December 10, 2021 | Reading Time: 2 minutes

Bob Dole’s death inspired nostalgia among liberals for a time in politics that never was

It’s sounds nice, but it’s not true.


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The president paid respects Thursday to Bob Dole, whose body lies in state at the US Capitol. But his death at 98 wasn’t the only thing Joe Biden was morning. Included in his remarks was grief for the loss of unity and consensus.

“Our nation has certainly faced periods of division, but at the end of the day, we’ve always found ways to come together,” Biden said, quoting the late senator. “We can find that unity again.” Then, in his own words:

“The truth of the matter is, as divided as we are, the only way forward for democracy is unity, consensus. The only way,” the president said yesterday. “May we follow his wisdom and its timeless truth and reach consensus on the basic fundamentals principles we all agree on.”

Again, it sounds nice. It’s what you should say when someone important dies. But does democracy require unity? No, it’s requires a majority. Have we always found ways to come together? Hardly. Do we agree on basic fundamentals? Not when sedition and mutiny are options.

Division is the dominant norm. Unity is the rare exception. The president, better than most, knows this. He was there when Bob Dole helped lay the groundwork for today’s war by other means.

The Editorial Board’s obituarist said as much in his obituary following Dole’s death Sunday. But during a subsequent radio interview, Erik Loomis added something new, something related to Joe Biden’s insistence, via Dole, that “coming together” is the American way. 

We are at a point right now where particularly liberals are suffering from a lot of nostalgia about a political world, which they think of as simpler – where there’s bipartisan consensus about various issues, where people are not, you know, attempting coups when they lose, when the world seems a little simpler, but not Bob Dole.

Bob Dole was a person who. Was a very conservative politician and who moved the nation toward its present position quite significantly as. An advisor, Richard Nixon as Senate majority leader as a presidential candidate and in his post-presidential period where he became an enormous supporter of Donald Trump. 

I think that it’s deeply problematic that we see this repeatedly in recent years when older seemingly more moderate Republican figures die. There’s this outpouring of not conservative nostalgia, but liberal nostalgia. We saw this with John McCain. We saw this recently with Colin Powell. And now we’re seeing it with Bob Dole. I think it’s generational. I also think it’s a desire for a different politics that simply don’t exist. 

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. So powerful it can blind liberals to what’s happening, such as a Supreme Court preparing to overturn or narrow into oblivion the right to abortion and the privacy rights that come with that. Here’s the rest of Erik’s terrific interview with the host of “Beyond Politics,” Matt Robison (who’s also an Editorial Board contributor).

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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