August 20, 2009

Why "bi-partisan" doesn't work any more...

Post-Partisan Promise Fizzles -

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama campaigned last year on a pledge to end the angry partisanship in Washington. He wasn't the first to promise a post-partisan presidency: Both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton offered a similar change, only to see the mutual hostility between Republicans and Democrats increase while they were in the White House.

Now, just as his predecessors did, Mr. Obama is seeing that promise turn to ashes. Angry town-hall meetings, slumping presidential approval poll numbers and rising opposition to his signature health-care proposals suggest an early resumption of politics as usual....

But why? Only Random Jottings can explain!

If your read this blog, you will understand! (And it won't do you a speck of good; if you try to tell someone they will just consider you a weirdo.)

Mr Random Jottings knows, because his mind was formed first by reading Peter Drucker. And Drucker pointed out something that was true, back then, but which I don't think is true any longer.

He often told truths in the form of stories, and one of them—I don't remember where I read it—was about his receiving a European visitor, who complained about the numbing sameness of America. Of a lack of variety. Drucker pointed out, as a counter-example, the astonishing variety of institutions of higher learning within a twenty mile radius of where they sat. Public, private, religious, ethnic, technical, tiny, huge...scores of them, all wildly different.

But the visitor was not in the least impressed. And Drucker finally winkled out of him that what he called "sameness" was the lack of ideological variety. The visitor came from a world of intense and clear-cut political world-views ranging from fascists to Christian Democrats to Social Democrats to socialists to communists.

The thing was, we Americans (back then) shared a common ideology. 90% at least of Americans shared a belief in "the American Dream," American exceptionalism, limited government, free-market economics, and in a sort of generic Christianity as the "public religion." It was only a small fringe who disagreed with this. (Commies, basically. And most Americans saw nothing wrong with purging them from public life. Well, they deserved it, since they were either secret agents of a totalitarian enemy, or aiders and abetters.)

Drucker wryly pointed out that most Americans would deny they had any kind of ideology whatsoever!

And in that situation bi-partisanship was fairly common. Why? Because both parties were variations on the same themes. When I was growing up there were lots of conservative Dems and lots of liberal Republicans! And the very-Catholic Dems were the party of traditional morality!

But the situation Drucker described, and which I grew up with, has changed. Now we have maybe only 60 or 70% of Americans sharing that set of traditional social-political beliefs. And now we have 20% or 30% with a clearly different ideology. One that is hard to pin down, because its proponents are slippery and deceptious. "Progressive" is the current nom de guerre.

And people like me refer to this ideaology as "anti-American," which is not quite accurate. It is really "anti" that traditional American ideology, and the institutions that embody it. The "Progressive" loves American in those aspects that fit his ideology.... He or she loves Berkeley or Ann Arbor or Boston or Manhattan. And loves to see victms standing in line to be processed by government bureaucrats.

And while "Progressive" by no means describes all Democrats, it does describe the people who hold the levers of power in the party.

It is a very interesting thing that both George W Bush and Sarah Palin were very successfully bi-partisan in their roles as state governors. Both worked with Dems in their state legislatures in just getting practical things done. And in both cases their bi-partisanship became impossible the instant they stepped on to the national stage.

Posted by John Weidner at August 20, 2009 10:29 AM
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