Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In defense of partisanship

It's become trendy among those who write about politics to decry the lack of "bipartisanship" in the current political environment. The purported problem is that everyone should be willing compromise on everything, and not hold fast to their basic principles.

The complaint goes back, I imagine, to the 1770s, when some of the American colonists wanted independence from Great Britain, while others wanted to remain  British subjects. I suppose a "bipartisan compromise" would have been negotiate with the British so that we could have been, perhaps, a "territory" without becoming an independent country. Of course, that would just have been kicking the can down the road a few years and wasn't a long-term solution. Fortunately, those "partisan" revolutionaries carried the day.

"Compromise" is not, in and of itself, necessarily a positive thing. If one party in the legislature thinks we should spend $1.4 billion on roads and bridges, and the other party only thinks we need to spend $1 billion, then a compromise at $1.2 billion seems reasonable. But if I don't think the State of Minnesota should build the Vikings a new stadium, and you think the State should build a $900 million stadium, then "compromising" on a $450 million stadium is not a solution.

An endless series of compromises accomplishes nothing, particularly when the modern political left seems to think that compromise is a one-way street: Any policy that moves leftward along the political spectrum is labeled  "good" and any rightward movement is "regressing."

As George Will once pointed out, we have two different political parties for a reason. Each is free to espouse its values and compete in the "marketplace of ideas," and then let the electorate make its choice. Voters continually say that they would like elected officials to live up to their campaign promises, so why are we surprised when those who are elected actually stick to those principles?

This whole rumination is brought on by a particularly silly column by the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne, who criticizes 43 Catholic institutions who have filed suit to overturn Obama administration regulations that would require some of these institutions to provide contraceptive coverage in their employees' health insurance. This goes against the core beliefs of .the organizations, and they view the regulation as an infringement on their religious constitutional rights.

Dionne accuses the Catholic institutions of simply being involved in "election year politics," and wonders why these institutions wouldn't simply compromise with "the administration’s olive branch."

This is what is has come to: If you believe you have a right to practice your religion freely, and the government doesn't believe you have that right, people like Dionne believe you should simply compromise by giving up some of your rights to allow the other side to impose its will on you. If you don't bow down to the Obama forces, you're being "partisan."

In that case, give me partisanship any day.

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