Published: 2012-01-17

Routing Around the Partisanship

Note: I originally posted this to my Tumblr blog on 17 Jan 2012.

I just posted to Google+ about this and I thought I'd expand on the idea here.

The "lame stream" media have been telling us for quite some time now that partisanship is at some sort of all-time high. We are told that the reason our government seems unable to deal with the numerous crises facing our people is that the politicians can't agree on anything.

I think the problem is actually the opposite in some sense: they agree on too much.

Chew on that for a minute while I list some major issues facing our people:

  • War (Afghanistan, Iraq, possibly Iran in the near future, along with various other, smaller, conflicts and "hot spots")
  • Dismantling of our constitutional liberties (de facto suspension of habeus corpus and public trials, torture, extra-judicial assassinations)
  • A broken banking and financial system
  • Persistently high unemployment

There are probably others, but this is enough to make my point.

Now, I'm certainly not the only person to have noticed this. Glenn Greenwald has been beating this drum for awhile now and I'm sure many others have noticed it as well. But I saw a pretty telling example just a few minutes ago.

Each of the issues above has demonstrated significant overlap, if not near-consensus between parties within Congress and the executive branch. Barack Obama campaigned on an end to expensive wars, instead he doubled-down on Afghanistan and has seemingly been eager to deploy elsewhere (Libya, for example). Members of the two parties have fallen all over themselves to lend legitimacy to things like border searches, a national ID card, and over-the-top executive powers. The financial reform bills were basically watered down before they even started, and the Democrats took all of about six seconds to forget the populist rhetoric when the industry started handing out donations. And unemployment, the thing Congress was supposed to focus on like some sort of old, afraid-of-change laser beam? Turns out that GE and other incumbents aren't big on new, fresh companies hiring workers and putting them out of business, so jobs will have to wait.

Joking aside, what do the parties really disagree on? I mean really, solidly disagree on. Abortion, maybe a couple of environmental issues (so long as they don't piss off too many donors), probably a couple other relatively minor issues. Mostly it's just name-calling.

But maybe that's starting to change, slowly. The response to SOPA/PIPA has started to show signs of transcending parties in a big way. I noticed this site just a few minutes ago that makes it explicit: http://voteforthenet.com/.

Not that the politicians are changing, but we the people might be wising up. The SOPA/PIPA debate has brought together some seemingly strange bedfellows. Strange, at least, until you realize that the principles that unite the opposition to SOPA are far deeper and more meaningful than the "principles" that divide the two parties.

Freedom of speech and expression is a cause that capitalists, socialists and everyone else can, and should, support. Freedom of expression and free flow of information are vital to capitalists, for example, because these things are like a downpour that washes away the cruft and allows the best to rise to the top. A socialist can't hope for a functioning state and its associated programs without information and expression on behalf of the people. It just doesn't matter who you are, freedom of expression is essential to a functioning society.

I suspect we will start to see more of these sorts of extra-partisan movements that attempt to transcend political parties by supporting candidates from both parties who will choose principles over convenience.