I had a fascinating conversation with a friend of mine from Boston today, this friend being one of the few liberals at my college. (The majority of the students here are conservative, though not Republican; in a voter registration drive held recently, over 95% of the new voters registered independent.) The content of the conversation itself was boring enough, rehashing talking-points about the election. What was fascinating was a comment he made at the end of the discussion, after I said that nationalized health-care would be terrible for the country.
He said, "I hate talking politics with party hacks."
Now, I appreciate the general sentiment, having felt that way myself often enough. But I had told him at least three times in the previous hour or so that I am an independent. He still identified me as a "party hack," presumably for the Republican party. As I understand it, a party hack is loyal to his party above all, regardless of the ideology that the party should be advancing at the time. He will defend policies that he knows to be flawed, simply because they are proposed by his party.
I was almost immediately reminded of a story my father often tells. I no longer remember if the story happened to him, or to a friend of his, but in either event it is instructive. The subject was having a political conversation of some sort with a friend of his, who was considerably more liberal. He was making some point in opposition to the liberal program. The friend grew agitated and said, "You don't really believe that!"
My father took from this the following insight: a liberal believes that his worldview is completely self-evident, and that all people really know deep down that the liberal agenda is the right thing to do. Therefore, nobody can honestly oppose liberalism out of principle, since liberalism is right. Therefore, anyone who opposes liberalism must be doing so selfishly or dishonestly. It is impossible to legitimately hold a philosophical viewpoint opposed to liberalism, and to advocate action based on this philosophy, because such a philosophy is manifestly wrong.
Examples: the Laffer Curve is a fabrication to excuse Tax-Cuts for the Rich™; opposition to Affirmative Action makes you a racist; et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum.
Therefore, for me to be advocating ideas opposed to liberalism to my liberal friend, I was by definition doing so not because I thought they were right, but because I was a "party hack."
This attitude is disturbing. I, and most conservatives, can readily accept that most liberals genuinely believe in the validity and righteousness of their views. This allows us to acknowledge that even if their methods are flawed, their hearts are in the right place, and they are generally good people in their way. But if the converse is not true—if the average liberal believes that anyone disagreeing with him is doing so from base motives—then it justifies extreme actions taken against the opposition. Stealing political signs and barricading campaign headquarters, and perhaps worse, are justified because the actions impede the advance of a dishonest agenda.
I am not a party hack. I genuinely believe that capitalism is preferable to government control, that personal responsibility is better in general than dependence on others and the growth of moral hazard, and that people exist in the world who need to be killed for the benefit of all. I do not tie these beliefs to a party platform. Republicans are just as capable of being scum as anyone else; consider Bush the Elder, who incited the Iraqi Shia and Kurds to rebellion and then hung them out to dry, to be slaughtered by Saddam. But Bush the Younger, for all his numerous flaws, has got the essentials right as far as I am concerned. And I honestly believe that too.