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What's really at stake in the right's bitter fight over Trumpcare

President Donald Trump speaks to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in the White House.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump speaks to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in the White House.

The GOP Obamacare replacement plan has been taking hits from all sides since it was first unveiled last week by House Speaker Paul Ryan. But there's something very uplifting about the most energized corner of that opposition: It proves that some Washington insiders have principles after all.

That's become clearer over the last few days even as President Donald Trump continues to promote the Republican health plan publicly and behind the scenes.

The latest, and perhaps most surprising, opponent of the bill is the usually emphatic Trump supporter and Fox News host Eric Bolling who is now demanding that five changes be made to the bill as soon as possible. Bolling joins members of the Congressional Freedom Caucus, who have been leading the charge against the plan from the start.

If you pay close attention to the appeals by conservatives to dump or change this replacement bill, you'll see very few personal attacks on the president. You will find some vocal expressions of no confidence in Speaker Ryan and the "RINO" ("Republicans in name only") members of Congress. But the most dominant themes in the polemics against the bill are arguments that it will fail because it betrays free market ideals.

That's naked ideology to be sure, but it's based on the belief in a particular set of theories as opposed to knee-jerk responses to policies or politicians based on their partisan titles or personal appeal alone. And that's a far cry from the popular assumption that our American political discourse has been circling the drain of ugliness and stupidity for years.

And "ugliness" is an important word to use because this vehement and broadening conservative opposition to Speaker Ryan and President Trump over this plan should put to rest one of the ugliest assumptions many liberals and Democrats still hold as the absolute truth.

"This vehement and broadening conservative opposition to Speaker Ryan and President Trump over this plan should put to rest one of the ugliest assumptions many liberals and Democrats still hold as the absolute truth."

That is the belief that the real reason President Obama faced such strong opposition from conservatives was because of racism. Surely, no one is alleging that conservatives opposing all the similar aspects of the GOP bill are doing it for racist reasons now. And while acting like an uncompromising ideologue isn't necessarily a virtue, it beats being a racist or mindless partisan cheerleader.

Take talk radio's latest conservative rising star, former Justice Department official Mark Levin. His name has been in the news recently as the first to openly question whether the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower during the election.

Now, his nightly leadership in opposition to the GOP healthcare bill has helped convince and rhetorically arm others from the right side of the political aisle to join in that opposition.

Again, none of this is part and parcel of the so-called bipartisan cooperation some polls and other experts tell us America really wants. This ain't kumbaya. It's still all ideology all the time. But the root of the word "ideology" is "idea," and Levin and the other conservative opponents to the Republican bill are making their arguments based on ideas. And that's a lot better than the alternative: Lockstep partisanship.

The entire debate we're seeing now about the GOP bill is refreshing because in just two weeks, it's already been touching on more specific issues inside the plan than we witnessed in the full-year of debates over Obamacare before it passed.

So you don't even have to be a stalwart Trump opponent or a critic of the Republican Obamacare replacement plan to be encouraged by what we've seen since the bill was introduced. This is real discourse. And with every new Republican voice that comes out against the GOP bill, it's proof that ideas are still alive in American politics.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.