The Plank

Gop Debate And Democratic Conformity

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Jonah Goldberg approvingly cites a Jeff Jacoby column that makes the following argument:

On one important issue after another, the right churns with serious disputes over policy and principle, while the left marches mostly in lockstep. Liberals sometimes disagree over tactics and details, but anyone taking a heterodox position on a major issue can find himself out in the cold. Just ask Senator Joseph Lieberman .In the liberal imagination, conservatives are blind dogmatists, spouters of a party line fed to them by (take your pick) big business, their church, or President Bush. Yet almost anywhere you look on the right these days, what stands out is the lack of ideological conformity.

Let's leave aside the highly debatable description of Joe Lieberman's current status and reputation. And then tell me where the conservative debate over the war on terrorism and Iraq is currently taking place. Yes, here and there you hear rumblings, but given the catastrophe going on in Mesopotamia, the continued GOP cheerleading for the war (not to mention the blind support offered by all the major Republicans presidential nominees) is nothing so much as a distrubing picture of unseriousness. The fact that the right is (belatedly) debating certain subjects may be beneficial, but it's central importance is to signal the intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican Party and its supporters (in short, it took this long for just a small minority of GOP'ers to realize how catastrophically this administration has failed).

Sure, there are plenty of times when I wish the Democrats would argue issues more thoroughly and openly. And I have no doubt that if a Democrat reaches the White House this will be the case. In the 1990s, the Democrats had fierce debates over some of the issues they now agree on. Such are the costs, or the spoils, of power. But the left and most of the Democratic Party has been united for a long time now around a big, big problem: We have a terrible president. If that leads to some conformity, so be it. Forgive me if I don't jump to laud the deep and eclectic thoughtfulness of a party in which three-fourths of its members still support the president.

--Isaac Chotiner

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