Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Political Parties

David Frum (of all people!)

The sixth habit: (emphasis added) -

Habit 6: Politics as war.
The business of America is business, as Calvin Coolidge said. American politics has been businesslike too. Americans understand that the business of the nation is ultimately settled by a roomful of tired people negotiating their differences in the small hours of the morning: everybody gets something, nobody gets everything. It’s a grubby business, unavoidably, and most of the time, Americans understand that. They build statues to Martin Luther King. They elect Lyndon Johnson.
From time to time in American politics, differences arise that are too wide to negotiate. Slavery versus no slavery. Prohibition versus drink. Pro-life versus pro-choice. Professional politicians usually keep their distance from absolutist movements. As George Washington Plunkitt observed, “The politicians have got to stand together this way or there wouldn’t be any political parties in a short time.” That line was meant as a joke, but it contains truth. Professional politicians are disagreement managers. Since 2009, however, the GOP has given unprecedented scope to those who for their own ideological, financial, or psychological reasons refuse to allow disagreements to be managed—and instead relentlessly push toward the kind of ultimate crises the country so nearly escaped in 2011 and teeters again on the verge of today.
We get the Civil War (USA), the Partition of India, etc., when the disagreement managers fail.  The disagreement managers fail when one side refuses to allow disagreements to be managed.