Partisanship & Compromise

Marveling after the recent election at how, as usual, every single candidate or question I supported on my election day ballot went down to defeat, I was doing a little post-election pundit reading, and was struck by another glaring contrast – one that got me thinking about the competing political visions that dominate our public conversation. This time, it was the tone of a pair of where do we go from here ruminations.

The first was from Michelle Malkin: the mischievously entitled “Take Your Olive Branch and Shove It, Democrats”. I find Malkin to be clever, shrewd, and insightful, but I cringed when I saw this article title. However, not having the fortitude at the moment to resist gawking at the car crash I expected to find, I read the article.

It was a bitter lashing-out, primarily directed toward President Obama, whom she observed had presided over “an Us vs. Them freefall” ever since conning his way into the Oval Office two years ago by passing himself off to a weary American people as The Great Uniter, uniquely qualified to lead the country into a post-partisan and post-racial promised land.

How anyone ever fell for that shtick, I’ll never understand to my dying day – every time I’ve ever heard him open his mouth, he has tried to carve out political camaraderie by marginalizing or demonizing some scapegoat or dissident group. During my adult life, I’ve never witnessed a more divisive character in that noble office – though I suppose he’d find a kindred soul in Richard Nixon, whom I remember as little more than a cartoon character from my youth.

But Malkin found worse than hypocritical the late-breaking calls from the Democrat party leadership for compromise, after their repudiation by “voters who have been maligned by the ruling majority as stupid, unwashed, racist, selfish and violent” for the past two years. She wasn’t buying it, and wasn’t hiding her disdain. I was sympathetic, but disturbed by her bitterness.

At that point, I was ready for the next article I found, posted by Joe Scarborough over at Politico, entitled: “Give Hyperbole, Partisanship a Rest”. He began with a customary conceit, wagging the finger at “extremists of all stripes,” and expressing his hope that a certain liberal political comedian can help the country bridge the breech that has opened up more and more in recent years between Washington’s political camps. It was a self-serving feel-good piece certainly, but I was worn out from the partisanship of the election push, and pretty sympathetic to the message as I read.

But then Scarborough started telling a story about how he, referring to himself as a “young, conservative Republican,” made a trip across the proverbial aisle in his freshman year to strike up a friendship with “60’s radical” Rep. Ron Dellums. Dellums asked him: “Why is it that all you guys with energy are conservative? Back in my day, you would have been on my side!” The answer Scarborough gave him floored me:

“When you think of Republicans, you associate us with Vietnam, Watergate and segregation. When I think about Democrats, I associate you with Iranian hostages, 20 percent interest rates and malaise.”

Now, it’s one question whether anybody old enough to remember which of the two major political parties was primarily responsible for U.S. involvement in Vietnam, or for that matter which was the party of the KKK, would actually associate Republicans with those things (my own experience with partisanship suggests: yes, alas; facts are of little consequence in these matters). But a better question is, how can any “young, conservative Republican” freshman congressman associate the Democrats with something as frivolous and irrelevant as the political failures of the Carter administration? Mind you, this conversation occurred in 1995! 

It may be another 15 years later now, and I may not be a Republican, but when I think about Democrats, I think about leftist policies; I think about liberalism leaning harder and harder toward socialism. And the first real problem I think about is legalized abortion, not political dilemmas. Politics have real consequences; it is not just a game to determine who gets to hand out the goodies, and who gets their pockets stuffed.

There are real serious reasons to oppose the Democrats, and I’ll happily put a separate post together to identify some of them. But I’ll say this much about Joe Scarborough’s crusade to span the great partisan divide: it’s a sham. He might be all smiles and handshakes, but he’s a completely empty suit with nothing but trivial platitudes to offer in exchange for his healthy paycheck. If you can’t come up with a serious reason to oppose your opponent, then what are you doing in the game – other than looking for an angle to cash in on?

In the end, even though Malkin’s snarl was off-putting, at least you know where she stands, and why she thinks its important to stand there. That is, at least you can trust her. Not so Joe.