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Thursday, June 01, 2006

We're bad but they are worse

--posted by Tony Garcia on 6/01/2006

Last week I wrote about the tough road for the GOP and also the possibly good news for the GOP. Yeah, it seems that both sides are represented there...it is bad for the GOP but it might be good. But you need to understand what makes it that way.

There is, for the first time from what I can see, a growing campaign theme from BOTH parties in the SAME year. "We're bad, but they are worse." The reason is partisanship. As Peggy Noonan puts it in her recent column:
Nancy Pelosi seems to be pretty much in favor of anything that hurts Republicans, and Ken Mehlman is in favor of anything that works against Democrats. They both want their teams to win. Part of winning is making sure the other guy loses, and part of the fun of politics, of any contest, of life, can be the dance in the end zone.

But the dance has gotten dark.

Partisanship is fine when it's an expression of the high animal spirits produced by real political contention based on true political belief. But the current partisanship seems sour, not joyous. The partisanship has gotten deeper as less separates the governing parties in Washington. It is like what has been said of academic infighting: that it's so vicious because the stakes are so low.
It is not about picking the best within the parties and then trying to win. It is about anything to make the other guy lose.

And it is about making sure the public sees that "the other guys are worse." Craig Westover has a few great posts that subtly point this out. In one of his comments on one of these posts he overtly challenges this mentality from the GOP.

Is [vilianizing Sue Jeffers claiming she must adhere to 100% of the Libertarian platform since she was endorsed by them] all the Republican Party has got? Is that it's best shot? Can Republicans offer anything beside label-based attacks? Have we got more than Hatch flip flops from the 1980s?

Why don't we attack Amy Klobuchar's energy policy . . . oops it's too much like Mark Kennedy's. Why don't we attack Steve Kelley on education . . . oops, Kelley pushed through a watered down Q-Comp program that rewards teachers with little incentives for improved student performance. Why don't we attack the Democrats on trasportation . . . oops, North Star is an "accomplishment" of the Pawlenty administration.

What have we got besides "we're not Democrats"?
As Noonan states in her column the issue is the GOP and the Dems are too indistinguishable from each other. The problem is not that they are polarized. The problem is they as a whole are too polarized from their bases and from the public.
The problem is not that the two parties are polarized. In many ways they're closer than ever. The problem is that the parties in Washington, and the people on the ground in America, are polarized. There is an increasing and profound distance between the rulers of both parties and the people--between the elites and the grunts, between those in power and those who put them there.
Right now the Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem, from the outside, to be an elite colluding against the voter. They're in agreement: immigration should not be controlled but increased, spending will increase, etc.
Oh yes, the Republican partisans will tout various "accomplishments" but those fly in the face of the various principles that the candidates and partisans used to hold dear. Things like small government (Bush apologists still stand behind No Child Left Behind), letting the people decide on their tax hikes (now superceded by the state government's usurping the law requiring votes on TAX HIKES) and fiscal responsibility (love that ever-growing budget). All jetisoned...by the partisans.

Why pick on the GOP about this? Because they are the ones in power. They should have been doing something about these things.

When it comes right down to it the politicians are indistinguisable from each other. Glenn Beck has been saying that "the Democrats and Republicans are really the same party" and it makes it harder for independent conservatives to not only support the Republicans but even apathetically pull the lever for Republicans while holding their noses. I agree.

Peggy Noonan thinks the time is right for a third party to take over where the two main parties are refusing. To a degree that is true. I think the first step is a hard, possibly temporarily unhealthy transition.

A quote from Abe Lincoln sticks out in my mind. "The best way to get rid of a bad law is to enforce it strictly." The idea is that the bad law and the strict enforcement are both unhealthy. It is required in order shed light on the unhealthy law and then be able to get to a healthy state.

Politics (and consequently the country) is in a very unhealthy state. The politicians are too removed from the public. (How else can they seriously justify complaining about the raid of Congressman William Jefferson's office when the other two branches agree that serious felonies occurred and evidence was in that office?) In order to get past this unhealthy mode of partisanship (why they are bad instead of why we are good) we should sit this one out. Sit this November out.

Suck it up and sit it out...or vote a 3rd party. Will things suck for a while? Yep. But I think the next 2-4 years will be a corrollary to that old Abe Lincoln quote and the need to get into and through the unhealthy in order to get healthy.

I know...I have heard it from the fear-mongering on the Right already. "But 'they' will screw things up beyond repair." Perhaps. But since 1994 what has the GOP actually permanently fixed that they previously claimed was ruining our country? Thinking...thinking...thinking. Social Security...still broken. Illegal immigration...worse than ever. Spending...worse than ever. Size of government...still growing. So, yes, you can make the case the Democrats in power will destroy the country...but the case cannot be made that the GOP is fixing anything. State deficit...yeah, fixed with spending cuts accounting shifts, tobacco one-time money and "fees" on the people we don't like (social engineering by Republicans).

Sit it out. And, yep, we may get a DFL House, Senate and Governor. Yep, we may get a Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid and President Clinton (which, btw, the Evangelicals are fine with as opposed to voting for a Mormon candidate). But it will force the GOP to return to the roots and principles which put them into power, it will provide an election theme other than "We're bad, but they are worse" and it will enforce the dangers of out-of-touch political bodies within the politicians as well as the electorate.

Sit it out.


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