The Death of Disagreement

Here’s an excerpt from an interesting article by Oren Cass:

As battle lines are drawn on the right, let’s take care not to condemn our once and future friends.

The political class doesn’t excel at long-term thinking and anticipation of contingencies. Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton has been an obvious possibility for months now, yet its sudden shift toward inevitably this week prompted reactions typically reserved for truly unforeseeable events. These responses, short-sighted themselves, are plainly unsustainable for the six-month slog to come.

Republican senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire sprinted from the gate with plans to support Trump—but not endorse him. Such a bizarre formulation wouldn’t survive a 15-second cocktail conversation, let alone months of media scrutiny. Similar myopias will soon produce comparable ridiculousness from many a communications director.

The choices aren’t complicated: support Trump, support Clinton, support someone else with the understanding that you’re likely leaving the choice of winner to those supporting either Trump or Clinton, or declare yourself undecided while the race ripens. The complicated part is the first-order question, unique to a party so deeply divided over its own nominee: how many of these choices should be acceptable on the right, both morally and politically? Or, when isn’t it despicable to support someone you find despicable?

Within hours of Senator Ted Cruz’s withdrawal from the presidential race,National Review’s David French declared it “disgraceful” and “shame[ful]” to fall in line behind Trump. A few hours later, frequent National Review contributor Mark Krikorian declared voting for Clinton dishonorable. Meanwhile, Ben Howe, contributing editor at RedState, was tweeting “#ImWithHer” and foreswearing any future political support for Bobby Jindal, because the Louisiana governor has endorsed Trump.

Can you ever again support Ayotte or Jindal, given that they are Trump supporters? If not, how about someone who does support them—how far does toxicity spread? And if you declare support for Trump not just incorrect but wrong, then aren’t the protestors shutting down his rallies on the side of justice? If supporting Clinton is wrong, are you prepared to go to bat for The Donald no matter what he says about her?

Disagreement is healthy. It sharpens and strengthens and teaches. Condemnation we should use only with extreme care. By all means, condemn the candidates; they are accountable for themselves. But spare those forced to grapple with the same terrible choice as you. For some, the balance tilts another way.

Read more: City Journal

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