Are You a Rugged Individualist Or Part of A Hive Mind?

A tweet by the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel highlights a big difference between Republicans and Democrats. There is far more diversity of thought on the right—especially when under political attack. As Weigel points out, when faced with adversity or scandal, the left unifies and circles the wagons around its candidate. The right debates the issue.


FBI Director James Comey was met with adulation from Democrats when—despite a laundry list of reasons why Hillary Clinton should be indicted—he recommended not indicting her. Now that he has reopened the investigation in response to new evidence, the left is accusing him of being everything from partisan operative to a criminal. Very few on the left, Doug Schoen for example, are departing from the hive mind’s impulse to attack the messenger. Even the hardcore Bernie Sanders supporters seem relatively silent.  Bernie famously told Hillary that he and the American people were “sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” Even in a pitched battle with a primary opponent, the leftist Sanders reflexively defended her against accusations of corruption. The same thing happens when any Democrat is faced with scandal, unless and until that Democrat becomes expendable.

Many Democrats insisted that Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account had been hacked right up to the day “Carlos Danger” resigned in disgrace. President Bill Clinton’s perjury, obstruction of justice, and moral depravity were defended almost unanimously on the left. Only Senator Joe Lieberman stood out as an individual voice, and his party eventually punished him for it. It is dangerous for anyone on the left to break ranks.


That this sort of automatic defensiveness does not occur on the right has never been more evident than during this election cycle. The right has been fractured with respect to various candidates and policies for some time. We have seen Republican candidacies ended with a single misstep or gaffe. John McCain barely held the party together by picking a running mate conservatives liked while many stayed home rather than vote for Mitt Romney. Todd Akin said some weird things about rape on TV and he had to be taken out. And who can forget the bloody Christine O’Donnell War of 2010? Even now, prominent pundits are accusing and compiling lists of betrayers who did not fall in line during this election.

The difference manifests itself on a number of policy issues from abortion to national security. The spectrum of acceptable opinions is wider on the right. When was the last time a pro-life Democrat got a speaking slot at the DNC? Are there even any pro-life Democrats anymore? The problem that arises is that groupthink, while intellectually inferior, is a force multiplier during elections. Hillary Clinton may actually win an election while being under criminal investigation. That would not be possible without people subordinating their own will to that of the hive. Republicans boast about having a big tent but at times it seems like there are not enough poles to keep it from collapsing and smothering the ideas within.


On the left, the reason for the unity of thought seems clear. The lust for political power is their driving force. Left wing policies unfailingly place the government above the individual. The hivemind is a natural outgrowth. Power first, sort the rest out later. On the right, our positions are traditionally about empowering the individual and lifting off the yoke of government. There is naturally a tendency for people who value individual liberty to have less inclination to unite behind any one person or idea. That might be changing though.

One of the reasons I’ve been so critical of the nomination of Donald Trump is that a sizable portion of the right is trying make us act more like the left. While only recently less egregious statements ended political careers, now Donald Trump can do and say things for which Republicans at large would pillory a Democrat and those who won’t defend him are called traitors and closet liberals. It is treated as an affront to recommend that people follow their conscience in the voting booth.

Why have so many on the right departed from the tradition of individual conscience? It is certainly for power, but the desire for power does not necessarily come from a need to control others. It comes from an overwhelming need to wrest power from those who are now abusing it, no matter who ends up wielding it next.



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