Archive | June 2018

Mugwumps Redux

I remember in college studying political science and history that I thought countries whose political parties were bound by ideology was better than the chaos I saw in our parties. Each of the two of them had fairly broad ideological umbrellas.  Later I came to appreciate the value of diversity within parties.  Now I deeply miss those broad ideological umbrellas within each party.  Both of our major parties are bound by increasingly extreme versions of their ideologies.  Watching TV ads from South Carolina where GOP candidates are trying to outdo each other in right-wing extremism I feel our Republic is in danger of abandoning democracy.
And please don’t give me that nonsense about “we are a republic, not a democracy.”  All the term “republic” means is that we do not have a hereditary monarchy.  Every tyranny of every stripe calls itself a republic.  The term comes from Roman history.  When they overthrew the last of the seven kings who were the first rulers of Rome, they declared the new government “res publica,” which means law by the public.  So we are a republic just like the USSR, the GDR, the PRC, etc.  What distinguishes us from them is that we are a representative democracy.  The term “republic” only means that our government governs by common popular consent.  What those who say, “we are not a democracy but a republic are saying” is disturbing to me.  That seems to indicate real discomfort with the complexity and uncertainties, the messiness of democracy.  To me that represents a very real danger to our society as well as our system of government.  Plato was the first to explain how democracy gives way to tyranny.  We saw it in the artificial democracies imposed on much of Europe by Wilson and Versailles that almost all became fascist regimes between the world wars.  We are seeing a resurgence of this all over the world today and our President and his minions seems to favor those regimes over our traditional allies.
Both parties are in need of reformers and moderates.  I have said many times that this is the most credible way out of the current situation.  TR led the way at the start of the last century out of a very similar political and social malaise remembered as The Gilded Age (shiny on the surface and rotten beneath).  I think we are experiencing a second gildeed age and the political extremism we see is a symptom of that.  So is government by self-serving billionaires.
There are several efforts to get us out of this situation and No Labels is just one of them.  Public Citizen is another which has been around for a long time.
You may remember my essay about Mugwumps and why we should be Mugwumps.
These were mostly Republican political activists in the last quarter of the 19th century.  I’ll close with Mark Twain on partisanship as “normal insanity.”  (Do not mistake his comments on Islam as anything but how an ideological Christian sees another faith.  Twain hated all forms of bigotry, including that based on faith).  The introductory sentence is by Jonathan Haidt.

[In a 1907 essay title Christian Science, Mark Twain explains the normal psychology of group identity, and spins it into a plea for moral humility:]

“Let us consider that we are all partially insane. It will explain us to each other, it will unriddle many riddles, it will make clear and simple many things which are involved in haunting and harassing difficulties and obscurities now…

“That is a simple rule, and easy to remember. When I, a thoughtful and unbiased Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any question every Mohammedan is insane; not in all things, but in religious matters. When a thoughtful and unbiased Mohammedan examines the Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am spiritually insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because you never can prove anything to a lunatic–for that is part of his insanity and the evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane, for my mind has the same defect that afflicts his. All democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it; none but the republicans and mugwumps know it. All the republicans are insane, but only the democrats and mugwumps can perceive it. The rule is perfect; in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane. When I look around me I am often troubled to see how many people are mad [gives long list]… This should move us to be charitable toward one anothers lunacies.”