from the WSJ and Shadi Hamid, Why the Center-Left Became Immoderate
In polarized times, those without a clear guiding ideology become the most vicious partisans.
People want something to believe in, but in the absence of a strong ideological sensibility among Democrats, partisanship and alarmism offer ready recourse. Having an enemy is a powerful motivator, and hating Mr. Trump is entertaining to boot. Politics might otherwise return to boring discussions on how to improve health care or education, why we need more experts, or why facts are important.
The relationship between partisanship and ideology may be changing in unexpected ways. Yesterday’s centrists have become some of today’s most intense partisans. There’s nothing wrong with partisanship per se, but it’s a problem when the parties view each other as enemies and existential threats. Centrism may seem an obvious solution, but too little ideology can be as dangerous as too much.
Does this mean we need more ideologues? The word sounds like an insult, connoting inflexibility and narrow-mindedness. But politicians who are committed to a set of ideas also tend to have less to prove. They don’t need to play to the base; they can lead the base. Congress—and the country—could use more of them.
Progressives eschew ideology in favor of pragmatism, but it is wrong to believe they are mutually exclusive.
Ideology does not assume perfection. In fact you do not truly understand an idea until you can articulate its weaknesses. Much of the disagreement in political ideas is merely the difference in a time line. Politics appeals to the impatient.
We can address the imperfection of our ideology in political compromise, but the rejection of ideology leaves us rudderless, partisan, intolerant, and easily seduced by rage and demagogues.