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The problem with partisanship

September 7, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
A couple of things come to my mind after the Democratic convention this week.

The Democrats had a consistent theme at their convention of working together, insuring that opportunity is there for everyone and not just a chosen few, recognizing the contributions of – and the obligations to – the workers who make a business successful. In their view, providing a Pell grant or an internship opportunity or some other assistance is not a handout but giving a person an opportunity to succeed. They see government programs as providing opportunities for those people that will eventually help shore up the country's middle class. Their consistent message was the necessity to rebuild the economy from the middle class out as opposed to so-called "trickle down economics," which they said does not work. In other words, feel proud of your accomplishments but also acknowledge all the help you got along the way.

The Democrats want to emphasize their belief in the importance of community and the obligations that citizens have to help each other. Every single speaker, from Caroline Kennedy to actress Eva Longoria to Michelle Obama stuck to the Democratic talking points like glue. They knew what they wanted to get across and they stayed on message. Sadly, they didn't put up a speaker who rivaled Clint Eastwood at the Republican convention for entertainment value.

The Democrats also had a brief scuffle over whether to remove references to God and Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel in the party platform. Some hardliners apparently wanted to take those references out; President Obama insisted they put them back in. Commentators chalked that dispute up to some tension between non-religious Democrats and Democrats aware of the need to appeal to a broad base who do value support for Israel and for religious faith.

At their convention, the Republicans placed greater emphasis on smaller government and less regulation of businesses and individuals, lower taxes, and much greater emphasis on individualism. They believe as sincerely as the Democrats do that this is the best way to help the country recover from the financial crisis and ultimately to help people succeed.

Hence, the strong philosophical divide between the two parties that seems to be becoming more evident with every passing year. One of the commentators on PBS noted that there was a time when it was possible for each party to have different wings and it was considered a strength to have liberal and conservative Republicans or liberal and conservative Democrats, etc. That doesn't seem to be the case any longer. Now the parties seem to be actively purging their outliers in the name of political purity.

Former Florida governor Charlie Crist spoke at the Democratic convention last night and told the crowd, to paraphrase: "I didn't leave the Republican party. The Republican party left me." Crist apparently took considerable heat from his party for appearing to work with Obama instead of opposing him, even though he also told the crowd that he doesn't agree with Obama on every possible point.

Any body of legislators needs to, at some point, stop arguing and make some compromises to get things done. It is unfortunate that someone like Crist couldn't stay in his own party and still work with the Democrats from time to time.

We've seen the fruits of that sort of attitude in the past four years, to everyone's detriment.


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