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The "nonpartisanship" scam

By Scott Tibbs, January 2, 2008

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering running for President on a "nonpartisan" ticket if the two major parties do not "formally embrace bipartisanship and address the fundamental challenges facing the nation", according to the New York Times. Sam Waterston of Unity08 said that Bloomberg could win the group's endorsement if he endorses the "principal goals of a bipartisan, nonpartisan, postpartisan ticket" and have "an administration dedicated to ending partisanship within itself and in Washington."

Meanwhile, those of us who live in the real world dismiss this idea as a utopian fantasy and go back to the much-derided "politics as usual."

The problem with this "nonpartisan" business is that it ignores very real philosophical differences between the major parties and arrogantly places itself into a holier-than-thou position that will not be successful the way the American political system operates.

First, there are deep ideological divisions on many issues that go beyond simple partisan loyalty. These include general philosophies regarding the role of federal power and the place of states' rights, as well as differences on specific issues like abortion. Where is the middle ground between abortion being legal or illegal? Will it be legal in some cases and illegal in others? Is either side going to be happy with this arrangement, or will they work to move the laws closer to what they consider ideal? What about taxes? Some people favor a national sales tax, some people favor a flat tax, some people oppose both. People are all over the board. And is there truly a compromise on whether the government will recognize marriages or civil unions between two people of the same sex?

Yes, there is a lot of partisanship in Washington, as well as in state and local government. Something that people praise members of their own party for is derided when seen in the opposite party. Some political activists automatically defend incivility or bad behavior in general if it is practiced by someone in their party. And then there are lies, misrepresentations and outright fabrications motivated by partisanship. What I find most annoying is the position that we simply need to elect more Republicans without regard to their positions on issues that face local, state or national government. A political party should be a means to advance a common agenda, not a social club that is only concerned with political power. And yes, Democrats have the same problems.

In the end, genuine philosophical differences on various issues is not partisanship, even though it is described that way far too often. While it may bring sound good on the surface to say (as Ross Perot did) that we just need to get under the hood and fix the engine, that doesn't answer the question of how we need to fix it. Will this repair actually make the automobile run worse, or will it improve performance? A partisan contest between two clearly different candidates moves us much closer to an answer than content-free populist pap.