This gem by way of QandO blog and Think Progress:
So... Gregory and Snow agree that the blogosphere has exacerbated these new extremes of "hateful" partisan "polarization" in American politics. Bloggers at QandO and ThinkProgress take umbrage (as did blogs from across the political spectrum including Starked, The RNC Blog, Noisyroom.net, RedState, TexasFred, Hullaballoo, Shakespeare's Sister, Crooks and Liars, etc.) And just like that, Gregory and Snow have swept away all political partisanship in the blogosphere in a unified display of bi-partisan outpouring of scorn heaped on umm... Gregory and Snow.
"NBC News’ David Gregory bemoaned how political coverage has “become so polarized in this country…because it’s the internet and the blogs that have really used this White House press conferences to somehow support positions out in America, political views.” Tony Snow admitted he sometimes reads blogs (”I’ll occasionally punch it up”) only to find “wonderful, imaginative hateful stuff that comes flying out.”
QandO blogs reaction serves as a proxy:
While they may differ on who is to blame for the polarization, all agree that this political polarization is really, really bad. Indeed, I just received another e-mail from Sam Waterston, the trusted face of the Unity08 promoters (noted anti-polarizers) asking for donations to help fight this scourge of polarized partisan politics in America. Unity08, despite having no candidates, and no actual positions on any issues facing this country, is garnering all kinds of publicity, built a slick web-site with a large community, and working on raising millions of dollars. All this on the strength of nothing but taking a principled stand against partisan polarized politics. Here Unity08 speaks out boldly on "What We Believe":
"Blogs aren't the reason that political coverage has "become so polaraized in this country", they're the result. The reason for such polarization lies with the political and journalistic class in this country."
So this is what I don't get. Exactly when in our history did this golden era of partisan comity, respectful debate, and political unity (which we are apparently so nostalgic for) actually occur?
"Unity08 believes that neither of today’s major parties reflects the aspirations, fears or will of the majority of Americans. Both have polarized and alienated the people."
Just tell me - when was it like that? When?
I wonder, because my understanding of our history is that the kind of rancor and political polarization in the United States we see today is the rule, and not the exception. In fact, it strikes me that in historical context, we are today quite a bit less polarized and extreme than these examples:
And of course there is the particularly divisive 1860 election, when we as a country, actually decided to spend the post election environment literally shooting and killing over 600,000 of our fellow citizens.
"During the nation's first contested presidential election in 1796, supporters of Vice President John Adams charged his challenger, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, with atheism, sexual improprieties, and dangerous revolutionary intentions. For their part, Jefferson backers accused Adams of plotting to establish a monarchy, crown himself king, and ally the country with its foe, Great Britain."
"In the election of 1800, Vice President Thomas Jefferson was tarred as an agent of the French Revolution..."
"Opponents of Andrew Jackson accused him of murder, while Old Hickory’s men whispered that his rival John Quincy Adams had been, while U.S. minister to Russia, a pimp for the tsar.."
"In 1864 the Lincoln reelection campaign equated opposition to the president and the Republican party with disloyalty to the Union..., depicted the Democrats essentially as traitors."
"Democrats also got personal, characterizing Grant as an alcoholic, uncouth, simple-minded, unprincipled, Negro-loving tyrant... "
"After the Civil War the Republicans would "wave the bloody shirt"-that is, associate the Democratic party with secession and opposition to the Union war effort-in every presidential election into the 1880s. The 1868 Democratic presidential nominee, Horatio Seymour, was an especial target of the "bloody shirt" because while New York governor in 1863 he had addressed the New York City draft rioters as "My friends." Others labeled his links to the Peace Democrats as the equivalence of treason."
"Democrats accused Rutherford Hayes of stealing the pay of deceased soldiers while he was a Union general, opposing citizenship for all immigrants, and income tax fraud. One Democrat encouraged the Tilden camp, to no avail, to investigate the question, "Did Hayes shoot his mother in a fit of insanity?"
"An Oct. 26 headline in the New York Times: "President Likens Dewey to Hitler as Fascists’ Tool."
One is tempted to suggest that unity, political civility, and polite debate is downright Un-American.
This interesting fact is from the same excellent HarpWeek website quoted above:
By comparison, the Voter turnout in the recent 2006 midterm election was slightly over 40%, an increase over the 39.7% turnout in the 2002 midterms. In the 2004 and 2000 presidential elections the turnout was 55% and 50% respectively.
"The period from 1840 to 1890 has been labeled "the party period" and "the golden age of parties" because the major political parties (Democrats and Whigs until the mid-1850s, then Democrats and Republicans) were the strongest they have been in American history. Party leaders used patronage and campaign practices that aroused partisan enthusiasm to gain wide membership and keep them loyal and active. It worked. Voter turnout during this period was the highest in American history: between 70 and 80 percent for presidential elections and sometimes higher in state and local contests."
Sure, this is only a couple of data points, but being a polarizing blogger I have no problem leaping to a sweeping conclusion. It seems pretty obvious to me, that if we want more participation by the American voting populace, we want more, not less, political polarization. And conversely, a unified, politically correct, socially acceptable and boring form of partisan discourse, will inevitably result in less participation in the political process.
What to do ? I suggest we just don't pay attention to those Un-American unifiers.
Instead, I submit for your consideration - Divided We Stand United We Fall Rule #1:
Polarized Partisan Politics Promotes Popular Participation.