Sunday, August 01, 2004

Absolutes in Politics  

A friend passed me this link: Dean Esmay writes to a friend about taking an absolute political position versus compromising with others who see things differently:

...If you are a person of strong conviction, when you look at the Democrats, they will always annoy you. For while they may say they have strong convictions, ultimately these are extremely diffuse: "help the little guy against the powerful." Because at base, their structure has been the same ever since Andrew Jackson first rode to power: cobble together a vast coalition of tiny interests and try to meld together a whole from that. It's usually awkward and makes no goddamned sense. When Will Rogers said, "I'm not a member of an organized political party: I'm a Democrat," he was saying something that had already been true for over a century and is still quite true today. When we joke about John Kerry and "nuance," it's really no different from Clinton's amazing ability to hold two contradictory positions at once, Adlai Stephenson's eggheaded rambling, or Harry S. Truman's ability to simultaneously hold back the Communists in Korea and yet refuse to go to outright war with China in order to make MacArthur happy. (And by the way, firing MacArthur was absolutely the right thing to do.)

The Democrats have also always--always, for 200 years or more--been the "feeling" party, who go on their gut rather than their principles. For while they may hold that they are principled, it's mostly their emotions that matter most to them. If that repels you, you must consider that if you are an American and proud to be one, then you must acknowledge that many Americans work that way too. So if you love America, you must love that aspect of our people as well.

Many a man has loved his wife even when he is utterly bewildered and befuddled because she's on a weepy or angry tear, and many a woman has loved her man even when his stubborn pride has led him into a fistfight she was sure he could have avoided.

If you are a person of strong conviction, when you look at Republicans, they will always disappoint you. They speak of high principle, of unyielding and enduring values, of strict adherence to certain rock-ribbed absolutes. But then they ride to power, and they realize that it's easy to speak in such terms, but now they must actually govern. They then realize that some people who say they share your absolutes don't agree on what those absolutes mean, and in any case there are those pesky people in the opposition who don't agree. Conservative icon Ronald Reagan learned this lesson, and came to the same conclusions many Democratic Presidents did before him: "Half a loaf is better than no loaf at all." Or, better yet: If you are faced with a choice between 80% of what you want and 0%, take the 80%. Just don't get suckered.

The more you insist on absolutes, the more you marginalize yourself in American politics, once again due to the ruthless and inevitable mathematical logic of Game Theory (read a book on it if you haven't already. I don't say that to be condescending, I say it to note that your worldview will be changed if you do so.) Under our current Constitution, there will always be two parties, always, even though they are not mentioned. They are inevitably there, and if you can never find a way to compromise with the other party you will never get much done.

I suggest reading the whole thing, it's pretty interesting for political junkies. It explains why each party pisses me off. The Repubs can be uncompromising hardheads. Meanwhile, the Demos are so splintered in beliefs that I always find something in a Democratic that I wholly disagree with. I guess that's what makes politics interesting: there's always something to get worked up over.

That's such a great and powerful excerpt, that I am now going to blatantly steal it for my own blog :)
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