November 7, 2006

Participating in the partisan problem

I realized something unfortunate this month: I have become, at least for the duration of this election season, a full-fledged Democratic party liberal. Although I believe in theory that nonpartisanship is a good ideal to aspire to and that we should judge each issue on its merits, I have noticed that distinct feeling of partisan anger and certitude welling up in me every time I read the political news. Without even realizing it, I have become a part of the partisan horserace and developed a feverish hope that Democrats will trounce Republicans across the board today.

I suspect that the Democrats have few better ideas about getting out of Iraq, that they are wrong to reject market solutions to social security insolvency and the failure of inner-city schools, that minimum wage hikes are nothing more than a band-aid solution to America’s widening income inequalities, that it is nonsense to profess support for “civil unions” while opposing gay marriage, that trying to stop “outsourcing” means hurting American companies and sacrificing prosperity, and that to support abortion on demand after two or three months of pregnancy is to defend the indefensible.

I suspect all of these things, and yet I cast my absentee ballot last month almost entirely for Democrats.

I could rationalize this departure from my “independent,” moderately libertarian beliefs as a reflection of the issues I care about most. My almost straight-ticket vote for Democrats, I could say, reflects my disgust with the Iraq war, with the infinite detention and torture of terrorism suspects, with the use of the term “family values” as a thin veil for bigotry. I am casting my vote “retrospectively,” I could say, to register my disapproval with just about every major Bush administration policy initiative.

But there is more to it than that. These days, I find myself relishing news of Republican scandals, even as I know that Democrats have done little better in the past. I find myself looking with contempt upon all things “red state” that I have come to associate with the Republican party. I find myself sneering at some thoughtful, moderate Republicans and rooting for some uninformed, fire-eyed Democrats.

In short, I have succumbed to the temptations of slick political marketing. I have allowed the pre-election media drumbeat to raise my blood pressure and convince me that the course of history itself is at stake in this election. For at least the next few weeks, the ideal I strive for—the calm and evenhanded consideration of the issues that ought to characterize a good political thinker and a good journalist—will be further than ever beyond my reach.