Day By Day

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Prospects for Partisanship

Nolan McCarty, a Princeton scholar who has written the book on the subject, takes a look at Congress and notes that levels of partisanship have been rising since the mid-1970's and are continuing to do so; that they have reached levels higher than those of the Gilded Age; and that there is no prospect for the emergence of a bi-partisan consensus in the forseeable future.

Read his analysis here.

This, I would argue, is a good thing. Bipartisanship emerges only in times of genuine crisis, such as the Great Depression or World War II, and can lead to dramatic and fundamental change [not always for the better]. The current partisan rancor shows two important things. First, the American political class, despite all their bleating about "crisis!!!!!" doesn't really believe that we are in that much trouble. If they did they would not be so distracted by debates about abortion rights and the fate of polar bears. Secondly, continuing partisanship means that each and every proposal advanced by either side will be subjected to withering criticism. And that, as a famous criminal likes to say, "is a good thing".

Partisanship is an obstacle to fundamental change -- that is why I support it and it is why fascists of all stripes decry it.