First, let us deal with Bloomberg's gimpy straw man. No serious Republican or Democrat says anything of the sort. Rather, what partisans usually say is that their party can be trusted more than the other party to move the country in the right direction. Bill Clinton borrowed generously from Republican policy initiatives - remember welfare reform? - and so has President Bush on such issues as education reform and Medicare. Democrats and Republicans may not brag about co-opting the opposition's positions, but that doesn't mean they aren't compromising.
Bloomberg's dream of a New Politics transcending partisan bickering is deeply seductive. Who wouldn't want to live in a society where government just did good things without interference from special interests and other forces of selfishness? A big part of John F. Kennedy's appeal was his claim to represent a New Politics based on what Bloomberg now calls "managerial competence." As JFK said: "Most of the problems ... that we now face, are technical problems, are administrative problems," best left to the best and brightest, starting with JFK himself.
That was nonsense then, and it's nonsense now. Calling it "managerial competence" won't make political decision-making any less political.
Moreover, political parties aren't the source of our disagreements, but the vehicles by which we express them. For much of American history, political parties weren't so ideologically distinct. Some of the most passionate liberals - aka Progressives - were Republicans, and some of the most ardent conservatives were Democrats. But we still had political disagreements.
Indeed, the Founders didn't really anticipate parties at all. But they did expect what Alexander Hamilton called "factions," recognizing that our democratic republic couldn't work without them. Oh, and every third-grader is supposed to understand that Congress and the White House were designed to compete with each other. Just Google "separation of powers" if you don't believe me.
Democracy isn't about agreement, but disagreement. People have different interests and ideals. Getting rid of parties - or "transcending" them - won't get rid of disagreements. To believe otherwise is the height of utopianism.
Obviously, Bloomberg is no Mussolini or Hitler. He's not even a dime-store JFK. But if this "man of action" thinks he has the "managerial competence" to take the politics out of politics, he's as utopian as they come and deserves to be president of no place.
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