Partisanship and the Reverse

I find that it's sometimes hard to criticize excessive partisanship because the alternative, "bipartisanship" is very bad. But by the same token, it's hard to deride the fetishization of bipartisanship because "partisanship" also denotes something that really is bad.

The problem, though, is that both sentiments -- when problematic -- are basically problematic for the same reason, they reflect an unwillingness to consider questions on the merits. Thanks to the psychology of partisanship, for example, I'm much more acutely aware of how Bush's curtailments of civil liberties than I was of the earlier steps in Bush's direction pioneered by Bill Clinton. Similarly, I think the psychology of partisanship sometimes leads people to overestimate the role of "incompetence" (as opposed to the simple impossibility of the mission) in the failures in Iraq. But the bipartisan tick is no better, and basically just amounts to the reverse sin -- assuming that if both sides can be made to agree that X is the solution, then X really will solve the problem. So we need a "bipartisan approach" to Iraq like the Baker-Hamilton Commission whether or not that approach makes sense. We need a bipartisan approach to entitlements rather than a correct one.

In practice, both approaches wind up narrowing the conversation to either a tiny "bipartisan consensus" or else a slightly larger patch of partisan trench warfare. What the country really needs, however, is a widening of the conversation to include various kinds of currently outré ideas. That's why I'm glad whenever Ron Paul gets some attention, even though he's not someone who, all things considered, I think has very sound ideas. And its also why I try to link to stuff from the Project for Defense Alternatives -- they're to my left on their core issues, but the status quo where debates ranges from AEI to Brookings isn't working at all.