Party Discipline:

It seems to me that the "new argument" (Orin's words in this post) that Hugh Hewitt is introducing into the Miers debate is actually an old argument -- one of the standard arguments for party discipline. Say that you believe the following:

  1. One of the parties' programs is much better for the country than the other's on subjects A, B, and C.
  2. A political defeat for the party on the quite different subject D might substantially weaken the party's ability to get the rest of its program implemented.
  3. The party's proposal as to the somewhat less important matter D isn't what you'd have wanted the party to do, but isn't that bad.
It then makes good sense for you to swallow your objections to D, rather than fighting the party on D and thereby weakening the party and making it harder for the party to implement its good policies on A, B, C, and D. And the same applies if you substitute "the current Administration" (or the portion of the party embodied in the Administration) for "the party."

Here, Hugh is arguing that fighting the Administration on Miers would politically weaken the Administration more generally, and thus make it harder for the Administration to pursue its foreign policy (which Hugh thinks is sound); this, he suggests, is good reason for people who generally support the Administration's foreign policy to accede to the Miers nomination. Some Democrats could equally argue that fighting the Democratic Party on some issue (e.g., race-based affirmative action) would politically weaken the party more generally, and thus make it harder for the party to protect abortion rights or the environment or social services programs (positions that the arguers think are sound); this, they would suggest, is good reason for people who generally support the Democrats' abortion rights / environmental / social services programs to accede to the party's position on race-based affirmative action. Both strike me as legitimate arguments.

Of course, if one disagrees with any of the three assumptions I identified above, one won't be persuaded by the argument that flow from those assumptions. If one thinks that the Republicans' (or the Administration's) positions on important issues are wrong, then you may want the party to be weakened. If one thinks that the success or failure of the Miers nomination won't affect the Republicans' / the Administration's political success more broadly, then one can focus solely on the merits of the Miers nomination and not worry about the indirect political consequences. And if one thinks that the Miers nomination is a very bad idea, then one may well choose to oppose it despite the harm that the indirect political consequences may do to Republican / Administration initiatives that one endorses.

But I take it that Hugh agrees with those three assumptions, and thinks some of his readers agree with them. And to those who agree with the assumptions, Hugh's argument may well be properly persuasive. Is there something I'm missing here? Is there some reason why Hugh's argument should indeed leave us "speechless"?