Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why Bipartisanship is Dead

Bipartisanship is in today. Much of the reason for Barack Obama’s rise is attributed to his willingness to work with those who disagree with him. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering a third party run for president based on the possibility both major party nominees will be too partisan. People wish for a return to the days of bipartisan solutions to problems instead of bipartisan gridlock. But you can’t always get what you wish for.

Bipartisanship worked because pragmatists dominated both major parties. While they may have had different conceptions of thought concerning the intellectualization of external reality these conceptions did not achieve the status of a theory of everything. They were therefore comfortable with the idea that what is true is what works. They were comfortable with Deng Xiaoping’s idea of a cat’s ability to catch mice being more important than the color of its fur. So despite their intellectual differences they could work together to solve problems.

Then along came the Reagan revolution. Over the succeeding years ideologues took over the Republican Party. An ideology is a theory of everything. Its truth is established by the faith its followers have in it. Since an ideology is a complete explanation of reality all solutions to all problems must conform to its understandings. To ideologists the color of the cat’s fur does matter. It matters because the color of the fur determines the cat’s ability to catch mice. This fact cannot be questioned. Faith in ideology proclaims its truth.

For ideologues compromise is impossible. What compromise can there be between truth and error. Since ideology gives truth all compromise is movement away from truth and towards error. Compromise is acceptable only if it forces those who reject the ideology in question to move closer to its position. So bipartisanship became a tool by which the country was moved in the direction favored by Conservative ideologues. Finally Republicans gained control of all three branches of government. At this point they were no longer interested in compromise because now they could impose their ideology by force. Because compromise had been used to shove the center to the right Left wing Democrats were no longer interested in bipartisanship either. They were tired of being used.

The lesson here is simple. You can have bipartisanship only if the leadership of both parties is dominated by pragmatists who are willing to see beyond the supposed truth of what they believe to be true. If one party’s leadership is composed of ideologues bipartisanship is impossible. Alas today electing a Democrat or independent who is willing to act in a bipartisan manner is the same as electing a Republican, and a conservative Republican at that. This will be the case so long as ideological conservatives dominate the Republican party. If this nation really wants change it is going to have to resign itself to electing a partisan Democrat. Sorry about that.

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