At the root of America s broken politics is hyperbolic
partisanship. It distorts perceptions, inflames disagreements, and
poisons the democratic process. Citizens pine for a time when
liberals and conservatives compromised with one another or they
yearn for a post-partisan future when the common good trumps
ideology and self-interest. Russell Muirhead argues that better
partisanship, not less partisanship, is the solution to America s
political predicament. Instead of striving to overcome our
differences, we should learn how to engage them.
The political conflicts that provide fodder for cable news shows
are not simply manufactured from thin air. However sensationalized
they become in the retelling, they originate in authentic
disagreements over what constitutes the common welfare. Republicans
vest responsibility in each citizen for dealing with bad decisions
and bad luck, and want every individual and family to enjoy the
benefits of good decisions and good luck. Democrats ask citizens to
stand together to insure one another against the worst consequences
of misfortune or poor judgment, and especially to insure children
against some of the consequences of their parents bad decisions or
lack of opportunities. These are fundamental differences that
fantasies of bipartisan consensus cannot dissolve.
Disagreement without parties is disempowering, Muirhead says.
The remedy is not for citizens and elected officials to learn to
just get along but to bring a skeptical sensibility even to their
own convictions, and to learn to disagree as partisans and govern
through compromise despite those disagreements."
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