him now to foster "national unity," but it's success that builds unity. The new United States gained some unity only when British troops left in 1783. Ronald Reagan during the 1980s achieved national unity concerning the Soviet Union only when the evil empire collapsed.
Christian conservatives and libertarians, the two big players in today's Republican coalition, need to respect each other, and respect begins by not calling each other "extremists." Sam Adams was vitriolic about the British but complimentary toward Hancock.
That's why, to look at today's hot Beltway-and-blog debate, Arlen Specter should not chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is responsible for vetting Supreme Court justices and other key appointees. In October and on Nov. 3 he strongly opposed the nomination of judges who disagree with Roe vs. Wade. Wise employers do not hire a person who rants during the interview; what will he be like once he's ensconced?
We need to be clear on this: The problem is not that Mr. Specter is a liberal Republican. The GOP needs some of them for its Senate majority, just like the patriots in 1776 needed the radical Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln needed Thaddeus Stevens. Coalitions can't be politically monolithic.
But to ace the LAT we need to understand the difference between welcoming members and voting in leaders. We should treat Mr. Specter respectfully but not enthrone him.