Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bullpartisanism & the Healthcare Summit

This week's healthcare summit has clearly meant many different things to many different people. What I have seen of the summit and responses thereto has boldly illustrated a principle to me. I have held this principle for a long time; I've been a political independent since I first found an interest in public policy.
excerpt from The Address of Gen. Washington To the People of America, on his declining the presidency of the United States
In contemplating the causes, which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by Geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavour to excite a belief, that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them every thing they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the union by which they were procured? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren, and connect them with aliens?

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions, which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Constitution of Government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This Government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true Liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government.

I hope that the fact that the summit took place during the week of Washington's birthday was not just a happy accident, for George Washington also held this principle.

The principle is simply that political parties are simple, stupid, and harmful.

Most of the coverage I have seen of the healthcare summit has amounted to an all-or-nothing two-player game. Who won the summit: the Democrats or the Republicans? Will the government dictate each of our medical acts, no matter how minute, or will we be free to pay for whatever doctors' waiting rooms we please with our hard-earned reward money?

The issue at hand, healthcare reform, like many (if not most) issues, is complex, intricate, and dynamic. Having only two options is unhelpful. Having those options be polar and irreconcilable is harmful. Clearly, positive change can be made in the middle. Political parties, by nature, fight to keep their members away from the middle, for fear of a single party member finding common cause with a single idea from another (the other) party.

This assessment is not intended as an attack on either (any) political party individually. All parties are guilty of this nature; this assessment is an attack on the very existence and usage of political parties.

From this point forward, I will strive to disregard all mentions of political parties. I will attempt to avoid even acknowledging their existence. Political parties are dead to me.

Without political parties, campaign financing will need some serious reform.

Surprise! Even if I acknowledged political parties, I would still say that campaign financing needs serious reform.

Here is a patriotic call to action: renounce your party affiliation.

You know what you want and need much better than any national self-serving organization possibly could. Identify your ideals and principles; stand up for them. Work for, against, in, or with issues and candidates, both of which are substantial. Avoid parties, which by nature are hollow.

In the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, Bush and Gore both campaigned as candidates, not as representatives of their respective parties. These two frontrunners agreed on more issues than they differed on, and the election was close, and interesting. Gore won the popular vote while Bush won the electoral college and the presidency.

Partly as a result of a messy, ambiguous, nail-biting presidential election in 2000, the two major parties began to work out, so to speak. The parties villainized each other and emphasized their differences.

In 2004, Kerry and Bush ran as representatives of their parties. The election was still pretty close, and the election was still pretty messy, but this time, ideals and issues were not a large part of the equation.

In 2008, McCain ran as a representative of his party while Obama ran as a candidate. By a miracle, Obama-as-individual defeated McCain-as-party-member. Had Obama run as a representative of his party, or had McCain run as a candidate, the election probably would have been a lot closer, and McCain would likely have won.

Like Bush and Gore, McCain and Obama share more ideals and principles than than they disagree over.

Passionately and honestly, Obama has been fighting and fighting to move beyond the parties. Like Washington and Jefferson
excerpt from Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address

But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern.
, who also stood against political parties, Obama fights for our leaders to be postpartisan. I am thankful that Obama has proved to be a great leader. A lesser person, like myself, would have given up hope in the face of what seems to be unshakable stubbornness from most of the United States Senators and Representatives. Like in his historically grassroots campaign, however, Obama shows grit, determination, and perseverance on a level that I certainly appreciate but cannot even begin to comprehend.

Many elected officials are retiring this midterm election year, and many incumbents face unprecedented challenges. The House and Senate seats that I will vote in this fall (Steve Buyer's and Evan Bayh's) will both be open. If I had a chance to vote against an incumbent though, I probably would.

I hope that the new class coming to Washington this fall has been watching and learning from their predecessors. Party politics help no one but the parties themselves. We need individuals in Congress. We need individuals in all of our leadership positions. We need Representatives who represent their constituents, not who represent their parties. We have a complex and effective governmental system. Democracy does not need, the United States does not need, and the American people do not need political parties.