The Real Problem With Partisanship

If you read the same websites I do, then you’re probably very familiar with arguments against strong partisanship. These arguments typically focus on the idea that having too much exposure to arguments that support our pre-existing beliefs make us ill-equipped to consider arguments opposed. Thus, when we feel partisanship, we’re taken further away from the objective truth. In other words, we’re mislead into false beliefs.

A good example here would be the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the Iraq War. Evidence of chemical weapons was found in Iraq, although reasonable people can certainly disagree as to whether this evidence is consistent with pro-war claims about WMDs. Evidence of WMDs once having been in Iraq is not the same thing as evidence of WMDs currently being in Iraq. We’ll never know the exact truth here, but we can come to reasonable conclusions based on the objective facts. The problem is that one side of the discussion – typically the Democrats – insists that “there were no weapons,” while the other side of the discussion – typically the Republicans – insists that “we found them.” Both claims are absolutely false. The truth is, we found inconclusive evidence.

So, as I was saying, this is the kind of thing that is usually pointed to as evidence against being overly partisan – we draw false conclusions and then argue about them passionately. But I have another, even better reason why we shouldn’t be overly partisan that has nothing to do with reaching the wrong conclusion on a particular dispute.

We should avoid partisanship because our political parties betray our loyalty by using it to stay in power and then burdening us with taxes, regulations, and costs that have nothing to do with our reasons for being partisan.

An example of this would be the public’s perception of the Republican Party in Texas. The reasons people in Texas are Republicans include: They are social conservatives, they believe in small government, they believe in the Second Amendment, they are in favor of small business, they oppose abortion, and so on. As you can see, these are the reasons most people in general are loyal Republicans.

While people in Texas are faithfully voting to re-elect their Republican state politicians, those politicians are becoming entrenched in the state politics here. That is, they are becoming susceptible to corruption, as any career politician who sits in the same office year after year is bound to do. This has nothing to do with whether or not these politicians are “Republicans;” if the people of Texas only ever voted for Democrats, the same level of corruption would exist, and only the rhetoric would change slightly.

So, Texas Republican politicians end up doing a lot of crooked things. They force the state government into massively expensive projects that benefit their well-connected friends at the expense of the rest of the population of Texas. They divert development projects and money to their friends, rather than opening things up to fair competition. They take on spending initiatives that don’t need to be taken on, merely because their friends will benefit. It is the typical, sleazy business that corrupt politicians always engage in, no matter what party they belong to or what part of the world they are from.

The simplest solution to a problem like this is to vote the incumbents out of office. In many cases, this might mean voting for a Democrat, or a Libertarian, or a Green, or an independent. In other words, it might involve voting for people who do not share your party affiliations. But, on the other hand, they are far less likely to be already-entrenched in the hidden infrastructure of corruption, the machine run by the Republican incumbents currently in power. So, even if these new folks wanted to be corrupt, they are less able to be so because they have to build their corruption from the ground floor.

In practical terms, this means that by voting out the incumbents, you will end up with less corruption and less wasteful and predatory spending. All you have to do is find the strength to vote for a politician who does not completely agree with you on social conservatism, or the Second Amendment, or abortion, or etc.

I’m not saying that those other issues aren’t important, I’m simply saying that we have to make a rational assessment of the circumstances. What impacts you every day? Abortion? Gun control? Or an endless sea of road construction that is only happening because the corrupt politicians are in bed with the construction companies? It’s possible that abortion or gun control affects you more than this endless wasteland of construction costing you time and money, and in some cases loss of life from traffic accidents, on a daily basis. If so, you should definitely vote according to your needs on abortion or gun control.

I suspect, however, that for most people, the immediate and every-day corruption that is making our lives miserable is a more pressing concern than any of those wedge issues that inspire you to re-elect the corrupt politicians you keep voting for. In that case, I might humbly suggest that you vote for someone else this time.

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