05/30/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

On the Conservadems: Hurray for Party Dissent

I think that before delving into this topic, it'd be a good thing for me to put my personal cards on the table. I am a socialist-leaning Democrat. I believe in unencumbered free speech, I'm pro-choice, pro-gay marriage (or anti-straight marriage, on the days when I'm feeling peevish -- note, these two never come together), pro-science, and since I hold that government is meant to be the political expression of the people's will, I see universal health care as the people taking care of themselves. I don't have problems with people dissenting from my views. Personally, I feel that our having so many people with so many different opinions is what makes this country great. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I don't agree with the Conservative Democrats on... pretty much anything. But I'm glad that they're there. And I'll tell you why.

See, you know how I said earlier that I was for unencumbered free speech? Well, I wasn't always. A few years back, one of my Republican friends told me that what he liked about me, politically at least, was that he knew that if a Nazi wanted to hold a rally (he chose the Nazi thing because I'm Jewish -- pretty much agnostic, but Jewish nonetheless), I'd be against it. But over the years, I've shifted on that stance. Today, I feel that when some bigot decides to hold a rally or a parade, we have to accept it if we want free speech to work. I also feel that if you incite another to violence, you have responsibility for that violence, so if you go out there and shout "Kill the Jews" and one of your followers breaks my nose, I will see you in court, but that's about the responsibilities our rights confer and not about the rights that we have.

Anyway, I'm not always a fan of the two-party system. The idea that your politics comes in one of two key flavors is insane. We're just more complicated than that. Every single one of us has our own world view that we've developed over years of living, reading, learning, growing -- the idea that even two people agree on everything is ludicrous, let alone half the country. Don't get the impression that I want to do away with political parties, because I don't. Obviously, parties help us organize. If you're facing a horde of people with diverse opinions on your own, you may never get ahead, so we organize. We form factions, those factions fight for us, and we accept the fact that perhaps our views will have to be slightly homogenized. But there's a difference between homogenization and the brutally monolithic party that Republicans faced under the Bush administration. All nuance was forced out of the party for a single hard-line conservative agenda. True moderates were not tolerated and their party suffered for it. Certainly John McCain did.

What I like about Democrats is that you can be a Democrat and believe something different from other Democrats. Of course, it'd be nice if we could state more clearly what exactly those things we all agree on are, but that's a different issue.

Maybe the Conservadems didn't pick a good time to dissent. Maybe they've betrayed some of their constituents by going conservative when they were elected to be liberal. I'm not going to argue against that. What I'm saying is this: I don't want the Democrats to always be internally consistent. I don't want my political philosophy to boil down to a binary response. The Conservative Democrats are doing things I don't like. They have views that I strongly disagree with, but I'm glad they're in my political party, because it means that being a Democrat is more complicated than just a single political ideology. It means our political discussion retains the complexity that is the triumph of democracy.

But if you're a Libertarian you can fuck right off.