Meet Unity '08. The plan here is to elect a president and vice president from both parties to lead the way down the middle. I'm not sure what poll they're quoting, but their website tells us, "82% of Americans agree that 'America has become so polarized between Democrats and Republicans that Washington can't seem to make progress solving the nation's problems.'" After identifying that particular problem, it's hard to understand what a bipartisan ticket is supposed to accomplish. Do they want to also 'polarize' the Administration?
There's always been tension in Washington -- as well as every statehouse in the nation -- and this is very, very far from the worst it's ever been. Apparently, people have forgotten that the nation was once 'polarized' by a civil freakin' war. Nobody's shooting yet.
Unity '08 doesn't have a platform. It's a bipartisan ticket -- a president and a vice president from either party -- and that's pretty much it. It's hard to see how this would help anything. Are there bipartisan, middle-of-the-road solutions to the abortion debate or war in Iraq?
What about things like global warming and teaching evolution in schools? On those issues, there is only truth and untruth. Meeting each other halfway would guarantee embracing half-truths, at best. How is that desirable? And how does it help?
I always say that if one side of an argument is crazy, meeting them halfway is halfway crazy. For the record, I'm against halfway crazy solutions. Other political truisms are 'the only thing in the middle of the road is roadkill' and 'quick, name your favorite moderate.'
Moderation sounds great, but only because almost no one thinks they're a radical. But the guy who dismisses global warming 'alarmism' is way outside the mainstream and the woman who believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned isn't in the majority. People always think that it's the other people who are the problem and that if those nuts over there would only meet them halfway, they could make some progress toward whatever extremist nuttiness it is they embrace.
Another problem is that democracy exists for a reason. If we were all in agreement and the divide was only partisanship, we could just get a list of people with nothing else to do and choose the president by lottery. It wouldn't make any difference who sat in the Oval Office, because it wouldn't make any difference what they believed. We'd all be on the same page anyway.
But universal consensus can also be described as a poverty of ideas. It's possible that everyone agrees on a position that later turns out to be entirely incorrect -- think of the Iraq war -- isn't it better to have someone waiting in the wings who's given another position a lot of thought? In fact, wouldn't you want that person fighting the bad idea every step of the way?
Democracy is a competitive system and, as such, is an adversarial system. We fight with each other because the system is designed for it. It's not a system of consensus building, but of debate.
In fact, let me put it another way. Would you look at our adversarial court system and say, "Can't we all just get along?" Of course not, I don't want to meet a criminal or someone looking to limit my rights halfway. Why would I want that in the other branches of government? It's a system of argument and debate.
Unity '08, bipartisanship, and moderation may seem like a good idea, but as I said, people tend to assume that they're the moderates -- that they're the ones dialing back the rhetoric. They assume that someone's going to meet them halfway, not that they're going to have to go out of their own way.
The whole thing sounds nice, but it's really not a very good idea.
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