It has been great to be able to watch the news (from all outlets) in real time while being here in the US for a bit (that comes to an end next week when I return to Scotland). There has been something that I have noticed in this coverage and particularly from the news outlets that favor or tilt to the left and that is the constant excuse making for Obama in the meme that “the Republicans wouldn’t let him implement his agenda” and are nothing but partisan obstructionists.
Strangely, I find myself in agreement with the MSM – as long as we are talking about the time period covering the post-2010 mid-term elections to today, but I think we agree for significantly different reasons.
What must not be lost in the current campaign rhetoric is the fact that the entire legislative power of Congress was controlled by Democrats for the two years prior to, and the two years during the first two years of Obama’s only term and they continue to hold the Senate today. Currently, the Democrats hold half of the legislative branch, the executive branch and have what could be charitably described as a “sympathetic” judicial branch…and yet those darn partisan Republicans are keeping Dear Leader from emptying his “whole load” (as Smirkin’ Joe says) into the American people.
The Republicans are blocking the Obama agenda to the best of their ability for partisan reasons – and I for one am glad they are because those partisan reasons are reasons of principle, principles I happen to agree with.
What I wanted to address in this post is the issue of partisanship. One of the common laments we hear about politics today is that they are too “partisan” and that the partisanship is increasing and hardening on both sides. Most of the whining about partisanship emanates from the Democrats and liberal leaning punditry and political “analysts” when conservatives won’t knuckle under like the Rockefeller Republicans and the Bob Michel Republicans of old and let the Libs and Progs just do what they want – to just be the loyal opposition. These members of the political intelligentsia tend to try to target one side or the other for causing it, most often it is directed at conservatives – and most pundits and “analysts” are simply wrong.
We expect the party that we support to be partisan…if they aren’t and they aren’t willing to defend their principles and policies tooth and nail, then why have them at all? Liberals, with any party other than theirs, are like they are on immigration – they don’t want any borders either physically or intellectually – that way there can never be a limit to what they do.
But why is the intelligentsia wrong about the increase in partisanship?
It is not because it hasn’t increased – because it has, and dramatically so in just my lifetime. This is like so many things that liberals and “progressives” get wrong because they look at the symptoms and not the root cause. Hardening of positions and opposition by the both parties is a symptom, not a cause. The cause is the advent of increased encroachment of government into private life. When more of the situations and issues that should be managed by the individual outside a public scheme become part of government, they immediately become subject to politicization and therefore become subject to partisanship.
It is really easy to pinpoint several – Social Security, abortion and healthcare are but a few.
As a classical liberal, I believe the individual is superior to the collective in every way and I must tell you, I do not believe that in these days of abundant education and unprecedented access to financial planning and resources that the government should be involved in individual retirement at all. Social Security has long lost its providence as purely a retirement “supplement” as it was intended to be. It was created in a far different age for a far different workforce and has metastasized to become yet another tool of wealth redistribution and avenue for the expansion of the state. As I stated earlier, once the government enters the retirement business, partisanship ensues.
Abortion and Healthcare
As previously stated, I believe that the individual is superior to the state and even with abortion; I do believe that this is an issue where the state has a very, very limited role and that role is to legally define the moment when a fetus becomes a person and to provide the limits of exceptions (I do believe that abortion is legitimate in the cases of incest, rape or health of the mother). I happen to believe that personhood is achieved at conception, others differ. Once that distinction is made, a medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy prior to that point becomes a legal act, after that point – murder. Abortion is an issue of morality, not government but government inserted itself and therefore, we have a partisan issue.
Abortion is not a “women’s health issue” unless the health of the mother is actually in jeopardy and if the government isn’t involved in personal health issues, then they have no role but since Obamacare was voted in by the narrowest of margins and liberals have made personal health a public funded issue, healthcare has become a partisan issue.
There are many more examples – expansion of the welfare state, government intrusion into the private business sector, crony capitalistic government “investment” in “green jobs”, a progressive tax system that is used as a social engineering tool, administrative law cranked out by the ton by innumerable regulatory agencies, all of which reach into the lives of every American and making more and more aspects of our daily activities subject to politics and partisanship.
This is also one of the dangers of moving toward any degree of a socialist/Marxist/communist form of government, program or policy. In situations where everything is controlled by the government, every decision is political. There are no two ways about it. As F.A. Hayek has pointed out over and over, the currency of free societies is visible and definable -money, the currency of Marxist states is political power, invisible and unbounded. It lends credence to the old saying attributed to Lord Acton:
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
The more that the private becomes the public, that the rights of the individual are subjugated to the growth of the collective, the more political these areas become, the more partisanship and division will increase – there is no way around it.
If those decrying the increase partisanship were serious about reducing it, they wouldn’t be talking about wishing or forcing one party to agree with the other – they would be working to reduce the state’s intrusion into individual freedoms of private citizens.