Republican versus Democrat. Liberal versus Conservative. Rich versus Poor. Old versus Young. Black versus White. Men versus Women. Straight versus Gay. Us versus Them. Muslim versus Christian. Science versus Humanities. Educated versus Uneducated. Rural versus Urban. Pro-life versus Pro-Choice. These are the battles that are being waged each day among friends, families, and neighbors. But, does anyone else see a problem with these dichotomies? Where did they come from and why are we taking sides? We participate in these contests because we are being manipulated. These are all examples of manufactured conflicts – the fruits of manipulation by people who benefit from reducing complex social interactions to simple contests.
Try an easy thought experiment. Take each of the contests above, and imagine a winner-takes-all result for each conflict. A nation of Republicans, only. Or, a country composed entirely of liberals. How about one where everyone lives in cities; and farms and forests are tended by robots. Schools where technical classes are the only subjects offered -- after one side banned all courses in arts and literature because they were deemed to have no economic value. Think of a world where everyone is white. Or, only black. Or only brown – or only yellow -- or only red. A world where the young see no reason to keep the old around. Or perhaps a world where medical technology can extend life indefinitely so that adults determine it is longer necessary to have more children. Do you envision a Utopian society? I don’t. I see a bizarre and horrifying version of the Middle Ages. I see a lack of personal freedom and liberty. I see bland. I see a soul sapping shade of gray covering every surface. I hear dull conversations devoid of passion, caring, or originality. I hear the same music every day. I taste the same flavorless oatmeal for breakfast each morning and the same kale and spinach smoothie for dessert each night. I definitely do not see the infinite variety, flavor, beauty, and chaos intended by our Creator. I see Life’s rich tapestry unwoven with each victory of one intolerant side over the other.
So, perhaps we should all embrace bipartisanship? Surrender each contest. Embrace the middle ground. Give everybody a participation trophy just for showing up. Assign an uninformed opinion just as much weight as the opinion of someone who has dedicated a lifetime to master a subject. Everyone is equal in all respects, and distinguished in none. No, thank you. That is just another path to the same bland, colorless world we would inherit if we engage in the reductionist, zero-sum game of “us versus them”. We need another answer to the problem of governing ourselves with civility. Because neither a winner-takes-all cage match nor a bipartisan hugfest yields an acceptable result.
Although it is boring and hackneyed to point out that extreme partisanship is out-of-control in this country, we must not stop debating the point. It threatens to cause real, and possibly permanent, damage to our democratic republic. But, there is a solution. One that can propel us from the current debates to actual solutions. Did you ever see a video of how world famous firefighter Red Adair put out a raging oil well fire? It’s incredible. He came up with an innovative solution to the problem of taming out-of-control fires. He did so by precisely setting off an explosion that created a shockwave to move both the fire and atmospheric oxygen away from the wellhead. He fought fire with . . . fire. There is a parallel solution for our out-of-control and dangerous political environment. It is a paradoxical answer to fixing the problems associated with extreme partisanship. The answer is more partisanship. But, partisanship of a different kind. Fight fire with fire.
Each of us needs to far more partisan, but, not in the way politicians or their parties will like. We shouldn’t declare our undying allegiance or loyalty to a political party, or a political ideology, or a particular politician. Our allegiance should be to the values enshrined in the Constitution. We must choose the issues that matter to each of us and support them with fervor. Take action and determine your own political priorities and preferences. Then convince others to take up your cause. If a particular issue is a lower priority to you, let your fellow citizens who are passionate about the issue suggest and implement a solution. Don’t resist a solution simply because of who first suggested it or who advocates it. The best ideas and solutions for America should prevail. Likewise, the politicians who support the best ideas and solutions should receive our support regardless of which party they are affiliated. The ones who fail to embrace the best ideas and solutions, or obstruct progress toward implementing them, must be resisted loudly and relentlessly. Issue partisanship – the kind that supports the best solutions regardless of their source – is the answer for the misguided and manipulative excesses of party partisanship.
Copyright © 2017 by Jeffrey Scott Szorik
My name is Jeffrey Szorik. I am an average citizen with a lifelong interest in legislative politics. Like you, I would prefer our political representatives focus on the priorities & preferences of the majority of the electorate they are entrusted to represent. Restoring confidence in our political system depends on it. Join me, as together we explore how to restore 'government by the people and for the people.'