Useful Partisans

Partisans are strange creatures. They can support a policy for years when their guys are in charge, then oppose it in the blink of an eye when the other team takes power. Ross Douthat takes a thoughtful look inside the partisan mind in today’s New York Times:

[M]illions of liberals can live with indefinite detention for accused terrorists and intimate body scans for everyone else, so long as a Democrat is overseeing them. And millions of conservatives find wartime security measures vastly more frightening when they’re pushed by Janet “Big Sis” Napolitano (as the Drudge Report calls her) rather than a Republican like Tom Ridge.

He also identifies a bright side to partisanship that I hadn’t thought of:

But for the country as a whole, partisanship does have one modest virtue. It guarantees that even when there’s an elite consensus behind whatever the ruling party wants to do (whether it’s invading Iraq or passing Obamacare), there will always be a reasonably passionate opposition as well. Given how much authority is concentrated in Washington, especially in the executive branch, even a hypocritical and inconsistent opposition is better than no opposition at all.

Good point.

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