The Real Reasons For The Increase In Partisanship

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.

Social Security

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.

18 thoughts on “The Real Reasons For The Increase In Partisanship

  1. Really- the liberals controlled congress?

    110th congress: Democrats retook control of the House. The senate was divided 49/49 with 2 independents. President of the Senate was Dick Cheney. While both Independents leaned democrat, let’s not forget we had, as always, numerous “democrats” from southern states, from states like the dakotas and montanna, that vote with republicans on many, many issues.

    the 111th congress it’s true- the Dems took “control” of both houses. BUT, and it’s a big but- regardless of the previous point about some “democrats” – the democrats did not have the votes to override a veto. And we saw an unprecedent in modern history rise in the US of the fillibuster in the senate. Blocking even debate. See more here:

    • Yes, drugs, but those independents caucused with the liberals, thus giving them control over the Senate. You also neglect to mention that a great many Progressive Republicans habitually vote with the Democrats — at best, they cancel out the right-leaning Democrats you try to paint as giving the Republicans majority voting control.

      As usual, you actually deal in the half-truths you so often accuse those of us opposing you of using. It would be nice if — just once — you would at least be honest in stating your positions.

    • Whatever reality makes you feel good about your incompetent president, right Drugs?

      Just couldn’t bring yourself to argue the premise of the post, so you went after something that you thought you could win…well, you aren’t going to put that one in the “win” column either, unfortunately…

      110th Congress: Senate – 49R/49D, the two independent members of the Senate chose to caucus with the Democratic Party and thus are considered to be a part of the majority. The two Senators? Bernie Sanders, the only openly avowed socialist and Joe Lieberman. House – 236D/199R. 111th: Senate 58D/40R or 56D/42R depending on when you counted it and still the same two “independents” who caucused with the Democrats.

      Filibusters could have been overridden with the votes that they had. Filibusters are also created by Senate rules – and rules can be changed. It’s not like they are permanent but as this Reason magazine articles notes (, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was for them before he was against them and the 60 vote “supermajority” was a creation of the Democrats to prevent the Republicans passing their agenda during Republican control from 1994 to 2006.

      As far as your assertion for the increase in filibusters, that is wrong according to a study by the Congressional Research Service, which said that In the 2007–08 session of Congress, there were 112 cloture votes and some have used this number to argue an increase in the number of filibusters occurring in recent times. However, the Senate leadership has increasingly utilized cloture as a routine tool to manage the flow of business, even in the absence of any apparent filibuster. For these reasons, the presence or absence of cloture attempts cannot be taken as a reliable guide to the presence or absence of a filibuster. Inasmuch as filibustering does not depend on the use of any specific rules, whether a filibuster is present is always a matter of judgment. (

      So, in other words, your entire post at your site is nothing but fantasy – or as we call it in the real world, a lie.

      Just like Black3 said…

      • What drugs is saying is that the Majority of the members of the Senate weren’t liberal, nor did liberals have an unbreakable, disciplined, cadre of true believers who would vote in lock-step on every motion, as do the Republicans.

        As to your premise, I agree that it is ideological, this partisan divide, no doubt. They all act like pigs in a trough when they get the power, however.

        • Wow, that’s what Drugs is saying?

          Well, he is wrong again.

          Have a look at this matrix from the Washington Post noting the percent of the time that the Senator voted with his or her party in the 110th Congress – lowest Democrat – 89% of the time, lowest Republican – 14% of the time with several in or less than 70% – Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are in the 60’s.

          So tell me again how the Republicans are the obstructors and the Democrats don’t vote monolithically…

          • Well, I can’t believe you’re not watching (winces) football. My son tells me it is the #1 team v. the #5 team. I can’t remember what he said…… AL and LSU? Oh, brother! I’ve no desire for that crap! I’m just so happy we fall back tonight….

          • Utah,

            We must remember, a Leftist hears what he wants because he has swallowed the post modernist BS. Therefore, 12 Leftists can listen to a person speak and all 12 will come away convinced they heard something entirely different from the other 11. That’s how and why “Hope and Change,” “Yes We Can” worked: they all KNEW they knew what it meant and NONE of them bothered to listen to the author’s actual explanation (i.e. fundamental transformation).

            You cannot reason with the irrational… 😦

        • Greg,

          One factor NOT accounted for in the figures Utah provided in his post on this very issue is how many Democrats were “given permission” to break with Party line voting for political purposes. Factor that in and you arrive at about the closest to block voting one will ever get — probably more so than in most 1-Party dictatorships (though, admittedly, that would take some research to determine).

  2. Gridlock by design !

    Our founders understood, every time government does anything, it takes something from someone.

    That someone might just be YOU !

    • I didn’t, and you didn’t either — not really. I think you’re just trying to be polite to the liberal. You and I both know leftist distraction seldom works on those of us who can keep more than one thought in our head at the same time. 😉

      • Well B3A, at risk of coming across as an RNC bulldog, my complaint is the leftist distraction is working all too well. Let’s get back to the substance of Utah’s article. Today we have partisanship over matters that should be personal because the progressives are winning. Retirement should not be a partisan issue. Healthcare should not be a partisan issue. But they are, because a long time ago, they won and we lost. Every minute that we spend letting the opposition set the parameters of the discussion, we continue to lose.

        Now, we have a lot of like-minded people in Congress who who are taking charge of the Republican party and they are effectively ripping the Democratic agenda to shreds and restoring the Constitution. If we follow Utah’s logic, the way to eliminate partisanship is to go extreme partisan in order to get the government out of our lives.

        As people keep saying on my blog, we have one chance. It’s put up or shut up time for the GOP. Well, let’s help the GOP put up, and strike while the iron is hot. We know that Democrats don’t have a let to stand on, so why do they still stand in our way? It’s time to come forward with your vision. And when you do, their criticism might actually come in useful.

        • Justin,

          OK, let’s get back on topic. If we are going to return to strict constructionalist constitutionalism, do you understand how much you are going to have to cut?

          You will not find social security, medicare, medicaid or even federal retirement for anyone other than combat soldiers in the Constitution or practices of the men who wrote and ratified it.

          You will not find any of the many federal agencies and bureaucracies. You won’t find the IRS, either.

          In fact, I think the federal budget was held to something like 1-3% of the GDP for as long as the framers ran things, and if I remember correctly (I could be wrong), most of that was paid by tariffs and consumption taxes.

          then there is the matter of restoring the original checks and balances. Senator election needs to return to the States, and we need to go back to electing the President the way it was originally designed.

          Get that done and we can start putting safeguards in place to prevent against another revisionist attack, but getting that all done is going to be impossible today because — if you want to do all this — you will need to FIRST return the American people to the religious, moral, honorable people who founded this nation.

          Sad as this may sound, and as defeatists as it may sound, but “Good luck with that.” This is one area where the oft made attack against me of not being a realist certainly cannot be made 😦

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