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Contrarian View: The Real Cause of Hyper-partisanship: Moderates, et. al.

I just posted an essay taking aim at American Catholics who voted in Obama (54%), supported Obamacare, and are now dumbfounded- shocked, I say- that Obama refuses to exempt Catholic organizations from requirements that infringe on their religious liberties.  This essay should be read in conjunction with that one, because I refer to a much deeper problem at the end of that post, and I am speaking to it now.

It is commonly thought that our country is more divided today than ever before and this is because of hyper-partisanship between the two main political parties. I should say that anyone with a smidgen of knowledge of American history knows that America has always been divided, and politics has been vicious from day one.  The fact that someone believes otherwise feeds into the argument made in this post.  However, this does not mean that I think that we are not divided.  We certainly are.  However, I believe the blame for this does not fall on the usual suspects- the Republican and Democrats- but rather on that happy, disheveled mess of people in the middle, that 25% or so that call themselves moderate or independents;  these folks nearly always say that they occupy this middle position because they abhor the political carnage they observe on either side.  I would like to contend, however, that they in fact are the ones responsible for causing that carnage.

The last four years is a perfect illustration of exactly what I mean.  My sense is that the Obama presidency illustrates much of what has transpired in the past, just in faster sequence.

In 2008, Obama was elected along with a slew of other liberal Democrats, all of whom reasonably believed they had a mandate to implement their secular policies.  This they did in 2009-2010, virtually uninhibited.

Then, they were roundly pummeled in the 2010 midterm election, where conservatives made history with victories at virtually every level- Federal, state, and locally. The newly elected conservatives, quite reasonably believing that they had a mandate to put a stop to Obama’s implementation of a socialist state, proceeded to make the attempt.  And they largely succeeded.  One can only imagine where we would be today if the Democrats had held on to the House of Representatives.

But here is the funny thing.  The 2010 batch of conservatives went out to implement their own policies, and found themselves in a heap of trouble.  Of course the House GOP is being widely lambasted but I’m thinking in particular of things like the upcoming recall election of Governor Walker in Wisconsin and the defeats of Kasich’s efforts in Ohio and the ongoing turmoil in Indiana.

Consider then what has happened in the span of just THREE YEARS.  A bunch of people roundly rejected the ‘failed policies of George W. Bush,’ voting in uber-liberals across the country.  Then, disgusted with the horrific government intrusion and massive overspending carried out by Obama and his ilk, just TWO YEARS LATER, they swept out Dem after dem and replaced them with Republicans, many of whom were staunch Tea Party types.  Then, these Republicans implemented their policies to the extent that they could, and in outrage the populace lashed out, going so far in places like Wisconsin to have recall elections of several state senators (2 GOP senators fell) and arranging for a recall election of Gov. Walker.

Now, we have to know that there are people out there for whom it is true that they voted for Obama, voted for a conservative, and are now want to recall Walker.

I don’t know if there is a way to describe such a person without it being considered as cheap, partisan insult, but I firmly believe that the insult would simply be an expression of obvious truth.

If you are this person, you need to get your head on straight, and keep reading.

Obviously, it will be a pretty mixed bag out there, but it is certainly the case that in order for any of the things I just mentioned to be true, it required the efforts of so-called ‘moderates.’  Partisan liberals and partisan conservatives do not have the numbers, on their own, to elect their people and hence implement their policies.  For this, the moderate is needed, a fact so well known that politicians on both sides seem to do anything in their power to whore themselves out to the ‘middle.’  This is so pervasive among Republicans that it is considered a small miracle to find one actually act like a Republican once elected; Dems pander to the middle, too, but it is less of a surprise when they act like Dems.  The smackdown of the Dems in the 2010 election a curious exception.

What 2008 and 2010 looked like to the elected politicians, in contrast to other instances in history, perhaps, was the achievement of a mandate, emboldening them to actually do the things they said they were going to do;  if Republican, implement Republican principles;  if Democrat, implement Democrat principles.

In actual truth, for the last century or so, we haven’t really seen Republican principles thoroughly implemented, because whenever they are tried, the Dems+Moderates soon come into power and demolish and tweak it.

The same can’t quite be said about the Dems.  If one side says ‘Limited government’ and the other says ‘government out your ears’, then any compromise will always increase the reach of the side that says ‘government out your ears.’  Hence, one of Obama’s intellectual mentors, Saul Alinsky, argued that ‘compromise’ was the preferred tool of the radical.  After all, if you have 0%, and you ask for 100%, and get 50%, you have made progress towards your goal.  The next time you ask for 100%, it will be with your previous 50% gain as a baseline.  So, Democrats (the party of Saul Alinsky) have continually furthered their policies, little by little… by design.  No doubt this lesson has been reinforced for liberals with the butt kicking they received in 2010.   They ‘over reached’ in 2009, but they will be smarter in the future.  Cass Sunstein’s Nudge will once again be the order of the day.  Sunstein, by the way, is Obama’s regulatory ‘czar.’

Even so, in any case, neither side can do anything unless the moderates help elect them, and by all appearances, the moderates can’t seem to make up their stinking minds.  By alternating between socialism and capitalism- in the span of months- the whole nation gets whipsawed.  Almost every election.  I know that this is a bit of a simplification, in particular because every moderate has their own unique perspectives, but in general it seems to hold true.  What we need is for the soft middle of the United States to get their heads screwed on straight and make a decision.

In the previous post I quoted Chesterton who wrote that liberalism (in context, eugenics in particular) was a belief system that was easily detected and easily charted.  That is, it is guided by certain principles and certain worldviews and certain beliefs.  The people who go into public office as liberals will act on those beliefs.  For you, dear moderate, to vote them in and then act shocked when they act on their liberalism, is absurd beyond words.   Do you want a society guided by liberalism, or not?  Pick.  Decide.  Use your brain.  Think.  Learn.  Study.  Make a choice and stick to it.  Conservatism likewise is a belief system easily recognizable, with its own guiding principles and beliefs.  For you, dear moderate, to vote them in and then act shocked when they act on their conservativism is stupid beyond words.  Pick.  Decide.  Think.  Choose.

This society is currently entrenched in partisan bickering and political brinkmanship because YOU CAN’T MAKE UP YOUR —- MIND.

There is division because you believe that ideology can be separated out from policies.  You are acting on sentiment instead of reason.  You like the idea of everyone having universal health care but don’t understand the logistical necessities of making such a thing possible; ie, everyone American must give up their own health care decisions in light of the fact that there are scarce medical resources, oh, and religious people will have to pay for abortions and sterilizations, etc, etc.  You like the idea of fiscal responsibility and the government only spending the money that it has got, but when cuts are proposed- never mind carried out- you throw a hissy fit.  Policies such as these flow from a particular ideology, a coherent and cogent worldview.  You, on the other hand, have a mental smorgasboard going on.  You think it is a buffet out there and suffer the illusion that you can choose this or that to eat without signing on to the full package that made that particular meal possible in the first place.

Eg, if you picked the hamburger from the buffet line but were distressed that cows are killed so you can eat it; you as an enlightened moderate, want to have the hamburger without admitting it comes from the cow.  You then turn your nose up at the people who are arguing about whether or not cows should be killed for food, all the while thinking you are superior- and eating the hamburger.   Nice.  Real smart.

You cannot enjoy the fruits of these ideologies without the ideologies being present to make those fruits possible.  You may as well sit around your garden waiting for peppers to grow, when you planted corn- or nothing.  Whatever you think about either ideology- one being peppers, or another being corn- at any rate and in any case you get neither pepper nor corn if the ideology does not act.  You think you are better than everyone else because you don’t get involved in the squabbles of the farmers arguing about what to plant.

Honestly, I’m a little nervous about what the next election cycle is going to produce.  It seems like no matter what, we’re in for even more mess.  If Obama is tossed out and the conservatives take decisive lead, but Republican governors like Walker are thrown out, for all intents and purposes the underlying issue will still remain.  Why should a newly elected Republican slate in 2012 actually act on their Republican principles if they’re just going to get hammered for it- sometimes by YOU, even after YOU helped elect them?  If Obama and the dems hold out and remain in 2012, I have to wonder what that says about our citizenry that they can vacillate so much from 2008 to 2010 to 2012.

For one thing, we can say of course that the vacillation is generally only true for that large group in the middle.  Conservatives and liberals have of course already made up their minds.  But if you, dear moderate, don’t make up your mind, and soon, then by golly probably the best bet for the rest of us is just to try to protect ourselves from your flailing limbs as much as we can.

But I don’t want to hear anything more from you about any hyper-partisanship.  It’s on your head, not mine.  I made up my mind.  Won’t you please make up yours?  Please?  Cuz you’re killing me, here.

Thanks.

 

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3 comments

    • End Bringer on February 1, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    If you sit on the fence for too long, don’t be surprised when your lower regions get soar.

    • Alex on February 14, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I have a slightly different analysis. This large group of muddle-minded “undecideds” doesn’t really exist.

    Let me explain. People in polls are only really offered three options: Democratic, Republican, or “independent”/”undecided”. But very few people are genuinely hesitant about whom to support. A few of the subgroups who might describe themselves as “independent” would include:

    – Conservatives who aren’t keen on the Republican party leadership right now (well, who is?)
    – Left-wingers who feel that Obama is too conservative and capitulating for their taste (hard as it might be for you to believe, there are plenty of people out there like this)
    – Libertarians, whose beliefs don’t fit well with either party
    – People who are generally disaffected with and turned off by the whole howlingly insane structure of politics at the moment and feel discouraged about their vote having any effect.
    – People who are genuinely hesitant between the two parties.

    I suspect that the last of these groups is a small minority of “independents”. But the glib talking heads talk about “independents” as if they are all “undecideds”, and mistakenly talk as if disaffected conservatives are genuinely recruitable by Obama and as if disaffected left-wingers are genuinely recruitable by Romney or Santorum. They’re not. They’ll probably stay home but they will not vote for the other side.

    What is causing this whipsawing from party to party is not the same group of people changing their opinions, but different portions of the electorate getting fired up and turning out. In 2008, a whole lot of young and nonwhite people were fired up about electing Obama and turned out; in 2010, a whole lot of older white people were fired up about governmental overreach and turned out, while a lot of young and nonwhite people were a little frustrated and demotivated about Obama’s lack of progress and stayed home.

    In 2012, the most likely outcome – which I’ve been predicting since the middle of last year – is that Obama will be re-elected, the Democrats will regain the House, and the Republicans will retake the Senate; and that won’t be because of an “indecisive” electorate. It will be because the general election brings out a lot more of likely Obama voters than a midterm in a Democratic presidency will; and because Democratic turnout, while inevitably higher than in 2010, is unlikely to be enough to overturn the substantial incumbency advantages that are likely to tilt the Senate field towards Republicans this time around.

    • End Bringer on February 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    “What is causing this whipsawing from party to party is not the same group of people changing their opinions, but different portions of the electorate getting fired up and turning out. In 2008, a whole lot of young and nonwhite people were fired up about electing Obama and turned out; in 2010, a whole lot of older white people were fired up about governmental overreach and turned out, while a lot of young and nonwhite people were a little frustrated and demotivated about Obama’s lack of progress and stayed home.”

    Hmmm, even if that’s true that seems to only feed into SJ’s over-all analysis of people just jumping in any direction at the spur of the moment. Only instead of voting for either, they just don’t voteor suddenly do.

    But I don’t think that’s the underlining case as it doesn’t take into account people who consistently do their civil duties and always vote, or explain the divide between Romney and other candidates. Conservatives may be frustrated with the Republican leadership, but that’s because those like Romney are indeed “independants/moderates” in all but name, yet we see them still getting a good chunk of support, which supports SJ’s argument.

    As this stint with the Catholic church has shown there ARE plenty of people who take the “moderate” route (no matter what partisonship they call themselves), and are surprised when it fails. Even if a lot of “young and nonwhite people” had been fired up, the election would have been very different indeed if 54% of Catholics hadn’t let themselves be duped by Obama’s excessive media-hype (and that goes for more people than just Catholics). And I’d say in 2010 it was FAR FAR more than “older white people” that was fired up.

    So I’m not even going to predict what will come out of 2012 election, because frankly as we’ve seen people are prone to move where ever the wind blows them until the second they reach the ballot box. All I’ll say is I don’t expect any real change taking place for the country, especially if it’s between Obama and Romney.

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