Friday, November 26, 2004

On the Beaches

You often hear that the two-party system is not part of the American Constitution, but this commonplace is only true if you are referring to the document of that name rather than the underlying structure of our polity. As recent history demonstrates, our vaunted system of checks and balances simply doesn’t work without warring factions. Executive is not moderated by the legislature or the judiciary when all three branches are controlled by the same interests, especially in the effective absence of a free press. Under the circumstances, now really is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party— not because the Democrats are an impressive bunch but because there is no alternative to maintaining an alternative. Or do you really want to rely on the self-restraint of ideologues who believe that the secret of political success is immoderation and that all internal as well as external dissent must be stifled?

Many people find it difficult to resist calls for bipartisanship even though in the mouth of Bush or Chaney, “bipartisanship” has a lot in common with earlier slogans such as “peaceful coexistence” or “It’s all right. You’re going to be deloused.” Like all revolutionaries, our rightists absolutely depend upon the forbearance of their enemies, who are expected to be tolerant even of those who are intolerant as a matter of principle. The heck with that. Let us deny them bread and salt.

Partisanship certainly has a cost, but having allowed things to deteriorate to the current pass, we have to accept the obligation to bear this cost. For example, in states like California and in much of the Northeast, the Republican Party still plays its normal role as one of the quarreling partners that make free government possible. From a local point of view, it is a good thing that Republicans are sometimes elected governor or senator in true blue states. Unfortunately, until the general crisis passes, any such advantage must be outweighed by national considerations; and all Republicans are the enemy, most especially the reasonable ones.

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