po·lar·i·za·tion (pō'lər-ĭ-zā'shən)Apparently, partisan political polarization is a bad thing. In a recent Policy Analysis from the Cato Institute, David Boaz and David Kirby claim:
A concentration, as of groups, forces, or interests, about two conflicting or contrasting positions.
CBSNews.com editor Dick Meyer is a favorite of this blog. His '04 column on divided government is highlighted among the permanent links listed in the sidebar on the right. He recently opined on the state of political polarization in America, with his article "Marketing Polarization For Fun & Votes"
"The main theme of political commentary in this decade is polarization. Since the battles over the impeachment of President Clinton and the Florida vote in 2000, pundits have been telling us that we're a country split down the middle, red vs. blue, liberal vs. conservative. Political analysts talk about base motivation and the shrinking of the swing vote. But the evidence says they are wrong."
If anyone should know about partisan polarization, it is the team over at Unity08. They launched a bold new political organization based on nothing more than being against political partisan polarization in America today. On the front page they declare 'Eight out of ten Americans believe Congress is too polarized to solve our nation's problems." Doug Bailey, a member of the Unity08 Founders Council was interviewed in the Washington Post shortly after the organization was announced.
"...the standard uber-narrative of American politics and society at this point in history: the country is polarized — red and blue, "two Americas," and 50/50 America. This is culture war and you better know whose side you are on. Despite its canonization in conventional wisdom, polarization is a theory, not a fact. It's a theory I don't fully buy, primarily because I've been convinced otherwise by Stanford political scientist Morris Fiorina. In "Culture War: The Myth of a Polarized America," Fiorina argues that the political elites are indeed polarized, to the point of rabidity. But a great swath of the non-politicized, regular population isn't polarized, isn't partisan (indeed is anti-partisan) and has a rather similar and even tolerant view of the basic civic values. They are just given polarized choices in the voting booth."
Hmmm... Maybe they are not the authorities on polarization I hoped they would be. Between the website that says 80% of Americans are against polarization, to Doug Baily starting the interview saying 75% of Americans are against polarization, and by the end of the interview saying 60% are against polarization, I guess I am a little confused. It is a puzzlement. - Do I really want to be part of an organization whose base of support among the American people dropped by 15 percentage points over the course of a single interview?
"Would Unity serve as a moderating influence on both parties, helping to marginalize the extremists?
Doug Bailey: Unity08 will draw on members of both the big parties who have been alienated by their leadership. We want everybody. We feel that only about 25% of the electorate is really satisfied with either of the two big parties...
Will this exciting UNITY08 consultant party have any room for bloggers? It seems like they are making a lot of noise, and might have to be accommodated in any matrix that includes movers-and-shakers.
Doug Bailey: Bloggers are welcome of course. But sometimes one gets the impression that the bloggers feel that they are talking back and forth across the fence (or barricades) mostly to each other. So if you are a blogger in the middle we especially want to hear you. You represent the 60% of Americans who don't feel they are at either end of the spectrum."
But, perhaps I am picking nits. Perhaps, as a blogger, I am, as Doug hints, actually part of the problem. Perhaps I am among that 20% (or 25% or 40%) that think what we need now, is more partisan political polarization in Washington, not less. But how can anyone support what Joe Gandleman of The Moderate Voice calls a "deadly poison"?:
Wow. Surely, no one could be in favor of a deadly poison like Ricin. No wonder 80% (or 75% or 60%) of the electorate is against it. Even the most polarized partisan blogs of the right and left, are in harmonious uniified agreement that partisan polarization is a bad thing (although, the reader may be shocked to learn that the right thinks that left is to blame, and the left thinks the right is to blame).
"The body politic has been steadily and quietly fed a huge dose of Ricin the past 20 years in the form of intense polarization and rapidly deteriorating political rhetoric that has replaced issue and solution oriented debate with vilification and destruction. "
Many prominent columnists have written favorably about the Unity08 mission, particulary in the flurry of positive coverage they received after the initial announcement in the spring. Among the cheerleaders, the aforementioned Dick Meyer of CBS, David Broder of the Washington Post, and blogger Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice.
But, I am still confused. What does it really mean to be against polarization? If you are against polarization - just exactly what are you for? Is it some sort of council of elders comprised of moderates from both parties convening around a table to develop solutions for the country? Sort of a Council of Elrond, but with Republicans and Democrats instead of hobbits and elves? Problem being, our country and our government is just not built that way. As near as I can tell, political polarization means holding a point of view on politics, and party and issues that is different from other American's view of politics, and party, and issues. And communicating that difference with conviction and strength. Maybe with a little sarcasm thrown in. Possibly including some occasional invective. Perhaps even with some mild profanity.
In a more recent post, the Unity08 team explains that "polarization is not the same as disagreement". Disagreement is good. It's healthy. A democracy depends upon both its people and politicians questioning and debating the critical issues.. but it can be done civilly without blinding bias."
One is tempted to suggest that one man's bias is another man's conviction. Lets just say I am dissatisfied with what I have seen to date from Unity08. In a post today, Doug Baily explains that they have been so busy, that they are overdue updating the website with their progress. A little odd, because as near as I can tell, the website is all there is to the Unity08 initiative. But there you have it:
Baily says they are working to get on the ballot in all 50 states, raise a million bucks, and lay down the ground rules for picking issues. I'll leave it to Jim at the "Irregular Times", who has assumed the important role of Designated Unity08 Heckler to sort those claims out.
"We’ve been going so fast and furious that an update is long-overdue. We just decided that there was no sense competing with the present ongoing election frenzy in seeking coverage of all of this. (That frenzy in every way simply enhances the likely success of Unity08. Has anyone seen a bigger political mess with less leadership from all sides?)."
For my part, I am disappointed with the cavalier way Unity08 dismisses the 2006 midterm election. Possibly it is just a simple recognition by the Founder's Council, that as soon as they actually stand for postions on issues, craft an actual platform, and get behind real live candidates that are running for office, they will, ummm... no longer be able to hold on to anything that resembles "Unity". Best to delay that as long as possible. Certainly there is no point in risking taking a stand on an issue, before they have rasied a a few million dollars.
The 2006 mid-terms are even more important than the 2008 presidential election. Today, we have one party that is control of the exectutive branch as well as holding majorities in both legislative branches. As a direct consequence of that single party control, we have record breaking deficits, runaway spending, a huge wasteful new entitlement program we cannot afford, erosion of constitutional protection of our liberties, the country and military committed to an unnecessary war and occupation executed with such incompetence that it may now be unwinnable, complete abrogation of the congressional oversight responsibilities and breakdown of the traditional checks and balances on power in our government. Just my opinion. Now in my simpleminded view, the solution here is not to find ways to hold a civil discourse with the party in power to politely register dissatisfaction with the path they have taken. My view is that very first step is solving these problems, is to rip some the power away from the single party on watch when the problems were created, and give that power to the oppostion party. This is a fairly simple solution that can be implemented on November 7 of this year.
Lets call this solution "Disunity06" or the "Divided Government Solution".
Now, I'll admit to experiencing publicity envy, when Unity08 was splashed all over the news shortly after I launched this blog. But, something really interesting has happened in the last few months:
While the divided government meme has not reached the peak activity attained by Unity08 at their launch, it is clear that "Disunity06" is now a much more active topic of discussion, and Unity08 has fallen back to noise level in the blogosphere.
So, for any Unity08 refugees, who are looking to actually participate in this critical electoral process in 2006, I humbly submit for your consideration, the Disunity06 alternative and a brief compare and contrast:
Unity08 vs. Disunity06
Reason for existence:
Reason for existence:
"Goal One is the election of a Unity Ticket for President and Vice-President of the United States in 2008 – headed by a woman and/or man from each major party or by an independent who presents a Unity Team from both parties."
Goal one is the election of a divided federal government in 2006, where the executive and majorities in the legislative branches of government are divided across each major party, in order to obtain the fiscal responsibility, spending growth restraint, oversight, and good governance that is completely absent with unified single party control.
Position on 2006 Midterm Election
What? There is an election in 2006??
Vote for better government. Vote for divided government. Vote for Democrats to take a majority in at least one house of congress - preferably the House of Representatives. If the Democrats achieve a majority in both the House and Senate in 2006, vote for a Republican president in 2008. If the Republicans maintain a majority in the House and Senate in 2006, vote for a Democratic President in 2008.
Infrastucture needed to achieve goals.
"Our financing theory is that with a million dollar “bridge” fund of 200 contributions of $5000, we will be able to finance the effort fully until such point in early 2007 when the small contribution funds contributed by willing delegates can self-finance the operation."
"We have been busy briefing potential 2008 candidates and their staffs...It is our goal to be able to show them, as time moves along, that we can put 5-10 million delegates in the hall, get a slot for the ticket on every state ballot, and enable them to raise $100,000,000 or more in campaign funds from the delegate list after the convention has chosen them as the ticket. That will draw leaders."
"We will start the ballot access process immediately after this November’s elections. Steptoe & Johnson has done exhaustive research on all 50 states, and while there will be places where it will be tough, it looks a lot easier than many of us expected."
"The Rules Committee is busy at its task. It is giving a lot of attention, by the way, to the process of delegates drafting a candidate or ticket."
"A solidly-funded movement of up to 20,000,000 Americans can be built online in order to nominate a Unity Ticket of their choice for 2008."
"We are not looking to build a new and permanent party. That might happen, but our objective is to fix the old parties. A Unity Ticket in office for one term or even taking part in just one election can bring new ideas, new integrity and new leaders to the fore."
No contributions. No infrastructure. No political party. No delegates. No convention. No leaders. No candidates. Just common sense, and ...
Just Vote Divided.