The headline in today’s Washington Post (print edition) reads: “Debate exposes a rift within the GOP — rigid conservatism vs. a flexible pragmatism.” The story, by Philip Rucker and Ed O’Keefe, leads off this way:
The leading Republican presidential candidates clashed sharply over immigration policy, military spending, and other intractable and emotional issues in a debate here Tuesday night, bringing into sharp relief the party’s fault line between rigid conservatism and mainstream practicality.
Why don’t Rucker and O’Keefe tell us what they really think?
Is conservatism an impractical governing philosophy? Is it beyond the pale? Most of the people I know who read the Washington Post believe so. But that doesn’t mean the Post should blare these opinions on its front page.
No similar “rift” exists among Democratic candidates. In the Democratic presidential debate, there was very little disagreement on substantive policy (as opposed to labeling). Unless one counts Jim Webb, who has since withdrawn from the race, it was all doctrinaire leftism all the time.
Webb was polling at only around 1 percent at the time of the Democrat’s debate, as I recall. But come to think of it, the two “mainstream pragmatists” in the featured Republican debate last night — John Kasich and Jeb Bush — poll only at a combined 10 percent.
The most fundamental divide in the Republican field, in my view, is between experienced politicians who consistently can discuss public policy intelligently in some detail and novices who struggle at times to do so. (In fairness to Carly Fiorina, she is a novice who rarely struggles to discuss policy.)
Like Scott, I’d like to see the GOP nominate a candidate from the former category, provided he is, by Washington Post’s reckoning, of the “inflexible, non-pragmatist” persuasion.