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In defense of "partisanship"

By Scott Tibbs, January 25, 2016

People love to complain about "partisanship" and the resulting inability to "get things done" but I do not think many of them realize what they are saying or asking for when they complain about it. In fact, "partisanship" is a good thing, and should be applauded. The inability to "get things done" is actually a feature built into the Constitution, not a flaw in the document.

Of course, I am not defending pure partisanship and the slavish devotion to a particular party that comes along with it. I am a Republican, and political alliances are necessary in order to operate effectively in our political system. But few things frustrate me more than double standards and hypocrisy. It is thoroughly disgusting to see Republicans condemn Democrats for doing something and then either defending or even applauding Republicans for doing the exact same thing. This, of course, works both ways.

No, what I am actually talking about is principle, which is why "partisanship" is in quotes above. People of good faith can disagree on policy out of principle, rather than the need to defend a particular clique. Many times, the end goal for two sides might be different, but even people with the same end goal might disagree on how to get there. Conservatives and liberals largely agree that it is good public policy to reduce childhood obesity, for example, but conservatives would not favor action by the federal government to achieve that goal.

There is a reason that the Constitution broke the legislative branch into a higher and lower chamber, and gave the President veto power that can only be overridden after meeting the high supermajority hurdle. Treaties must be approved by a supermajority as well. There is a reason that Supreme Court justices must be approved by the Senate, instead of giving the President authority to do as he pleases. The legislative process was always intended to be slow and deliberate. We have seen what happens when things are rushed through, from the significant expansion of federal power in the so-called "Patriot Act" to the debacle of ObamaCare.

More importantly, there is a reason that power was originally designed to be split between the sovereign states and a very limited federal government!

Instead of condemning "partisanship" (more often principled opposition or legitimate disagreement) we should be thankful for it. "Partisanship" has often restrained the urge to "do something" that would have been ineffective, counterproductive or even destructive. "Partisanship" helps cool the passion to "do something" in the heat of the moment without thinking it through. "Partisanship" is one of the most important tools we have to defend our liberty, and it has worked to protect us when practiced by both Republicans and Democrats.