In Gabriel Garcia Marquez's celebrated novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, Colonel Aureliano Buendia leads the Liberal revolutionary forces, without success, through nearly 20 years of civil war. Eventually, his political advisers suggest that he renounce most of his party's most closely-held positions and, in essence, adopt the more popular Conservative platform, even though it represents everything they have fought against for so long.
What this means, Buendia concludes, is "that all we're fighting for is power."
At what point does a political party have to realize that its ideas aren't selling and that it has to adapt? And how far should its leaders be willing to go before they fall entirely into the realm of expediency and betray their own core values?
These questions come to mind with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Saturday address to the state Republican convention. "In movie terms, we are dying at the box office. We are not filling the seats," he said.
He urged his fellow Republicans to reach out to the state's growing ranks of independents. He said that Californians favor the GOP on limited government and lower taxes, but demand comprehensive health coverage and want politicians "to do something more about climate change than simply doubt it."
Schwarzenegger, of course, is an anomaly, not just because of his stardom but because of his willingness to work with the Democratic legislative majority on the issues just mentioned and many others. His address was obviously a public answer to the Republican legislators who refused to join with him in passing a budget, delaying it for weeks.
It could be argued that Schwarzenegger's words are pretty empty. He really hasn't done much, if anything, to elect other moderates -- from either party.
At any rate, it doesn't appear that the California GOP is ready to concede that its conservatism is out of step with the majority of state voters. State Senator Tom McClintock, a leader of California conservatives, told the convention a day after Schwarzenegger's address, "We can win some short-term victories by compromising our philosophy for political expediency. I've actually watched some people do that. But a party that does that soon discovers it has ceased to be a party. First, it loses its soul. And then it loses its supporters."