04.08.19 | Fight Club Politics

"Many of my friends and City Club members tell me they are sick of politics, and have had it with the extreme partisanship that has divided our country more than anytime in our history, other than the Civil War."  Sina Simantob, The Weekly.

Amen to that. Note the underlying dynamic:

“Imagine your boss, who is kind of a jerk, needs your help to finish his projects. If you help him, he’ll keep his job, maybe get a promotion. If you refuse to help him, you’ll become his boss, and he might get fired. Now add in a deep dose of disagreement — you hate his projects and think they’re bad for the company, even the world. That’s basically American politics right now. Bipartisan cooperation is often necessary for governance, but irrational for the minority party to engage in.” That principle, from our focus article (link: The political scientist Donald Trump should read - Vox), speaks volumes of where we find ourselves today -- bloodsport politics, gridlock, and the dialogue of the deaf. In its most basic terms: once a political party has decided the path to governing is winning back the majority, rather than working with the existing majority, the incentives transform; instead of cultivating a good relationship with your existing colleagues across the aisle, you need to destroy them because you need to convince the voters to destroy them, too. 

Call it the paradox of bipartisanship. Each party is guilty of it. Cheney admitted as much in 1985, "Polarization often has beneficial results. If everything is handled through compromise and conciliation, if there are no real issues dividing us from the Democrats, why should the country change and make us the majority?" By the same token is there any doubt that Blue today has gone full Churchillian i.e. we will fight in the Senate, we will fight in the House, we shall fight in the courts and in the media, we shall fight on the internet; we shall never surrender. Okay, we get it. Or maybe not. Many (of us) on the ground have bought into it. Social interactions are quickly dominated by the fight du jour. People, consciously or not, seek out the "tells" of another to ascertain their party or ideological affiliation, which team they're on. Discussions based on substance become secondary. It's corrosive. A cannibal joined the family picnic and calmly started to eat the children.

If that's a rant, so be it. Our discussion has to start somewhere. Throw away your television -- yes, you Fox and MSNBC viewers alike -- as that medium is hard-wired to the amygdala. Be conscious of the difference between reflecting and reacting. Make known to your representative or candidate that compromise can be a badge of honor and not an admission of defeat.

Maybe then we can more fully embrace Sina's love of politics as the alternative to the terror of the knock in the night.

Steve SmithComment