Is the Republican Party too rigid in its beliefs? You might think so (certainly there are those who want you to think so) and have used recent remarks by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to press the point.
Speaking to a group of Bloomberg reporters, Bush said, "Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad, they would have a hard time if you define the Republican Party—and I don't—as having an orthodoxy that doesn't allow for disagreement, doesn't allow for finding some common ground."
Most of the coverage focused on Bush's use of the words "having an orthodoxy that doesn't allow for disagreement," as though that is how he sees the modern-day GOP. In fact he doesn't, something he himself made clear in the very same set of remarks. He did not, despite what my bloleague Susan Milligan wrote here Thursday on Thomas Jefferson Street, portray the GOP as a small club composed of the ideologically pure. Far too much of the coverage given what Bush said overlooked the critical part of his observation—the "and I don't" part in which he rejects the idea that the Republicans are rigid and unwilling to compromise.
There are some on the right who are in the business of promoting some kind of ideological orthodoxy but the left is often far more rigid, far less tolerant of apostasy among its elected officials—not that you'd know it from the way things are covered.
Take, for example, the life issue. When was the last time an anti-abortion rights Democrat was allowed a prominent speaking role at a Democratic National Convention? Or one who deviated from the cultural norms within the party? It may have been Sen. Joe Lieberman, in accepting the party's nomination for vice president in 2000. Of course this is the same Joe Lieberman who was driven out of the party just six years later for being insufficiently liberal and for working too closely with the Bush administration on key national security issues like the war on terror.
Republicans (smart ones anyway) know that you win elections through addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division. It's the Democrats and the progressives that seem to be the ones enforcing intellectual discipline and not allowing for freedom of thought that deviates from the party line—and who are unwilling to compromise.
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