What’s Good for the Country?

I came across this post at Fraters Libertas which discusses, among other things, the debilitated state of the Democratic Party. After giving some advice, they say this:

Granted, I’m more than happy about the sorry state of the Democratic Party today. The more they continue on their tailspin towards insignificance the better. But the constant wailing and gnashing of teeth is getting very tiresome.

The sentiment that the worse off the Democratic party is, the better off America is, is one I see more than a little bit on the right. I don’t think anyone’s happier than me that Bush won the election. But I also know that Bush isn’t nearly as conservative as I and many others would like, on many subjects. And could it be that the reason for that is that when running against such very liberal candidates, one only needs to appear moderate in order to win?

From a conservative standpoint, would the Republican Party be better off if the Democrats were more moderate, had better ideas and were fielding stronger candidates on a national level? If you think the Republicans would be worse off, then you’re saying that the Republicans can only compete against weak opponents, and that competition would not force the Republicans to improve, thus contradicting the free market principles the Republicans are supposed to stand for.

Further, if you’d answer that yes, it might make the Republicans better, but they’d likely also lose more elections that way, that reveals that your only concern is power. You’re saying that having a Democrat in office is worse than having a Republican in office, no matter what either candidate is like. It’s only the political power of the Republicans that you’re concerned with if that’s your opinion, not the state of governance or the state of the union.

Here’s my point: It would be good for the Republicans and good for the country to have a decent opposition party in power. I would love to occasionally have the option of voting for Democrats. It would make the Republicans work more for my vote. But the Republicans know that any conservative will always vote for them, no matter how unconservative the Republican candidate is, because the option is so unpalatable. So the Republicans aim at the middle. We see that this year in Bush’s budget, which while promoting many conservative goals, also massively expands the federal government, which is not a conservative principle at all. The only consolation I have is that Kerry would have expanded it even more.

Of course the other option is that the Democrats fade to such a level that the Republicans become massively dominant, and then split along traditional conservative / Libertarian lines. Moderade Democrats would have already aligned with one of those groups, and what was left of the Democrats would become a fringe third party like the Greens or the Socialists. That would be fine with me too.

UPDATE: Instapundit has a great post summing up a number of perspectives on this point. Summing up is Glenn’s big strength, I think. He says,

Beinart’s views are marginal in the Democratic Party — heck, the kind of patriotism that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd demonstrated in Davos is indiscernible in the MoveOn / MediaMatters end of the Democratic Party — while the Seymour Hersh Vietnam-nostalgia strain runs strong. That’s bad for the Democrats, and bad for America, but it’s nonetheless the case.

Exactly. I’m not under any illusions that BushCo are angels, and all governments need strong opposition.

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