Our Political Fights Are Bad Because We Don’t Agree on the Rules

Anti-Brett Kavanaugh demonstrators chant before being arrested on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 24, 2018.

This is the last Jim-written Morning Jolt for a week. Enjoy the week leading up to Easter Sunday, and if you’re going to be driving on I-95 South in Virginia, North Carolina, or South Carolina this afternoon, please stay out of the left lane.

Our Political Fights Are Intense Because We No Longer Agree on the Rules

Matthew Walther, writing about Julian Assange in The Week, lists how many Democrats and Republicans changed their minds about Assange depending upon whose secrets he was exposing and concludes:

[if Assange exposes Trump’s secrets], we can expect to see both sides revert once more to their circa 2010 defaults. Once more Assange would be the bugbear of the national security right and a liberal icon. It’s almost as if his own utter lawlessness were a mirror of the nihilism at the heart of the modern Western democratic imagination, a danger far greater than any given leak.

That’s a hard truth. One of the reasons our politics is so contentious and angry is that we can’t agree on what the rules are. Some of us want to argue that certain policies are good and certain policies are bad. But a vocal chunk of Americans don’t really care about what the policies are; they would much rather argue that their side is right. They don’t care if these are the same policies or comparable to those they denounced earlier. The system is clogged with bad-faith arguments, hypocrisy, and flip-flopping.

What do most Americans and most American policymakers think of running trillion-a-year deficits? It depends upon whether their party’s president is the one running up the debts. When the other guys are in power, it’s reckless endangerment of our children’s future. When their own guys are in power, it’s a necessary step to ensure economic growth.

When someone prominent is accused of a crime, is the bigger concern the rights of the accused and the burden of proof, or the rights of the victim to have her account heard and for the crime to be punished? For many people, it depends upon the partisan status of the person accused. Some people believed the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh instantly and adamantly insisted his confirmation to the Supreme Court was a great injustice; some of those same people take little interest in the women accusing Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax — and some people reversed their responses in the other direction.

The antiwar movement around Iraq and Afghanistan proved to be an anti-Bush movement; once Obama was in office, the protests grew more sparse and less covered. When one side’s leaders take military action, it’s protecting Americans in a dangerous world; when the other side’s leaders take military action, it’s irresponsible warmongering.

For many Americans, when the side they like uses heated rhetoric, it’s speaking…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.