Why is just about everyone who talks about "partisanship" these days buying into the idea that there's something wrong with it? It's the American way, for God's sake! It's just another word for "competition"! Do these people think that the center part of stadiums should be reserved for all those "independents" who come to cheer for the players who are too classy to be "partisan"? What color medals are awarded for athletes who excel in avoiding aggression? What about Toyota vs. General Motors or BMW? Where's the hue and cry about all the businesses in the world competing like hell to be "number one"?
Nobody in America complains about competition when it comes to sports, or business, or education, or anything else, because we all know that competition is the way products and services are constantly improved as time goes on. The "survival of the fittest" is the one thing about Darwin's theory of evolution that we Americans all agree on, and none more so than the conservative Republicans of our species.
So why all the penalty flags when it comes to politics? Who started all this crazy-talk about partisanship being some kind of crime or disease, and non-partisanship being the holy grail of a new "post-partisan" era? Talk about the worst kind of "political correctness"!
Competition in politics is good for America, for the same reason that it's good in so many other areas of our lives. We need more of it, not less.
The current problem with American politics isn't that there are contestants on the political field of battle who are contending, but rather that we have such hopelessly inadequate political referees and score-keepers! Just as it would be pointless to watch a baseball game, if there were no umpires to call balls and strikes, or any other sport, if there were no mutually agreed upon rules, or no one to enforce those rules, the political game needs umpires who know the game and the rules, and have the power and the will to enforce them. And like sports, politics needs score-keepers, people who keep track of who's doing well and who's doing poorly and constantly communicate that info to the fans both during and following each contest.
Instead of elections going back and forth like fads, hinging on which contestants have raised the most money, put on the best shows and/or told the most persuasive lies, each election ought to be an opportunity for the electorate to review how the public servants they elected the last time have performed, and to .make better choices - if warranted - this time.
U.S. voters have every reason to be frustrated and confused, when it comes to their political games, But, instead of "going rogue" and blindly taking out their frustration on "incumbents", what we voters need to do is figure out what the political "game" is all about and to demand that the political umpires and score-keepers help us better play the position entrusted to us in that game. We Americans are so confused about the job of our political reporters that most of our mainstream journalists seem to think it is their duty not to give us any hint of which party they know to be more deserving of rewards and which is most deserving of punishment. If one team has a well-established record of serving the public well, while the rival team a well-established record of serving the public very poorly, these political score-keepers have been made to fear losing their jobs if they let us voters know what the score is, because we have all been misled into believing that the greatest crime political reporters can commit is the crime of "partiality".
What we should expect of our information media when it comes to the performance of our political parties is equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. While a game is still being played, nobody expects sportscasters to take sides and be "partisan", but once the game is over, we have every right to expects sportscasters to report on how well and/or how badly the contestants performed. What would racing fans do about an announcer who insisted after the race was over on being "mum" ?
In order for competition to be productive in the game of U.S. politics, the various players all need to be required by the referees to play by the same agreed-upon rules. But there's the rub, isn't it? Who knows the rules? How can people agree to rules, when they don't even know what they are? Since I don't know of any such rules, I'm going to try to spell them out, for my benefit and for anyone else who may be interested.
It seems best to differentiate between the three stages or "periods" of the political cycle.
First, there's the policy development and production stage. The very "raison d'Ãªtre" of a political party ought to be an approach to public affairs that other existing political brands don't offer. This unique approach should be developed among its own members and elected leaders, perhaps even out of sight from its opponents and the public.
Once an election campaign is on, the various interested candidates or parties need to promote their public policies at this sales stage competing for the hearts and minds (and money) of the voters by campaigning unapologetically and furiously in favor of their own brand and in opposition to their rivals' brands, in the hope of persuading the public to choose their brand over their rivals'.
Once the electorate has made its choice, and a winner has been chosen to carry out their program for a particular term, far from being expected to compromise with the losers, winners should be expected to spend their term in office implementing their winning proposals. The public should get the policies that they were promised and for which they cast their ballots, not some mishmash of policies cobbled together as a result of wheeling and dealing between the winners, the losers, and/or political appeasers of one sort of another.
During this period, opponents can continue to be critical of those in office, but no one should tolerate any effort on their part to actually sabotage the office-holders' endeavors. Near the end of this "term of office" - when the election stage of the next cycle takes place - there needs to be a way for the consumers (voters) to evaluate how well their last choice has worked out and whether they want to stick with that choice for the future or go in a different direction. Without the help of the information media at this point, it's easy for the most deceitful brand, rather than the most worthy brand to win the day. For voters to evaluate in subsequent elections which contestants are most likely to benefit and which harm the body politic, it is crucial for the voters to have access to the kind of information that only news media can get for them Those media aren't helping when they think that all their job requires of them is that they repeat a fairly even number of the claims and counter-claims made by the rival parties or candidates, or report an equal number of misdeeds on both sides, without revealing to the public the total picture of how much more misbehavior there may be on one side than on the other.
Where politics is concerned, we Americans are going to continue getting lousy public services until we stop discouraging "partisanship" and start promoting the good old American way of competition. Whom do you know that you can contact to join such a campaign? How can you help stop the media and/or politicians from bad-mouthing partisanship? Just because Republicans don't have a political brand that they can be proud of, let's not allow them to bad-mouth "all politicians". Buying into the political rallying cry "throw all the bums out" is just as nonsensical as hating all blacks, Latinos, and/or women just because you were once cursed by some Spanish-speaking black woman. What we need is a way of telling the difference between politicians who deserve our outstretched hand and those who deserve our boot. I am one Liberal Democrat who believes that we have far and away the best policies to offer to the great majority of American voters. If conservatives and/or Republicans think they have something better to offer, let them "bring it on". But then, let's make sure the American voters have the resources to do their job, so that every time there is an election America gets the opportunity to get better, and better and better!