In a post yesterday on bipartisanship James Joyner wrote this
As I’ve noted many times, American politics is rather odd. Compared to our European counterparts, our two major parties are remarkably similar in ideology.
with which I agree and this
There’s a bipartisan consensus (not shared by each individual, of course, but by the leadership) that we should have a massive military budget, a small-by-European-standards welfare state, have more-or-less free global trade, have a slightly progressive tax system, and so on and so forth. The debate, really, is at the margins. Or, as George Will often put it, “a football game played between the 40 yard lines.”
with which I have a few quibbles. I think there has been an American consensus but I don’t think it’s precisely along those lines. I think it takes a somewhat more general form so that instead of a consensus that we should have a massive military budget the consensus is more along the lines that the world is a dangerous place, there are people out there who would do us harm, the country is worth defending, and we have a right to do so. The massive military budget is the consequence of how the consensus is implemented in practice rather than the consensus itself.
There are some other specific policy items in the national consensus. For example, there’s rather obviously a consensus that the next generation should receive an education and that the responsibility for paying for that extends beyond the kids’ parents.
In my view most of the consensus isn’t about policy but about meta-policy. One of those items of meta-policy sure seems to me as though there were a serious danger of the consensus’s evaporating: the idea that our differences can be worked out without violence or compulsion, in discourse.
In a post over at Dean’s World, Aziz Poonawalla, whom I generally consider a reasonable guy, wrote the following:
Ron Paul’s views and his hate towards minorities and gays is actually well within the mainstream of the GOP, a party that has exploited divisions in its cultural war (one that promises to be waged anew should Huckabee take the nomination). The essay describes Paul as an iconoclast within the GOP, but other than his view on Iraq, he isn’t really beyond the party orthodoxy (and even is Iraq views have a solid grounding in the paleocon school, who are out of favor at present but clearly remain a part of the base).
which I don’t think is particularly reasonable but, unfortunately, is a view that seems to be gaining steam.
The problem with that view is that, if genuinely heinous, unacceptable views are within the mainstream of a political party, there’s no basis for compromise, negotiation, or discourse with that party. Additionally, if you can’t convince those who hold such views (mockery, sarcasm, and insults are not a form of persuasion, they’re an impediment to persuasion), your only alternatives would appear to be to physically overpower your opponents or harness the force of government to do so whatever representative democracy might say, darn it. There would be a moral imperative to do so.
I continue to believe that the differences between our political parties are less important than the similarities and there’s plenty of room for solutions to the problems that face us that won’t violate the fundamental beliefs of either. But I’m honestly beginning to fear for the Republic.