The Corner

Comfort With Contradiction

This is from a viewer of What’s Your Problem? in response to our discussion of torture:

….one of the traits recently that distinguishes a conservative from a liberal I find is the ability to really be of two minds on an issue, as you are on torture.  Although I categorize Peter as one of those few on the Left who doesn’t hold purely absolutist terms, it is hard to find nowadays. On the contrary, when it comes to issues such as abortion/choice, gay marriage/sanctity of marriage, foreign policy interventions, etc… I find more and more young conservatives today open to the debate, which is more than I can say about those of the BusHitler crowd. I realize in a debate you are supposed to never back down, but it would be nice to at least recognize the validity of the concerns conservatives have on certain issues…..

Me: I hear this a lot and I generally think it’s true. That’s why I think it’s so interesting that among the most reliable charges liberals make of conservatives is that we are  dogmatic and inflexible. I think this is often a case of projection. Some liberals think that it is dogmatic and inflexible to disagree with them. This is at the root of the idea — routinely touted by liberals,  almost never by conservatives — to “get beyond ideology,” to “put aside labels” and embrace a “post-partisannew politics. The upshot of such complaints is that conservatives should drop their ideological reservations and agree with liberals. But the reality is that liberalism’s dogma is settled and conservatism’s is not (an argument I made in the magazine, here).  The book I usually refer people to relating to this is Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions (at least until mine comes out). But for those who want a shorter take, there’s this old G-File in which I argue that comfort with contradiction is the very essence of conservatism.

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