Partisanship is better than alternative

David Harsanyi

‘It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” President Barack Obama lamented in a State of the Union speech packed with rancor and suspicion about his political opposition. What the president probably meant — as most of those who claim to want less “partisanship” — is that he regrets so many Americans remain stubbornly attached to their own ideas about the world.

For this president, liberal certitude is never partisan, unlike the moral and intellectual corruption of the GOP position. “BREAKING,” tweeted The Associated Press, “President Obama to say US faces choice between fear of change and confidence in its future.” That was about right. Obama’s SOTU was a crescendo of false choices pitting the future (bolstered by science, optimism and rational thinking) against the icky past (anti-science, anti-love and anti-reason). Francis Wilkinson put it well in Bloomberg View when he noted that Obama’s performance was not a speech but an indictment.

Obama went on to claim that democracy doesn’t work if we believe that “the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice.” I don’t know about that. Through seven years of his presidency, liberals have regularly accused political opponents of being motivated by racism, misogyny, bloodlust-driven warmongering, selfishness and an irrational and mysterious need to destroy democracy at the behest of the super-wealthy.

This is not just the position of columnists, bloggers and activists but that of the leadership of the Democratic Party. How many times has Obama argued that Republicans only reject his ideas because they have some deep dislike of him personally? And how many times have we heard that Republicans are basing their ideas on conspiracies? “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” the president said. Anyone who believes in human adaptability over climate alarmism values partisanship over the fate of the earth. Anyone who is critical of illiberal ideologies and faiths is a xenophobe.

I couldn’t recognize America anywhere in Obama’s long harangue, and I’m probably not alone. Anyone who believes he has a monopoly over the “future” deserves the suspicion and rancor that come with politics. It’s not to say that blind partisanship or uniformity is productive or that Republicans have answers. But partisanship — as in prejudice toward a particular cause — allows us to avoid destructive national political “unity.” So as rancorous as partisanship is, it’s far less destructive than Obama’s political ideal.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at the Federalist.