For starters, there's no truth to the liberal hymn that Thomas Jefferson said something along the lines of "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." How patriotic was Jefferson being to the crown as he wrote the Declaration of Independence? It doesn't make sense that he'd have said such a thing.
And apparently he didn't.
According to the Jefferson Library: "There are a number of quotes that we do not find in Thomas Jefferson's correspondence or other writings; in such cases, Jefferson should not be cited as the source. Among the most common of these spurious Jefferson quotes are: 'Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.' "
So let's stop that one in its tracks right now. And the fact that Steyn quotes so many Democrats who've attributed that quote to Jefferson shows how bankrupt their views are.
What does it mean when so many senior Democrats take refuge in an obvious bit of hooey? Thomas Jefferson would never have said anything half so witless. There is no virtue in dissent per se. (emphasis mine--Darren) When John F. Kennedy said, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty" -- and, believe it or not, that's a real quote, though it's hard to imagine any Massachusetts Democrat saying such a thing today -- I could have yelled out, "Hey, screw you, loser." It would have been "dissent," but it wouldn't have been patriotic, and it's certainly not a useful contribution to the debate, any more than that of the University of North Carolina students at Chapel Hill who recently scrawled on the doors of the ROTC armory "F--- OFF!" and "WE WON'T FIGHT YOUR WARS!"
But the high holiness of dissent for its own sake is now the core belief of the Democratic Party: It's not what you're for, it's what you're against. Their current denunciations of Big Oil have a crudely effective opportunism but say to them "OK, what's your energy policy?" and see what answers you get: More domestic oil? Ooh, no, we can't disturb the pristine ANWR breeding ground of the world's largest mosquito herd. More nuclear power, like the French? Ooh, no, might be another Three Mile Island. Er, OK, you're the mass transit guys; how about we go back to wood-fired steam trains? Ooh, no, we're opposed to logging, in case it causes global warming, or cooling, or both.
The Democrats stand for nothing except being anti-Republican.