As someone who tries to evaluate specific public policies based on their merits and adherence to my long-held libertarian philosophy, I’ve been increasingly dispirited by the crazy partisanship that has consumed our political debates. We are supposed to pick one team and then cheer on the opposing team.
“Don’t you know that politics is binary?” When I was critical of a Trump-related policy (e.g. tariffs), my conservative friends asked. In their view, Republicans always are better on balance than the Democrats, so I need to join their side and fight—even when they promote idiocy. Partisans believe it is all about the next election.
When I call balls and strikes—those Supreme Court justice nominations are great, but trying to steal an election endangers our democracy—I’m apparently a sellout. Even though I routinely criticize California’s Democratic politicians, I’m thrilled on the rare instances that they advance sensible ideas—such as when Gavin Newsom signed a package of long-overdue police reforms.
Good public policy is the ultimate goal, regardless of who advocates it. When politics becomes a fight for power, it can be difficult to influence the behavior of our “allies”. Perhaps holding both Republicans and Democrats accountable for routinely violating their stated principles might push them to reconsider the positions they take. Well, hope springs eternal.
I wrote about Democratic reactions to Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal in Kenosha shootings, Wis. and an incident involving a cop shooting in the same city. Bulwark‘s Charlie Sykes complained about “The tyranny of ideological narratives.” It’s an important observation. Both sides tend to jump to tribal-based conclusions regarding specific events, and the hot take is always so predictable and banal.
However, when we become ideologically rigid in our thinking, we are less able to discern nuanced differences. We can never even agree on the basic facts of any given situation (even if it’s caught on video) and end up advancing morally dubious and even clownish positions.
This ideological dictatorship leads politicians to be more interested in talking and less about governing. They are primarily interested in energizering their base. They avoid reasonable ideas and seek to increase partisan anger. Few politicians do this more consistently than the populist Republican Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.).
Hawley spoke to conservative groups this month and described a declining masculinity as one the country’s greatest problems. Hawley said, “I want tonight to focus on the destruction of men. Not because men are less important but because I think the Left has made a wider attack on America through the attack on men. And because this attack on men is already far advanced,” he said.
For years, the populist right had a bizarre view of menliness that was almost juvenile. The majority of men are male, and have suffered from some form of disability for some time. Therefore it is absurd to portray them as victims of some premeditated attack. The politics of victimization, whether it comes from conservatives or liberals, has become so tiresome.
There’s a legitimate argument that, say, a rapidly changing economy, a government-run educational system that sees college (rather than trades) as the one-size-fits-all approach and the spread of government-assistance programs, has led many men into a life of idleness, substance abuse, and despair. This pox has ravaged some working-class as well as poor communities.
Hawley instead of trying to address a long-standing cultural/economic issue, he uses it as an excuse for his enemies and claims they are attacking half of the country. He takes a serious societal conundrum and turns it into a political battle cry rather than a search for practical solutions.
Of course, leftists aren’t looking for solutions to any problem beyond their go-to answer of increasing government spending. Leftists stick to their ideological narratives when inflation is predictable and painless. They told us that there wasn’t real inflation and then blamed everything else.
They can’t deny the reality of rising oil prices, rising meat and poultry prices, and an overall increase in inflation of 6.3 percent. We are told that inflation is not a problem. “It’s the predictable product of the economy’s rapid recovery, and its cost has been offset, to a large degree, by robust wage growth and government policies,” argued MSNBC columnist James Surowiecki.
We obviously can’t address an inflation crisis if we’re arguing that the erosion of Americans’ savings and their inability to buy homes and cars actually isn’t that big of a deal. That’s the result of politics becoming completely binary. If the GOP was in power, it is likely that the “inflation are OK” crowd would make the opposing argument.
There’s not much we can do other than commit ourselves to viewing the world more as a referee and less like a cheerleader.
This column appeared in The Orange County Register for the first time.