On January 6, Two Parties but Many Sides

Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders are in the same party, but you wouldn’t really say they were on the same “side” beyond the bare preference for partisan control in Washington. Same for Ben Sasse and Josh Hawley. They’re both Republicans, but there’s little overlap beyond their registrations.

In political discussions these days, I often have to redirect an interviewer or a conversational partner around these channel markers. “I don’t know if I would call him ‘conservative,’ per se …” or “I’m not sure there’s too much that’s ‘liberal’ about those members …” We’ve got Republicans preaching the kind of economic progressivism that would tickle Bob La Follette. We’ve got Democrats pushing speech codes and indoctrination as puritanical and authoritarian as those of any red-baiter or Roundhead.

Ideological diversity within parties is often a good thing, creating room for the coalitions necessary to address challenging issues. Most members of Party A working with some members of Party B are far more likely to produce broadly popular policies than a party-line vote would.

It’s true that broad popularity and excellence are very different things. A quick scan through the top songs of 2021 will tell you that. But the dangers of partisan homogeneity are even greater. It’s far easier for one party to become enthralled by a bad idea or bad leaders than it is for a bipartisan group. That presents a real danger when one side or the other takes complete control.

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