‘Purity is the enemy of victory,” GOP told


McClatchy Washington Bureau

“In a two party system, purity is the enemy of victory.”

So said Haley Barbour, former Mississippi governor and Republican National Committee chairman, as he spoke Friday to GOP activists in New Orleans.

The Republican Leadership Conference has gathered for three days of talks and speeches about the party’s future, and Barbour had some sobering advice. The convention ends Saturday.

“What is the purpose of a political party?” he asked. “Why do we exist, to elect like-minded people to public office. To win. Winning is what we are all about.”

Remember, he said, “the main thing is to win. If we can't win we can't govern. It takes a large party. Let's not forget that.”

The party has been criticized in recent years for being too rigidly ideological. Be careful, said Barbour.

“We are the conservative party of the United States, period. That doesn't mean everybody in our party is gonna agree with me on everything,” he said. “Being the purest most conservative loser does not allow Americans to improve one iota.”

Build coalitions, he advised.

“It's idiocy to think 60 million people can agree on anything,” Barbour said.

And don’t forget, change comes slowly. After all, he noted, “The welfare state wasn't created in one session of Congress.”

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