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Why Post-Partisanship Is Not Mush In The Middle

Why Post-Partisanship Is Not Mush In The Middle

By Jonathan and Nancy Lippincott

Some people worry that non-partisan approaches, such as that of No Labels, will produce mush in the middle. After all, Congress can still achieve consensus on declaring something like National Dairy Week but can it agree on how to rein in entitlement spending?  So let’s take a look at why well-executed post-partisanship should not produce mush in the middle.

Partisans generally believe that less is more—if I give less, I will get more.  If I am a tough negotiator, if I am unyielding, I will get more of what I want.  It seems a common sense truism.

But will this really solve our problems?

Let’s look at governmental regulation as an example of partisan thinking.

Conservative groups frequently point to regulatory overreach as a hindrance to personal freedom, innovation, and growth.

Therefore, their partisan analysis highlights examples of regulatory abuse, quotes statistics describing regulation’s inhibiting effects, and calls for legislation to reduce regulation.

On the other hand, liberal groups frequently point to public dangers from failing to regulate. 

Their analysis, therefore, highlights examples of exploitative business practice.  They list unsafe products loosed on the public and unsafe practices chosen by businesses to increase their profitability.   They call for legislation to improve public safety and consumer protection. 

A partisan wants one thing which is incompatible with what the opposition wants.  In this case, one side wants less regulation; the other side wants more.  But both sides only use one-point accountability.  The conservatives focus on regulatory overreach and the liberals focus on unscrupulous practices.

A post-partisan, however, wants at least two things at the same time.  In the case of regulation, a post-partisan advocate wants accountability that promotes personal freedom and innovative capacity AND AT THE SAME TIME curbs exploitative practices.  By considering both sides as parts of the same problem, policy makers can construct legislative offerings that are stronger and more stable than those arising from taking either side as a portrait of the whole.

A partisan concentrates on maximizing the sway of his one point.  A post-partisan uses several different points of accountability to reduce errors coming from a single point alone.

Partisans often argue either-or, good-bad.  Post-partisans try to find both-and, good-good.

To say the same thing differently, partisans use the word “polar opposites” to mean irreconcilable zero-sum rivals.   Post-partisans use the words “polar opposites” to mean complementary halves of the same issue.  It takes two poles to make one world.

Because post-partisans view different (well-formed) observations as complementary, they enhance each other, leading to stronger policy offerings.  Each point of view aims to improve the whole—ensemble fashion—rather than mishmash it into lowest common denominator acceptability.  

A post-partisan analysis would take a “two-poled” approach.  Post-partisans assume that both liberal and conservative concerns are legitimate. This is a good-good situation.  Both groups are well-intentioned; both groups have valid insights.  Both groups are correctly describing an aspect of our total experience.

If political parties are excessively partisan (and increasingly both our own observations and political scholars tell us they are), they are actually representing only half of a whole picture.  Neither can claim to represent the American people as a whole.  The time has come to fit the wisdom from both sides together in comprehensive solutions rather than to rehash endlessly the false choices presented by partisans.

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