Friday, February 29, 2008

Why We Need Partisanship (and why Obama is wrong about red states and blue states)

From By Gabor Steingart: "The third myth is the most dangerous of them all, because it shakes the very foundations of the United States Constitution. Critics across party lines claim that America is a divided nation, whipped up into a frenzy by both parties, which they insist are only capable of thinking in terms of friends and foes. All of the current candidates promise to put an end to the current atmosphere of polarization and forge a great consensus. "We are one nation," says Obama. So does Mitt Romney. And so does everyone else.

But this system of dialogue, of checks and balances, is precisely what the framers of the Constitution intended. It is arduous and often nerve-wracking, but it works.

One party keeps the other party in check. Sometimes the House of Representatives opposes the Senate, or both pounce -- when needed -- on the man in the White House. This is the way it works -- and it's the way it is supposed to work.

Democracy thrives on differences of opinion, which translate into differences between parties. Promising to put an end to this ongoing dispute makes about as much sense as a supermarket manager announcing plans to combine the meat and produce departments -- and justifying his decision by saying that the management wants to overcome the decades-long polarization between steak-lovers and vegetarians.Citizens would be well-advised to demand disagreement and harsh words. The parties must remain partisan if voters are to have a real choice. In the country ruled by consensus that the candidates are now touting, voters would end up feeling like the shoppers in the imaginary supermarket with its combined meat-and-produce department: Vegetarians and meat-eaters would be equally unhappy.

Putting up with contradictions is probably a necessary part of the Washington system. After all, the American capital has never been entirely free of hypocrisy.

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States, was an early example of that hypocrisy. He opposed slavery politically, and yet he owned slaves himself. And, as DNA tests have now demonstrated, he fathered at least one child with his housekeeper, Sally Hemmings."