“[Fanatics of various hues] hate each other with the hatred of brothers. They are as far apart and close together as Saul and Paul.” – Eric Hoffer, The True Believer
The animosity between the two principal political parties in the U.S. is unusually high these days. Doubtless there are many reasons, but I’ve been thinking lately more about the ramifications rather than the reasons. These two parties are a set of Saul and Paul of whom Hoffer spoke. They hate each other, but depend on each other for mutual existence. Without the Saul, or “devil” of an “other,” a political party sits like a child on a see-saw with no partner. The party out of power counts on the unrealistic expectations placed in and the incompetence of the ruling party. The opposition knows it will have its turn when we the people “throw the bums out.” So they sit and criticize, whine and obstruct while the ruling party steamrolls, blunders, and overreaches. If it weren’t for the incompetence of each party, the other may never come to power. And so they are like the moon, needing the sun to go away so it can be seen, but not too far away so it can still reflect the sun’s light.
This has always been the case, but these day there’s a new twist. The political news pre-packaging industry (Air Amolbermann and Sean O’Limbeck amid others) exaggerate the faults of the other while diminishing those of their own ilk. And too many Americans on both sides are duped into thinking they are really getting “fair and balanced” political news, just because it sits well with their own opinions–after all, I’m Paul. We conveniently don’t have to think, because as long as we only listen to one side of the argument, no one will poke holes or make us ask hard questions.
This disinformation 1) creates more extremism, and thereby 2) generates (not coincidentally) more money for the extremes of each party as Americans are led to believe the other side is made up of Sauls. The results of this are more extreme candidates, leading to more extreme positions, leading to more gridlock in government, leading to an inability for government to function, to effect its goals as outlined in the preamble to the Constitution and similar state and local government constitutions and charters.
What compounds this situation is that the people the parties are putting forward as candidates are not as good as they should be. They are party men and women whose allegiance is to the party’s platform, not the Constitution or its goals. So when they get into office, they don’t look to promote the general welfare, but to promote the party welfare. Rather than provide for the common defense, they provide for the party defense. And this, rather than forming a more perfect union, fractures the union.
Incumbents, pragmatists, independents, and centrists are dropping like flies. Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter are only the first of many more expected to fall victim to the “you just aren’t extreme enough for me” fervor. Charlie Crist, the moderate and very popular Republican Governor of Florida withdrew from pursuing the Republican nomination for the Senate because a more extreme candidate was going to beat him in the primary. He’s now running as an independent.
Here’s the point of my post. Centrists and moderates from either side of the great dividing line between right and left (there are 300 million opinions as to where that line falls) need to support people like Crist. As much as I hate to say it, we need to send them money. The last thing the Senate in particular and the federal government in general needs is more gridlock—they’re already ineffective enough. It needs moderating voices and people who can reach across the aisle. That act alone is treasonous to party people, and that extremism is ruining our country.
Government only happens through cooperation and log-rolling, not through obstruction and steamrolling. Government should be an action, not an inaction, not an ideology, not a political weapon. We the people need to support people who will represent the people and the goals of the Constitution, not the parties.