At National Journal, Ron Fournier has a piece, titled "How Malpractice May Kill Our Politics", about the latestPew Research reportreleased last week. He starts off melodramatically: "Picture two old men sharing an ICU unit–fatally ill with a little-known disease, and surrounded by their large families.Now imagine that the relatives (many of them research physicians) don’t spend a minute or a dollar to find a cure. Instead, they squabble over which guy will die first."

The two old men are representative of the Republican and Democratic parties, Fournier explains, and the families they’re surrounded by are hard core political partisans. Fournier goes on, "Are they looking for a cure? No, almost all of the energy on the Left and the Right is spent parsing blame. Yes, Americans hate us, but they should hate the other guy more!"
Fournier’s argument is with these partisans who are parsing blame, "the GOP’s share of blame is 20 percent or 60 percent or 80 percent. Who cares? Not the average voter who merely wants her leaders to work together and get results."
Work together and get results. There are an awful lot of political value judgements inherent in that sentence fragment.
A few years ago I started to investigate skepticism and theskeptic movement. Skeptics are people dedicated to fighting pseudoscience and paranormal claims, among other things, with science and reason. Good skeptics carefully distinguish their political value judgements – those opinions which cannot be measured, quantified, or scientifically determined – with things that can be investigated using the scientific method. But a rabid strain ofliberalskepticshas poisoned the movement in recent years and have injected their partisanship (mainly using the Krugman "facts skew left" fallacy) into what should be a non-partisan endeavor.
(Interesting side note, I’ve been banned from commenting at each of the two websites I mention above, even the Orwellian named "Free Thought Blog". Tolerance is not their forte.)
For a movement like skepticism, this unnecessary detour into polarization and partisanship distracts from the goal – fighting pseudoscience with science and reason. They can’t work together and get results if they’remocking libertarians. But this is an organization with amissionand a common set of principles.
Congress isn’t. The constitution grants Congress legislative powers – then endeavors to limit those powers as much as practicable – but doesn’t give it a mission.
The definition of "working together and getting results" depends upon what you expect our representatives to work on and what results are desirable. And even my last sentence assumes that results, in and of themselves, are in fact desirable. In the skeptic movement, or in any movement properly defined, that goal is clear. In Congress, it isn’t.
There has been a meme on the left for a long time about the "do nothing Congress." Always invoked when the right controls the chamber, they complain about how many things just aren’t getting done. For many people on the right, however, inaction is itself a victory. Washington rarely screws things up by doing nothing. But even inaction is less preferable to action that rolls back the policies which hurt the people they are intended to help (i.e. Obamacare).
So in one sense I have to agree with Fournier – I do want the Democrats and Republicans to work together to roll back or repeal some or all of these hurtful policies and regulations. But my guess is that’s not exactly what Fournier had in mind.
The polarization Fournier laments suggests to me that we’re coming to a crossroads in our political evolution. People are increasingly polarized because our political choices are increasingly stark. Are the first principles of the constitution (things like limited government and federalism) to be upheld or are we to continue heading down the road of European style democratic socialism (as a result of "working together and getting results")?
By all means lets have this debate about first principles. Where do we want to go, and what means should we use to get there? Working together just to get results hasn’t fared very well, in fact it helped create the polarization that we see today.
So three cheers for polarization. We should all welcome the coming debate about our national character and priorities.
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