Partisan Politics Not Always Bad
- Oct 03, 2008
The truth about partisan politics is that contrary to public opinion, it’s not always a bad thing. Likewise, bipartisan efforts don’t always reflect altruistic behavior and selfless acts. From my perspective, it isn’t necessarily the stance you take, but rather the reasons underpinning your decision to adopt a position that matter most. In today’s column I’ll share the unpopular truth about partisan politics.In this last week I have harshly criticized others for both their partisan and bipartisan behavior, and I have also been criticized for my staunch partisanship. I’m not going to spend much time debating specific positions in the text that follows, but I am going to ask that you take a hard look at the motivations underlying positional differences, and then to draw your own conclusions from there. Let’s begin by understanding that the intent behind a multi-party system is to insure integrity, transparency, and accountability. Partisanship serves as a fundamental check and balance allowing different perspectives, voices, and agendas to be put forth for consideration. I would submit that the danger lies not in the practice of partisan politics as it was designed, but rather in the disingenuous and self-serving interests of those who choose to abuse their positions in an effort to be viewed as non-partisan. In fact, I would further submit that when an individual believes his or her partisan beliefs are in contravention to popularist bipartisan agendas, that they have a moral and ethical obligation to stand firm in partisan opposition.The truth of the matter is that it can take a lot of guts to cross party lines, or it can display a complete lack of intestinal fortitude. The question should not be whether a person acts in a partisan or bipartisan fashion, but rather why are they choosing to do so. Is their choice based upon doing things right, or doing the right thing? Is the decision based upon holding firm to their values and beliefs, or does the decision compromise values, ethics, and beliefs to satisfy public opinion and to protect their personal popularity?Let me digress for a moment and address the issue of popularity. It becomes a very slippery slope when a politician, celebrity, executive, parent, child, friend, etc., develops a need to be popular, and in turn places that need ahead doing the right thing. When the primary motivating factor underpinning a position or a decision is to be liked, compromises in personal integrity and character quickly follow. In today’s culture where our nation has become obsessed with celebrities, and being politically correct, the need to be perceived as popular has become a demanding master to whom many strive to serve.Popularity, vanity, narcissism, or other forms of self-indulgent or self-serving behavior are very temporary states. These characteristics while initially appealing, have no moral quality, serve no higher purpose, and are fleeting at best. While anyone can spin their way into popularity on a temporary basis, long-term respect is earned by not catering to special interests, not by compromising your values and beliefs, but by fighting for the right thing regardless of public opinion.In this last week we have seen numerous calls to set aside partisan agendas in support of putting our nation’s interests first. In principle, I concur with the sentiment of the aforementioned battle cry. However, this assumes that the Bailout plan is truly in our nation’s best interests. I am much more impressed with those politicians, journalists, pundits, and other individuals who have opposed the bailout on principle, than I am with those that have looked for cover by walking the middle of the road.My personal belief is that the heroes of this last week are those individuals who have stood boldly to oppose a flawed piece of legislation. It is incumbent on all of our elected officials to adopt whatever partisan or bipartisan positions necessary when and where it serves the best interests of our country. I have supported the Republicans and Democrats who have opposed the Bailout plan, and I have likewise hammered the Republicans and Democrats who have indulged in fear mongering and played party politics in supporting a rush to pass a flawed piece of legislation.