Talking past one another on partisanship

Okay. So everyone is right and everyone is talking past one another. I responded to James Fallows yesterday, who was responding to Ross Douthat on his column about partisanship. Daniel Larison weighed in twice – in response to Ross and in response to myself. In an email, Fallows told me I was misreading him and I’m willing to believe him on that front. I think perhaps he was misreading Ross a bit, too, but I could be wrong.

Here’s Larison:

It was always going to be a pretty low bar for Obama to clear to be “better on civil liberties” than Bush. Regardless, whether a lot of people expected that or not, we need to remember that Obama voted for PATRIOT Act renewal in 2006, and went along with the FISA bill in 2008 that he had previously vowed to filibuster. It’s important to distinguish between primary-season rhetoric and what Obama actually voted for when he was in the Senate. If Obama promised one thing to Wisconsin primary voters in the winter of 2007-08 and then did the opposite in the spring when it came time to vote, it’s a bit of stretch to compare the Obama administration to the primary candidate’s rhetoric rather than the Senator’s voting record. There was little reason to assume that Obama would be a civil libertarian in office, and he has confirmed most of the worst fears that civil libertarian skeptics had about him. If many people expected that he would be a civil libertarian, that helps explain why they are dispirited and disillusioned, but it doesn’t refute the core of Fallows’ argument.

True. But I would add one caveat: most voters who came to the polls for Obama were far more aware of his election rhetoric than they were of his voting record. Liberals and independents voted for Obama as a rejection of Bush policies, not as a confirmation of the specifics of Obama’s voting record. So Obama’s rhetoric did not line up with his actual position on things like domestic surveillance – so people vote for illusions as much as they do for tangible things. The point of Ross’s column, so far as I can tell, is that when Team A is in power, Team A partisans cheer its policies even though, were they enacted by Team B, they would oppose them. If Bush had imposed naked scanners and groping by the TSA, liberals who today remain mostly quiet or at best mildly critical of these policies would be up in arms. Similarly, the Charles Krauthammers of the world would never dare write critical columns of these policies under a Republican administration – they would be loudly cheering on the whole affair. Obviously the civil-libertarians, limited-government conservatives, principled anti-war progressives, etc. etc. remain consistent no matter what. Folks like Greenwald and Larison aren’t partisans, though. They aren’t part of this critique.

Now, to the question of whether the one side is worse than the other – I tend to agree with both Larison and Fallows. Conservatives and Republicans are, by and large, far more hypocritical than their liberal and Democratic counterparts. I think this is largely due to the conservative movement, which at once gives the GOP and the conservative base a lot of gusto and political power, but also places partisanship far above principle. It also makes it easy for conservative gatekeepers to outcast dissenters and to turn the entire narrative on a dime – hence the many ‘come to Jesus’ moments we’ve seen from the GOP lately. Fiscal conservatism is suddenly back in style; security-state overreach is miraculously a GOP cause again. Liberals have no such movement, and thus have far less capacity for hypocrisy.

But I take Ross’s column to not so much create a perfect equivalency as to describe a mechanism by which partisanship works. He isn’t saying – and is likely avoiding – whether one side is worse than the other. But he also isn’t saying that both sides are exactly the same at least in terms of degree. Rather, he was saying that partisans of whatever stripe are guilty of this sort of teamisim in kind. That the GOP is worse is secondary to the discussion Ross was trying to have. The fact of the matter is both sides are working to grow government in all the worst ways. Ross noted that, in this sense, having even a hypocritical opposition is a good thing. I’m not so sure. This kind of partisanship is actually something of an enabler to the two party illusion – a false opposition exists, but everyone knows that when they take control they’ll continue the very bad policies of their predecessors. So we have all the showmanship and none of the substance of an actual opposition. It might play well on Fox News, but it does us very little good in the real world.

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44 thoughts on “Talking past one another on partisanship

  1. So long as a significant point worth hammering remains “the question of whether the one side is worse than the other”, I can’t say I hold out much hope.

    When the other side is your yardstick instead of something that vaguely looks like a principle, I’m going to remain unimpressed.

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  2. I agree, this we’re-not-as-bad-as-the-other-side is not very inspiring.

    When it comes to liberty issues, I hold conservatives who violate the principles in more contempt than liberals, because conservatives have continuously upheld the principles of liberty and limited government, and they should follow through even if Republicans are in power– liberals, on the other hand, have relied on the State, social engineering and central planning, so when freedom is violated and justified by liberals, it’s simply what you get when the State has a great deal of control. Liberals, for the most part, have chosen less freedom and more State control, so when they are in power, they can’t really be condemned when we get less freedom.

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    • I have a significantly different take.

      My experience of “conservatives” is first and foremost “religious conservatives” (someday I may be drunk enough to tell you all my stories from Focus on the Family!).

      “Liberty” is the *LAST* thing on their minds. They’re all about how people need to be forced to be good, how libertines need to be kept away from The Children (and anyone who wants PCP to be able to be sold to THEIR CHILDREN should be SHOT!), and so on and so forth. These are the people who, in response to scripture being quoted, point out that “even the Devil can quote scripture” which makes me wonder whether there is an underlying principle beyond “gut feelings” going on with them.

      The Ted Haggards, the James Dobsons, they aren’t about “Liberty” but about how “true freedom” is found only in deep fellowship with God… and they want deep fellowship enshrined in law.

      We will make you be a good Christian, kicking and screaming, and you will thank us at the end of the day.

      Don’t bother reading the Bible, though. Even the Devil can do that.

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      • I’m not talking about religious/social conservatives. just the regular conservative who calls for the liberty and limited government like the Founders talked about.

        The religious right is pretty clear about which freedoms they wouldn’t allow.

        But if a regular conservative talks big about liberty and limited government, then supports violations of liberty when Republicans are in control, I condemn them more than liberals who support more State control and limited freedoms, especially economic freedoms.

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        • “I’m not talking about religious/social conservatives. just the regular conservative who calls for the liberty and limited government like the Founders talked about.”

          I’ve not met many of those. I’ve met a handful, of course… but not more than a handful.

          Certainly not enough to make me think of them when I think of “conservatives”.

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            • Here, though, let me make it crystal clear — although there are a very limited number, a small number, just a few, like a handful, the conservatives, although they are few in number, just a few, who talk aout limited government, even though they are not many, are the ones I condemn the most, even though there aren’t many of them.

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              • Hey, dude, I’m not telling you what you ought or ought not believe or how you ought to think.

                I will say, however, that my experiences with “Conservatives” have been first and foremost with those who want to tell me how to live my life and with the law would reflect their personal belief system with a high degree of granularity.

                Hey, if your circle of Conservatives is a different and higher quality circle than mine… great! You are a lucky guy! It explains why you’ve reached different conclusions than I!

                I’m just telling you why I ain’t buying it. I’m not telling you what you can or cannot buy. I’m just telling you why I’m not on board.

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                • I don’t think you understand what I’m saying — once more, there have been conservatives who claim to support the Founding principles, yet when Republicans are in power, these conservatives support violations of the principles they espoused. How is this associated with me finding a better circle of conservatives, unless I like hypocrits? I condemn these hypocrits because they make such a big deal over their beliefs in freedom, but then when in power, they violate our freedoms. Most liberals will admit they agree with sacrificing freedoms for the general welfare, so when liberals are in power I expect violations, so I don’t condemn them as hypocrits, just wrongheaded. But, the liberals who have been big on civil liberties are now acting hypocritically — however, for the most part, conservatives have been the biggest hypocrits — I was confirming what E.D. said, actually, although I don’t let liberals off the hook, because their wrongheadedness in power has caused a lot of damage, and I believe they secretly regret the abuses of power regarding civil liberties — they need to stand up.

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  3. So to reply to a post about talking past each other on partisanship, Mike (very strongly) and Jay ( a bit) whip out the self righteous , those other guys are just so not principled like i am, stance.

    Well played.

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        • I didn’t say that they don’t like liberty and freedom, just that they are clear about which freedoms they’re willing to sacrifice, and by depending on a powerful State to be fair, they will inevitably give up more freedom than they wanted to. Stop attacking everyone and pay attention.

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            • The freedom to not buy health insurance.

              The freedom to buy insurance across state lines, for another.

              These are just two that have recently been discussed. But this is silly. Your question suggests that you think that freedoms haven’t been sacrificed? You might come up with a reason why each freedom is sacrificed, but just the fact I’m not allowed to keep what I earn is a violation of a freedom caused by the 16th amendment — it was supposed to be temporary for war time, but now we’re taxes fom every angle. You can’t possibly not know what freedoms have been sacrificed.

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              • “You can’t possibly not know what freedoms have been sacrificed.”

                You seem to have a very specific list of the ones that you’re willing to lay directly and solely at the feet of “the progressive”. I’m curious as to which ones are on the list. So far you’ve got two, mandatory health insurance (which I agree belongs on the list) and the “right” to buy insurance across state lines (which clearly does not, since you have never had any such “right”, seeing as how Congress has *always* had the power to regulate interstate commerce).

                I don’t believe that “the liberals” are fully responsible for the 16th amendment, dear sir. 42 of the then 48 states ratified it, and the 61st Congress that passed it was essentially Republican (60-32 in the Senate, 219-172 in the House).

                Note also, the 16th was ratified between 1909 and 1913, depending upon the state in question; the “fund the Civil War” excuse was way back in 1861. I can’t see that you can make a good case that the 16th amendment was intended to be temporary.

                Any way you slice it, every American citizen has always had an abridged right to keep what they earn; taxes are written into the original Constitution.

                “I didn’t say that they don’t like liberty and freedom, just that they are clear about which freedoms they’re willing to sacrifice, and by depending on a powerful State to be fair, they will inevitably give up more freedom than they wanted to.”

                How is this not a charge that can be levied at the right?

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                • “How is this not a charge that can be levied at the right?”

                  Holy shit, did you read anything here before posting? I said the right is guilty of sacrificing freedoms AND hypocritical, that the left is more open about sacrificing freedoms for more State control, especially over industry. Are you automatically set on Partisan Response? The right has been less clear — their rheoric is more limited government and free market — but they do the same things when in power — neither side attempts to role back State power, regardless of which side initiated the expansion of power. But for God’s sake, let’s try to notmake the liberals look bad — I’m sure it’s all Bush’s fault even the 16th amendment.

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                  • Dude, I’m not a liberal.

                    This is what your original post said:

                    “When it comes to liberty issues”
                    Condition

                    “I hold conservatives who violate the principles in more contempt than liberals,”
                    Your position

                    “… because conservatives have continuously upheld the principles of liberty and limited government, and they should follow through even if Republicans are in power”
                    Your reason.

                    Which is *utter crap* (which Jaybird was trying to point out a little more diplomatically). Conservatives have not continuously upheld the principles of liberty and limited government (Libertarians certainly have. Conservatives haven’t). They bluster and posture about it, but their positions have no more relation to limited government and liberty than liberal positions do; they just have a different set of things that they’re willing to sacrifice liberty and limited government *for*. Throw out “national security” red meat, and Conservatives are all on board with hacking away at liberties and increasing the size of government all the while piously claiming that they’re not doing any such thing, that it’s **different**, can’t you see, because they’re not liberals and only liberals do that.

                    “– liberals, on the other hand, have relied on the State, social engineering and central planning, so when freedom is violated and justified by liberals, it’s simply what you get when the State has a great deal of control.”

                    My point is, this is the *exact same thing* you get when freedom is violated and justified by conservatives. You are also lumping in liberals with statists, and they aren’t necessarily the same thing.

                    “Liberals, for the most part, have chosen less freedom and more State control, so when they are in power, they can’t really be condemned when we get less freedom.”

                    Sure they can be. For the exact same reasons conservatives can be condemned when we get less freedom, if freedom is the thing you’re shooting for.

                    About the only difference I see between liberals and conservatives is that liberals are more concerned with “freedom to foo” and conservatives are more concerned with “freedom from bar”. They both give about an equal amount of shit for freedom. They just like to define their version of freedom as True Freedom and what the other guy likes as Not Really Freedom.

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                    • The reason why I’m harping on you, Mr. Farmer, is that your entire commentary frame (in this thread) is based entirely upon some weird True Scotsman fallacy.

                      You find conservatives more reprehensible when they don’t follow the principles of freedom and limited government because you think that conservatives actually believe in freedom and limited government. Under what method of evidence do you believe this? They don’t. I’m basing that assessment on the actual historical track record of conservatives (movement or otherwise) when they actually hold office.

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                    • “You find conservatives more reprehensible when they don’t follow the principles of freedom and limited government because you think that conservatives actually believe in freedom and limited government. Under what method of evidence do you believe this? They don’t. I’m basing that assessment on the actual historical track record of conservatives (movement or otherwise) when they actually hold office.”

                      Pat, how fucking thick are you? How many ways can I say I believe that conservatives, for the most part, have talked one way and acted another from the minute conservatism became a label. I don’t know how else to say it. When Reagan was big, there was conservative talk inspired by his speeches and you would have thought that they were really going to lead a limited government, free market revolution, yet government grew in size and power. I fucking give up with you. It’s too frustrating trying to communicate with you — you simply want me to be wrong, and that’s it, nothing I say will be good enough — fuck it.

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                    • “How many ways can I say I believe that conservatives, for the most part, have talked one way and acted another from the minute conservatism became a label.”

                      Dude, ease up. Liberals do that too, by the way.

                      Your commentary here sounds (to me, anyway, and not only on this thread) like this:

                      “Well, liberals *would* do that because they’re statists. Conservatives *ought not* to do that because they’re not supposed to be statists.”

                      Statism (or not) has nothing to do with liberalism or conservativism. Like someone pointed out just the other day, you can be a philosophical liberal or a philosophical conservative and be either a top down (statist) or bottom up sort of guy.

                      It’s inaccurate, that’s all. It automatically frames people on the right as bottom up folks, and people on the left as top down folks. So then when you’re arguing against top down solutions (or for bottom-up ones), by transitive properties you’re arguing against lefties and pro righties.

                      For the most part, I think many people on the right *aren’t* talking one way and acting another. They’re talking one way and acting the way they think they’re talking, just like people on the left. The cognitive dissonance we’ve talked about on more than one thread is present in both cases: in both cases they honestly believe that they’re doing what they can to promote freedom (as they see it). I don’t know of anybody who likes taxes, be they a leftie or a rightie. Both sides regard taxes as a necessary evil to fund those things that they think government ought to be doing.

                      Liberals think you ought to have freedom from price fixing. Conservatives think you ought to have freedom to run business with a minimal amount of regulation, as regulation introduces inefficiency. *They’re both right*. They need to quit arguing about why the other guy is *wrong*.

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                    • “Clearly you haven’t understood anything I’ve said. I don’t know if it’s purposeful or you just can’t understand.”

                      There’s at least four possibilities here, Mike. I’m purposefully misunderstanding you. I can’t understand what you’re saying. Those are two.

                      The others are: you’re not making sense; or your point is valid but you have an underlying premise that I disagree with (even if I agree with your conclusion) and you’re not understanding *me*.

                      I’ll try it again. Here’s what you said:

                      “conservatives have continuously upheld the principles of liberty and limited government” (liberals don’t do any such thing).

                      Rhetorically or no, I don’t believe this statement is an accurate representation of what conservatives do, or liberals don’t do. I’m saying this as a non-liberal, non-conservative. When I hear conservatives talk, I don’t hear them espousing principles of liberty any more than when I hear liberals talk. When I hear conservatives talk, I don’t hear them espousing limited government any more than when I hear liberals talk.

                      I hear conservatives talk about limiting some kinds of expressions of government power, and increasing others. I hear conservatives talk about protecting liberties in some cases, and not others. I hear the same damn thing from liberals. The only difference between the two is that they have different conditions that trip the switch to where statism is okay, and where it’s not.

                      This aside from the obvious use of pure rhetorical use of hollow phrases, which are what I generally regard as information-free horseshit regardless of the phrase or who is the politico spouting it. Discount those guys, okay? The obvious hypocrites aren’t what I’m talking about here.

                      The below is based upon the party platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties. Obviously there will be some mismatches between the parties and “liberal” or “conservative”. Obviously there will be some conservatives that don’t follow the entire Republican platform, and liberals that don’t follow the entire Democratic platform. But it’s a reasonable proxy for aggregate belief systems, yes? (If you say “no”, then okay we’re probably done here).

                      Conservatives have relied upon the State and social engineering. They flock to “One Nation, Under God.” Put that pledge in our schools. Everyone must be indoctrinated in the idea that we’re a Christian nation from grade Kinder.

                      Conservatives will protect your civil liberties, but God help you if you’re trying to come over the border. We can forget all about the rights of American citizens when they’re within 10 miles of a border. It’s clearly okay, because those rights you have as a citizen must depend upon you being a citizen (except they don’t, actually), and you have to prove that first.

                      Conservatives have relied upon the State and social coercion. They vote for the Drug War. That’s a bipartisan nanny state affair.

                      Conservatives are all about federalism, except when it comes to marriage. DOMA. (They get plenty of support from liberals on this score, to be sure).

                      Conservatives are all about federalism, except they don’t want the states making their own laws about insurance (something you yourself brought up here).

                      Conservatives are all about limited government, as long as you’re not talking about the Defense budget.

                      Liberals have relied upon the State and social engineering. They flock to actively reducing the underclass. Put a welfare program in and if it helps one kid it justifies the expense, even if it is shown, empirically, to not be effective.

                      Liberals like limited government when it comes to the military just fine.

                      Liberals like limited government when it comes to their drug use, sex practices, household makeup.

                      I could go on. Liberals like to claim that they like science and empirically-backed decisions, but anti-vaxxers are actually more common in blue states than red. Liberals believe in homeopathy and crystals and astrology and a whole bunch of other stuff that has *no* scientific basis whatsoever (and in many cases, is contraindicated by basic chemistry, biology, or physics).

                      This isn’t an “anti-Conservative” screed. It’s a “that frame you’re using doesn’t accurately describe either party” screed.

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                  • For what very miniscule little it’s worth Mike I actually think I understand what your stated position was and thought it was very even handed of you to say.

                    What I got was that in your eyes both the right and the left are (by and large) statist. But the left is openly and relatively up front in their statism where as the right cloaks itself in the rubric and garb of antistatists.

                    So the left is statist, but the right is also statis AND hypocritical.

                    This strikes me as a correct assertion considering your very vehement anti-statist position. And for my part as a market neo-liberal I’ll readily cop to the plea that the left doesn’t hold up anti-statism as a desirable goal. The lefts asserted priorities are heavily equality, prosperity and justice oriented (and yes yes I know that anti-statists believe that a minimal state society would achieve those goals best).

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    • Actually, Greg, “principle” is the important thing here.

      It’s not a question of who will gain partisan advantage (however temporary) if you actually care about the underlying principle.

      If I were a member of TEAM RED!!! or TEAM BLUE!!!, it would provide a great opportunity to yell “TEAM RED/BLUE ALWAYS GOOD, TEAM BLUE/RED ALWAYS BAD!!!!” (Is there ever *NOT* a time to yell that?)

      I’m Team Jacob.

      It’s about Liberty. It’s not about partisan advantage.

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      • Well yeah of course. And you have principle while those who want to accomplish something that requires their party to win obviously don’t.

        My point is that assuming other people lack principle, while certainly true at times, is also the royal road to endless bickering and miscommunication.

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        • If people say in one circumstance “people have Human Rights! This is a violation!” and then, once in power, “well, you have to understand”, the assumption that “principle” is not part of the calculation IN EITHER CASE doesn’t seem to be entirely unfounded.

          Here, I’ll use myself as an example.

          Knock wood, let’s say that something awful happens to me. Medical.

          As it turns out, there’s a procedure that will fix it. Totally cured! But it’s expensive.

          And let’s say that I start talking about how we, as a society, have a responsibility to provide for me, for free, this procedure.

          Would you be remiss in assuming that I held my old opinions merely because they benefited me at the time… and when my circumstances changed, I change my opinions to new ones that would also benefit me rather than based on some belief in some theory of social justice? And lets say I went into remission and suddenly got a new opinion… wouldn’t your new judgment be along the lines of “oh, it must be because he figures that the new opinion would be in his own best personal interest”?

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          • The concept that peoples experiences change their opinions seems pretty darn reasonable. I’d much rather people admit that want they want is solely because it benefits them then pretend otherwise. Would your changing opinion be evidence of lack of principle. No, we should be evaluating our thoughts and experiences. Somebody who doesn’t learn and change over the course of their life is unlikely to actually be doing much thinking. The fact that our experiences affect our ideals might be a reason for all of us to try to listen and respect others instead of suggesting they don’t have principles. If you only wanted better health care laws and plans while you were sick, then wanted to dump then when you were better would not suggest you were overly concerned with principles.

            Not to be morbid, but almost all of us will have some really awful medical event happen to us.

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                • There are people who want a powerful government only when “their side” is in power.

                  There are people who do not want a powerful government.

                  So let’s say that the TSA is going to start grabbing your junk (PRESENT IT!).

                  There are people who would be fine with this if only a pro-lifer were President.

                  There are also people who just don’t think that junk touching should take place without some serious belief that it’s absolutely positively necessary (and declining a scan of one’s body is hardly evidence of such).

                  Two different motivations, same group of people yelling about their junk.

                  Yes?

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        • “Well yeah of course. And you have principle while those who want to accomplish something that requires their party to win obviously don’t.

          My point is that assuming other people lack principle, while certainly true at times, is also the royal road to endless bickering and miscommunication.”

          Do you ever look back at what you write to make sure it’s pertinent to that which you are responding?

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  4. This is the kind of issue that gives me a great sense of relief in being non-aligned. I initially refused to register with any political party so that I could honestly walk into a class full of students who know nothing about me, to teach them American Government, and honestly tell them I didn’t belong to “either” party. But it’s become more than clear to me that I just can’t identify with any party at all. I often, with misgivings, call myself a libertarian, but every time I look at what Libertarian Party Libertarians are doing and saying, I think I’d be better off just randomly selecting from any other registered political party. OK, not really, but the point is that even the party with which I share some semblance of an identificatory label is one with which I really can’t identify. Of course I also identify to some degree with the concepts “democratic” and “republican,” but it’s far too late to pretend that those labels have any substantive meaning to the respective parties that bear them. And in truth, when I see some of the horrific things self-professed Republicans stand for, I instinctively turn toward the Democrats, only to be viscerally repulsed by the idiocy of some of their issue-stances.

    I’m not even sure I can say I’m better at standing on principle. I’ve just become so remote from what either of the main party’s stances are that this inter-partisan squabbling has the same appearance to me as an argument between fans of synchronized swimming and fans of rhythmic gymnastics as to which is a better sport. I so don’t understand why anyone would sincerely support either one or the other that I can barely make any sense of the debate at all.

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  5. The point of Ross’s column, so far as I can tell, is that when Team A is in power, Team A partisans cheer its policies even though, were they enacted by Team B, they would oppose them.

    If that was the point of the column, then the column failed to be anything other than either 1) a definition of what a partisan is, or 2) an assertion that some partisans do that. It asserted that there are millions of such people, but offered precisely zero specific examples (wait, sorry, make that a Ruth Marcus column and a Michael Kinsley column – liberal firebrands they; nothing but left-libertarian outrage during the Bush admin practices from them, no…) nor public opinion data to back up the claim. He made, in other words, no serious attempt to wrestle with the question of how widespread this phenomenon is, or even to define exactly in whom it is occurring. It simply put forward a concept that gives Douthat intellectual comfort, namely that reactions to government intrusions and violations of liberty track political identification more, and principle less, than they should, based largely in pure speculation about what might have been the case if Al Gore had been president on 9/11 or if Bush were today during the TSA fiasco. But there is inevitably going to be some extent to which it tracks each; the question is whether it reaches a level Douthat can justify being haughty about. And he makes no attempt to quantify or document to what extent it is the case; he just talks about “millions of people” whom he pulls out of his hat. Well, I know a lot of people who are liberals who were not okay with these measures. I know a lot of people who are liberals who have a big problem with assassinating Americans without process. What do we really know here? If it gives you all the evidence you feel you need to reach whatever conclusion you want to reach to locate some examples of some liberals arguing the opposite of what they did under Bush, great. Say what that conclusion is and why you’ve reached it. But there are a lot of liberals. You’re going to find some who will do that. Douthat, as far as I can tell, has simply decided that this characterizes liberals, conservatives, everyone – it’s how we all think except some virtuous exceptions. But he doesn’t get in to any examples, or numbers, or anything concrete to get. He doesn’t bother even to try to lay a baseline for how much liberals even uniformly made these criticisms under Bush to begin with. New flash: liberals didn’t like George Bush. But that doesn’t mean they all agreed with every word Glenn Greenwald ever said about war on terror policy. There were plenty of reasons not to like George Bush. Are we sure Douthat, in addition to not documenting his claims about the views of liberals (nor conservatives) today in the column, isn’t also reading back onto deafening liberal opposition to George Bush more civil liberties principle than it ever even claimed to have? Of course we’re not, because Douthat doesn’t offer any real analysis of what any real person has said at all anywhere in the column, to say nothing of any real documentation for the claims about the frequency with which these non-real people are saying the things Douthat says they are saying, and said.

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