the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

The Myth of Bipartisanship

In POI on February 26, 2010 at 8:34 pm

A series of observations, perhaps leading towards a coherent argument:

1) Republicans increasingly represent a more homogeneous block of voters. Read “White and Old” into that descriptor, but more significantly I think, the GOP attracts individuals who believe strongly that polarity defines the issues we face as a nation—to the point that they will unwittingly fight for the preservation of the very real income, education, and occupation gaps that this ideology propagates and they suffer from. (Recent CBO analyses project that the states that would benefit most from Health Care Reform are: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah. See a pattern?)

2) The problem with the ideology of polarity is that compromise = defeat in their zero sum political calculus. This extends beyond legislation, too. It manifests itself as a “culture of tolerance,” in which different people, ideas, lifestyles are merely “tolerated”—not because the “other” has something to contribute to society, but because Real Americans, as the arbiters of Right and Wrong, view the other’s existence as a mere blemish, an impermanent thing. The presence of the other is an almost biblical test of the Republicans’ worldview’s Rightness.

3) Which is why the idea and man that is Barack Obama drives them insane. Nuance, plurality, ambiguity—all embraced by the President, and all scorned by those on the Right.

4) In this way, Obama is truly the head of the Democratic party: though hardly separate from its own unwieldy, hegemonic backers (unions, lawyers, etc), the Left is a diverse collection of conflicted, but ultimately cooperative special interest groups.

5) And, perhaps more importantly, they often represent populations that by themselves are homogeneous (gerrymandering goes both ways), but resemble in the aggregate a stunning reality that will emerge in a very visible way when the 2010 Census results are published—“minority” will soon speak not in relation to population statistics, but to a continued disenfranchisement, an institutionalized paucity of opportunities for Hyphenated-Americans.

*Ok, argument time:

Laugh, but for me the word “Bipartisan” conjures up images of either amalgamating ores, or chimeras (Griffins?). In other words, it is grounded in the vernacular of a culture obsessed with defending its masculinity and its mythology. Sound familiar?  The movement towards “bipartisanship,” in many ways, makes permanent the ideology of polarity. That is somewhere we don’t need to go.

Instead, a simple suggestion: the ideological gaps between Republicans and Democrats are boring—let us look closer at the arguments and compromises made between Democrats. By doing so, we get closer to understanding the issues that our country will face long after we can no longer ignore that difference, rather than blind adherence, is what challenges but ultimately saves our political system.

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