As you might have noticed, any time the subject of Mike Fitzpatrick comes up, his supporters are quick to stick up for him. Commendable, I suppose, that they’re so anxious not to let anyone make the slightest less-than-favorable comment about their preferred candidate.
However, they almost always mention some version of “don’t let the great be the enemy of the good” as a reason why conservatives should support him.
Since this just came up again in a recent comment on the TJC blog, it seems a good time to examine this premise.
When they use this phrase, the “I Like Mike” folks are saying we Republicans and conservatives shouldn’t support anyone but Fitzpatrick, no matter how great the other candidate might be, because Fitzpatrick is the only one who can beat Murphy. (At least in their opinion.) They seem to think a Republican, however loosely the term is applied, is always better than a Democrat. And they seem to think an endorsed Republican is best of all–no matter what.
Setting aside whether Fitzpatrick can beat Murphy (after all, he couldn’t do it the last time they were on the ballot together), there is no question that Fitzpatrick has the support of the local Republican powers that be. Because of that and his previous time in Congress, Fitzpatrick has the strongest fundraising capabilities of any candidate he was up against in the spring. (we’ll set aside whether these things are absolutely a positive.)
But what troubles me when Fitzpatrick supporters use “don’t let the great to be the enemy of the good,” is that they’re admitting Fitzpatrick isn’t a great candidate. By using the expression, they’re admitting that they’re settling for a candidate they think is okay because they don’t think a great candidate can win.
Good–to them–is good enough.
Here’s the problem with this line of reasoning. If you’re always going to stick with the “safe” candidate, the one that you think has the best chance of winning, instead of supporting the person you think is great (by the way, support means more than a vote. It means contributing money, time, and effort,) we will never elect a great candidate.
This line of reasoning is why we get Republican candidates like John McCain. If you always nominate a candidate you think can win for reasons that have little to do with anything beyond fundraising ability and appeal to Democrats, we will never elect a candidate willing to do the hard things that need to be done.
We don’t need safe candidates–or nice candidates or good guys–at this point. We need strong candidates. We need people with a backbone who are willing to do the hard work dealing with the serious problems we have today (and are willing to stand up to special interests–even those who help put them into office). It’s about electing a candidate with strong convictions who is able to lead the country to the place the country needs to go. In spite of what the “I Like Mike” folks think, this isn’t all about winning. It’s also about what happens after a win.
Before you start typing, understand that I am not suggesting that another candidate is better than Fitzpatrick at this point. I don’t know.
I do know, however, that “Don’t Let the Great be the Enemy of the Good,” isn’t a very convincing argument.
If you want to comment, do so, but leave this hackneyed phrase out of it. It’s about as old as “it’s all Bush’s fault” and it makes about as much sense.