Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Beyond Partisan Politics

I think the time has come for many of us to move beyond partisanship. But how to do that is the issue. We cannot choose the Obama way of simply throwing away your principles and compromising with every corporate interest or right wing ideology for the mere sake of "bringing all to the table."

I know that there are a great many well-meaning, highly intelligent, moral, kind, and remarkable conservatives out there. I disagree with them, but I must and do respect them. My question is, how do I get past my strong disagreements with them?

Let us look first at the two political parties. Neither party differs from the other on essential matters. They are both tools of multinational corporations and represent the interests of the wealthy classes, not the interests of the people as a whole. This is why I cannot identify with either political party.

Now take the divide between liberals and conservatives. On certain issues, like abortion or capital punishment, or Euthanasia, it is quite possible for intelligent and good people to disagree. I think a case can be made for those opposed and in favor of these acts. So we can agree to intelligently discuss it, and to respectfully disagree on the matter.

But beyond this where can we go? The Right-wing (which I consider a distinct group from conservatives) are simply insane. The far left (e.g. Michael Moore, and Bill Maher) are not quite so insane, but are smug, self-righteous, and too idealistic. Self-professed "centrists" are enslaved to the will of big corporations.

So, assuming both political parties do not represent us and that the far left and the far right are not sound options, where do we go? On certain issues, I cannot but oppose conservatives ... gay marriage, American imperialism and militarism, public health care, welfare, regulation of the market, I will not and cannot give ground on these matters. But neither, I suppose, will, or can, the conservatives.

So here is the question: where can I and they find common ground? My economic philosophy is from the school of the New Deal, The Great Society, and Great Britain's "Welfare State," I am close to what in Europe is called a "Social Democrat." On social issues, I'm a libertarian, favoring maximizing personal liberty. Can I find common ground and get beyond partisanship with conservatives who are on social issues far less libertarian and want more "moral legislation," but who on economic issues are far more libertarian - in favor of privatization and deregulation?

How can they and I meet and work together? Any suggestions?

Bookmark and Share


  1. I don't have all of the answers, but it is clear that the current two-party system is outdated and impotent. Our Nation is long overdue for a political realignment.

    As much as you may be upset with Obama's supposed abandonment of principles. I would counter that politicians like him are still the best option we have. He mobilized a large coalition of well-educated and distraught individuals who saw America's foreign policy and wealthy tax-cuts as morally and intellectually bankrupt.

    Obama is not an end, but rather the beginning. Americans do not appreciate change in their political system and as much as Obama's win may be seen as a progressive victory, many Americans remain apprehensive. Our political system is wrought with checks and balances because our founding fathers wished saw no gov't action as better than quick and irrisponisble action.

    In order to facilitate new political partenerships I would recomend reaching out to intellegent conservatives and work on finding common ground. I have found when I speak with intellegent conservatives I find our differences are much more superficial than I would like to believe.

    How to expand this to an institutional level? Your guess is as good as mine, but the dialogue has to start somewhere.

  2. Neither Bill Maher or Michael Moore are representatives of the far left. Bill Maher is an ethnocentric believer in American exceptionalism who does not like republicans, but please do not call him far left for that he certainly is not. Moore makes provocative documentaries to rile Republicans. Che Guevera with his noble vision of the universal empancipation of the working classes even if it required violencewould be far left , not Bill Maher, not Michael Moore. Both Moore and Maher can be called American nationalists who have different vision of American nationalism as compared to their American counterparts.

    Actually your comments tell me a lot about the American political landscape where seriously speaking there are no leftists only differing kinds of nationalisms/imperialisms varying from enlightened paternalism (Maher, Moore) to hardened exceptionalism.

  3. Sir -

    I agree with you in the sense that partisan politics seems to be tearing this country apart. As a conservative, I disagree with you on most points you make. I see most of them as misguided. On the other hand, I sense a comradarie with you, in that I believe you are attempting to further the cause of liberty, justice and the American way of life (such as it is). Where we break down in our social dialogue is when we get petty, mean and petulant in our disagreements. On the right, I feel like most liberals are moving away from the "I don't agree with you, but I'll fight to the death to ensure you have the right to express yourself" mentality that I adhere to. I am sure you likely feel the same way. I am disheartened when I read columns like Maureen Dowd's bi-weekly screed. It is so predictable, childish and silly as to make me wonder if we can ever reach some sort of resolution (today's was a good example: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/08/opinion/08dowd.html?_r=1). Camille Paglia offers me more hope. We're often politically opposed, but she adheres to a basic worldview that I can buy into. In any case, knowing that there are liberals out there who seek to find some common ground gives me some cause for hope. We will never agree on most issues, but you'll keep the conservatives from getting too wacko, and we'll keep you guys from getting too silly (to generalize). I suppose things work well in that tension.

    I must admit, though, that as an individual only beginning their political life, it is disillusioning to see conservatives and liberals simply flip positions as they move back and forth from positions of power. 2 years ago liberals were protesting and crying foul, and saying that it was their doing so that kept a healthy debate alive. Conservatives told them to shove it, or be branded as traitors to the nation. Now power has shifted, and conservatives are the ones protesting, claiming they keep the debate alive. And liberals have taken the top position, claiming that anyone who dissents simply wants the country to fail. In other words, shut up or be branded a traitor.

    It's tiring.

  4. Hi Anonymous,

    Thank you for your remark. I agree with you completely. Whether liberal or conservative those in power have a strong tendancy to try and shut the opposition off.

    This is a terrible threat to democracy! We must allow the free expression and we must engage in dialogue .. to do otherwise is to lead us down a dangerous path.

    As you point out, we may hate what some others say, but we must defend their right to say it! It's too important not to.

    I like your point about Dowd, she gets unreasonable. And it does not help.

    I think liberals and conservatives must dialogue. And must respectfully agree to disagree. It's hard because we all get passionate about these things, but it is, I think, worth the effort.


Comments from many different points of view are welcome. But I will not publish any comments that are hateful, insulting, or filled with profanity. I welcome and encourage dialogue and disagreement but will not publish any hate speech.