If I undertook to write about partisan politics for dummies, I’d immediately have your attention. Many people think that’s all partisan politics is for. It’s everyone’s favorite punching bag.
But I’ll argue that partisan politics is forever with us and a good thing, so we may disagree. At least if we avoid capital letters, there’s no trademark rub with the popular “For Dummies” book series. Anyone cover a cut with a generic bandaid or xerox on an off-brand copier, after all.
So I come to praise partisan politics, not to bury them. If that sounds crazy or wrong, it doesn’t make you a dummy in the sense of low IQ. But it may do so in the sense of that book series – someone who just never got up to speed on a subject. Politically, I dare you to do it now. Really you can’t afford not to.
Several straws in the April wind bring this up. Harris Kenny of the libertarian Reason Foundation tells The Denver Post that for him and other young voters, “the future is nonpartisan.” Jason Salzman of the progressive Bigmedia.org complains in the Huffington Post that partisan Republicans (me included) “overwhelm” Democrats as voices in the Denver media.
Petitioners set out to make the Colorado secretary of state’s office nonpartisan after Democratic chairman Rick Palacio brands the GOP incumbent, Scott Gessler, as shockingly partisan. Some Republicans brand their state chairman, Ryan Call, as a liberal after he appeals for cooler rhetoric and fewer charges of “RINO” (Republican in name only) or “establishment.”
Meanwhile the new super-PACs overshadow the old parties as Romney takes on Obama. The waters are further roiled by such well-funded upstarts as the No Labels effort, targeting Congress, and the Americans Elect movement, promising a bipartisan presidential ticket with one maverick from each party.
Never mind that this led to a train wreck with Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr after the deadlocked election of 1800, necessitating a constitutional amendment. Our transpartisan dreamers missed that in school, which is typical of these earnest folks. Sam Cooke’s “Don’t know much about history” could be their national anthem.
History teaches ten reasons why partisan politics is fortunately here to stay: (1) Power corrupts; human beings tend to lie, cheat, steal, and overreach. (2) Parties check each other’s stewardship of power and fulfillment of promises.