Friday, January 04, 2008

Partisan Polarization, Not

On Friday's ATC NPR gives a lot of attention to a one day conference in Oklahoma. According to Michele Norris, "there's a movement afoot to try to fix a broken, polarized system, or at least there's a one day bipartisan forum geared in that direction. A group of centrists will gather...."

Norris talks to former Sen. David Boren, now the president of University of Oklahoma who tells us "what we've seen, and it's been growing over the last twenty years is partisan polarization and it's literally paralyzing the country."

This kind of report illuminates the ideological bent of NPR. Is polarization what is broken about our political system? What about corporate influence, the military industrial complex, the role of money in campaigns, etc.

In the report Boren claims that Republicans and Democrats both block any legislative moves by the opposing party, and Norris offers silent assent. As readers of this blog know, I'm no big fan of Democrats, but seriously, to put equal blame on Democrats and Republicans for polarization is ridiculous. Anyone who follows politics knows that Republicans have moved to the far right and - since Gingrich's contract on America - have adopted a take-no-prisoners approach to politics. Consider Clinton's impeachment or the "nuclear option" in the Senate a few years back.

Secondly, in the wake of 9/11 there was an astounding (disgraceful?) bipartisan backing of everything Republicans proposed. Where was polarization in the attack on Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, and the invasion of Afghanistan? The polarization has come from the Republican Party with its far right militarism, homophobia, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and extremist Christian attacks on our secular system of government.

NPR insists on calling this "Bipartisanship Conference" a meeting of "centrists" as if the center lies between the extreme right of the Republican party and the center right of the Democratic Party. This skewed view of the ideological continuum explains a lot about NPR's constrained coverage of the news.

1 comment:

Michael Mealling said...

I somewhat agree with your final conclusion but as a small government Republican/neo-libertarian I can assure you that the other side views the Democrats as being just as obstructionist. Democrats continually block things like school vouchers, private retirement accounts to replace Social Security, and all out retreat in the face of militant islamists.

Bipartisanship as Bloomberg and Unity08 describe it is simply death by a thousand compromises. You can only compromise so much before you come right up against fundamentally inviolable core principles. And those are the things the people are willing to fight and die for.

What I'm wondering is whether or not we can get to a new understanding of federalism where we all learn to leave each alone instead of everyone running to the Federal Government to force everyone to be purple. If we keep trying to turn Idaho into Massachusetts and vice versa its just going to get worse.

And you can't wish it away by simply assuming the other half of the country is just going to drop all of its core principles and come running to your side.