In Defense of Partisan Bickering

at 11:43 PM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 7 years old.

I rise in defense of partisan bickering. Everyone deplores it, or claims to, even the politicians who do it. Yet it continues, and for good reason: the parties are deeply divided. Democrats want more government spending and regulation of business. Republicans think both are ruinous. Democrats say guns kill people. Republicans say guns protect people. Democrats are alarmed over climate change. Republicans over proposals to address it. I could go on.

When, as now, each side believes the other is ruining the country, each understandably concludes that the national interest requires partisan warfare, not a renunciation of it. Blame who or what you will for the deep divide, but don't think it would all go away if only politicians stopped squabbling. To them and their many followers, they are fighting a good and necessary fight against opponents who make reasonable accommodation nearly impossible. Telling these warriors to compromise is like telling the different sides of the Grand Canyon to meet in the middle.

We are part of the problem. Though we deplore incivility, we give politicians credit not for good manners but only for good results, however we define that.

And so the political warriors battle under a thin veneer of civility and with lip service to bipartisanship. However disgusted we may be, the fighting and the pretense continue because the warriors believe they must fight to save the country and must pretend to be peaceable to placate the public.

I try to be undisgusted. I don't like the blood sport and the gridlock, but I respect its causes: deep policy differences and a flawed political system that rewards ideologues.


So here's to discord and diminished expectations. We may be entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but no one ever said democracy should or would be easy.

With a Perspective, I'm Jeremy Friedlander.

Jeremey Friedlander lives in San Francisco.