Liberal Hostility To Bipartisanship

Earlier I commented on the report of Michael Bloomberg meeting with members of both parties to consider alternatives to our current hyper-polarization. Most expect this to lead to a third party candidacy by Michael Bloomberg. While I would need to see the actual positions that this group takes before deciding upon support, I see something of potential value here. In contrast, the liberal blogosphere has been quite vitriolic in its condemnation of this idea, with many examples available through Memeorandum.

There are some exceptions. Naturally moderates see this as something of benefit, including Michael van der Galien and Justin Gardner. Libby is a rare liberal blogger who joins me in her concern over the ferocity of the response from other liberal bloggers.

Libby both sees some value in polarization but also recognizes its problems. Three have been many blogs posting on polarization lately. Many confuse sorting of the parties with polarization when they see this as a good thing.

Sorting of the parties is the separation of liberals into the Democratic Party and conservatives into the Republican Party. There are arguments for why this is preferable to the situation in the days in which the Democrats had both liberals and southern conservatives, and even Republicans had a real liberal contingent. With this sorting we now have a situation where each party does stand for something different in contrast to the days when it was commonly argued that there was not a dime’s worth of difference between the two.

Sorting is not the same as today’s hyper-partisanship. This partisanship not only divides the parties ideologically, but growing numbers in each party not only ignore the views of the other party but look with disdain on all but those on the extremes. We’ve already seen the Republicans ostracize the moderates from their party, resulting in them becoming no longer able to either govern effectively or win elections.

We are now seeing the same among many on the left. Elizabeth Edwards claims that those who do not support her husband’s policies are not actual Democrats. John Edwards and supporters like Paul Krugman, as well as many liberal bloggers, are attacking Obama for simply being willing to consider the views of others. When someone like Obama is being attacked for not being pure enough, the Democrats risk becoming just a mirror image of the extremist Republicans.

We’ve also seen plenty of situations in recent years when each party will block measures of the other not based upon what is good policy but based upon preventing the other from having a political victory. We have moved well beyond the days when Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil could share a friendly drink at the end of the day, and sometimes even cooperate on policy.

This is the situation which has made such a unity movement necessary. The vitriol with which many liberal bloggers are attacking the concept demonstrates exactly why this is necessary. It also solves a potential dilemma for me. Under normal circumstances if someone like Edwards were to receive the Democratic nomination I’d stay home, or possibly hold my nose and vote Republican. This is much harder to contemplate with the movement of the GOP to the far right, making me happy to have an alternative to consider such as Bloomberg.

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10 Comments

  1. 2
    Mark says:

    Ron- Excellent post.

    This might veer slightly off topic, but I think what we are seeing with the Bloomberg candidacy, as well as the Obama campaign and even the Huckabee and Paul campaigns (and even to a lesser extent the McCain resurgence) is an increasing realization that the hyper-partisanship no longer has any connection to actual ideological principle or a desire to do the right thing.

    Instead, it has resulted in a situation where the party line actually IS the ideological principle, regardless of whether the party line represents a coherent set of principles. When the party line is the principle at stake, political compromise and bipartisanship become impossible since they violate your principle by definition. This amounts to a kind of doublethink amongst the party die-hards in which the party’s view is always right, regardless of whether the party’s views are internally consistent or logical. Since the party’s view is always inherently right, any other view is always inherently wrong and/or based in evil intent.

    Principled ideologues, on the other hand, take a different view. Their concern is not that the party remain in power; instead their concern is that their principles remain intact. As long as a political opponent can provide a rationale for a policy that is consistent with their principles, then the principled ideologue is willing to listen and compromise.

    The principled subgroups that make up the parties are realizing the doublethink required to support the party line in toto. They now see that the party line requires them to subvert their principles to the incoherent principle that is the party line.

    Party-line liberals and conservatives, however, continue to think that party labels have an inherent and independent ideological meaning. In their view libertarians, evangelicals, Greens, etc. have no independent ideology or principles – they are simply Republicans or Democrats who must therefore subscribe in toto to the Republican or Democratic party line.

  2. 3
    Mike says:

    Bloomberg is a joke. Ron Paul is the only choice.

  3. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Mike,

    I’d be careful in calling anyone a joke when you are supporting Ron Paul.

    Regardless of whether he is desirable to be president, Bloomberg was a successful businessman and now mayor New York where he appears to be doing a fine job. (Maybe Paul supporters are upset that he hasn’t privatized Central Park and outsourced all city services to private companies.)

    Ron Paul’s job has been much simpler in voting no on virtually everything. The Disney Imagineers could build an Audio-Animatronic which could do virtually everything Paul does and repeat his stock statements.

    I’d also be wary about calling anyone a joke when supporting a candidate who does not believe in evolution, promotes off the wall conspiracy theories, accepts the support of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and calls himself a defender of the Constitution while promoting an interpretation which differs radically from what was intended by the framers.

    One more reason why Paul supporters should be careful in calling anyone a joke. They are the only ones who spam in internet like you do, posting inane comments like this to promote your candidate even on posts about other topics. Guess which people look more like the jokes?

  4. 5
    Keith_Indy says:

    Generally a good post. However, one thing many people are forgetting in these types of discussions, is that not everyone who says they are a label, actually behaves according to that label.

    Conservative is the buzz word among Republicans, but ask any particular self-described conservative, and you’ll get different answers on what that means. Socially conservative, fiscally conservative, or a conservative foreign policy.

    Some politicians adopted that label because they thought it would get them elected, without even considering what it means.

    Then add on all that, the context with which these terms are used. Classical liberalism, vs modern liberalism, are two separate, though loosely related ideas. Same with nearly any ism you wish to identify.

    Personally, anyone who says, if you don’t believe in X, Y and Z, you aren’t a ABC-ist, are fundamentalists, and should be avoided. They don’t seek compromise, or pragmatic solutions, they want converts to their point of view.

  5. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Keith,

    There are many problems with using labels, which I’ve discussed in past posts. Unfortunately we are stuck with using labels in a post with this in order to keep it brief. There are many flaws in lumping people together under one label but at least in doing so most people will hopefully understand the main point.

    Yes, there are many different types of people labeled conservative as well as liberal (which gets to a comment I added a little while ago in response to a comment on another post on the problems with the whole left vs. right spectrum.)

    Ultimately what will matter is not what labels are applied to the candidates from the major parties and any independent groups but the actual positions they take. Those who write this off by describing the effort as simply splitting the difference between the two parties totally miss the point.

  6. 7
    Keith_Indy says:

    Totally understand, and have just been introduced to your site from Pajamas Media, so excuse any comments/questions over ground already familiar to you. I’ll be checking in and reading from time to time to better understand where you’re coming from.

    My hope is that, even though we have differences in policy positions, we could probably be comfortable finding ourselves in some 3rd party (as yet undefined) which could accommodate us both. I don’t think the current Democratic or Republican parties, really do that.

    For instance, I’m socially tolerant, and basically want the government out of what ought to be private decisions. That doesn’t mean I believe we should be libertine in public.

    Abortion is a grayer area in spots (like late 3rd trimester and minors) for me, then an abortion rights absolutist, but I think I’m with the majority of people, some regulation, but not outlawing it.

    Neither party really accommodates these views.

    I’d just as soon the government didn’t decide what marriage is or isn’t and either do away with any special accomodation of marriage in law, or require a ‘civil union’ in all cases. Either is fair and consistent.

    I know these views would put me on the outs with the “social conservatives/religious right.” Even though I would consider myself a Republican based on their principles, not necessarily what politicians have done in office. I think much of what politicians have done is detestable.

    If both sides were less dominated by the vocal extremists of their parties, especially during the nominating process, I think their platforms would at least be more accommodating. Changing the behavior of the politicians in office is the most daunting of challenges. The rules are so setup for incumbents that I would be 100% behind a term limit on elected officials, at least at the Federal level, like no more then 24 years cumulative service in any elected capacity.

  7. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    Keith,

    There wouldn’t be much disagreement between being socially liberal and tolerant of others and having objections to being libertine in public, at least in principle. There might be some problems in turning this into law, but that would hardly be a deal breaker on a third party. (I’m assuming that libertine in public wouldn’t mean banning two gay people from holding hands in public as it might to some on the far right).

    Third trimester abortions are not very common and again this issue shouldn’t be a deal breaker in agreeing on an independent party (especially as long as any restrictions on third trimester abortions do include a provision to allow them in the case of where the mother’s life is endangered).

    It certainly would be simpler if government was not involved with marriage. However, as long as it is, I would oppose any restrictions on same sex marriage. While I oppose any restrictions, this doesn’t mean that his one issue would prevent support of a third party which I was generally in agreement with. I could accept a compromise such as civil unions considering that the Democratic Party doesn’t do any better.

    At present the Republicans are certainly controlled by their extremists. It remains to be seen which direction the Democrats are going. If they nominate John Edwards, I won’t have much use for them, at least with regards to the presidential election.

  8. 9
    Keith_Indy says:

    (I’m assuming that libertine in public wouldn’t mean banning two gay people from holding hands in public as it might to some on the far right).

    Correct, although, for me at least, PDA could be regulated at a very local level based on prevailing norms. What might fly in San Francisco or Provincetown, MA, might not fly in Anytown, midwest. But then in either situation, it should be dealt with by a warning and a misdemeanor. I personally could deal with not seeing couples of any sort making out in public. (Example: Wife and I went whale watching out of Provincetown, and the streets went positively gay after dark. Shocking and a bit disturbing, but, not my community, so not much to complain about. If we didn’t tolerate it, we could have left whenever we wanted.)

    any restrictions on third trimester abortions do include a provision to allow them in the case of where the mother’s life is endangered

    And I don’t disagree with those provisions. I just think that if a baby can survive outside the womb without extraordinary medical intervention, it maybe shouldn’t be killed outright. If continuing the pregnancy is harming the mother, but the baby and mother could survive birth, then the baby should be born, rather then killed. It’s probably a fine line, and a decision best left to doctors, and probably not a prosecutable decision. IE, if there were disagreement on the decision, you couldn’t sue, or be charge with a crime.

    Generally, haven’t you found that when you get down to brass tacks with individuals, you find yourself being able to come to some consensus over what a more reasonable policy might be.

  9. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    Keeping the baby alive if feasible should certainly be considered. As you recognize, the problems come when it comes down to a matter of law and doctors become inhibited from performing abortions in the cases where they think it is best out of fear of prosecution.

    “Generally, haven’t you found that when you get down to brass tacks with individuals, you find yourself being able to come to some consensus over what a more reasonable policy might be.”

    Often but not always. There are many people who argue that abortion is murder and it is not possible to come to a consensus.

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