Thursday, March 02, 2006

Out Republicanning the Republicans, or How the Democrats have Lost America.

Paul Wellstone defined politics as, “who wins, who loses, and who decides.”  Another definition is, “a means to solve conflict without the use of force.”  There are innumerable definitions for politics, but they all come down to a simple fact: politics is about winning.  And winning necessitates an opposite: losing.


So, at it’s core, politics is like war: you can either win or lose.  And as generals and emperors throughout history have discovered, in war one can lose even if one wins. 


The current insane debate about Dubai Ports owning operating leases at U.S. ports is demonstrative of the way American politics is no longer about one side winning or losing, but about both sides dragging everyone down with the ship.


There are three parts to the conflict in American politics today.  First there are Democrats, and second are Republicans.  Feel free to invert the order if it makes you more comfortable.  They share equal responsibility in this.  The third element is the American people, or, as I like to call us, America.


The two pugilists in this conflict: Republicans and Democrats, are fighting tooth and nail against the other.  Each side is doing everything within its considerable power to ensure the other side doesn’t gain any advantage.  To ensure that the other side is presented in the worst possible light, and to ensure that the other side comes out of any skirmish as broken and bloody as possible.

That’s great.  Any student of human nature will tell you that mobs react well to spectacles of violence and gore (look up “gladiator” or “coliseum” on wikipedia if you have any doubts).  The problem is, the senators and emperors who kept the Roman empire running for about 1000 years weren’t the guys in the ring fighting.  They also weren’t trying to win over their subjects through the fights.


This is exactly what the Democrats and Republicans are doing with and to America today: we are the trophy to be won, and the prize to be denied.  The fight is no longer about doing what is best for America—about pursuing some form of reasoned (or even unreasoned) dialogue about what is best for the country, and arriving at a resolution that is less than what either side had hoped, but more than they could have rammed through without the dialogue. 


The Dubai Ports situation shows us that, for whatever its faults, the Bush administration may be right: In today’s political environment, the more discussion of a topic, the less likely there is to be something intelligent said about it, and the harder it will be to achieve a responsible solution.


I wonder if the founding fathers ever envisioned a time where more secrecy would actually be the best option for a faltering democracy?  I wonder what they would say to us now, watching us flail about in cycloptic rage?

No comments: