Monday, January 31, 2011

"Partisanship is the new Racism" ??

As quoted in the February 4, 2011 issue of "The Week" Magazine:

"Partisanship is the new racism. We love to criticize it, and we love to claim we've transcended it. We recognize it in our enemies but not in ourselves. When partisanship is seen as a form of social identity -- I'm a Democrat because people like me are Democrats, or I'm a Republican because people like me are Republicans -- we can understand why so many blue-collar Kansans are Republicans and why so many Silicon Valley billionaires are Democrats, even though each group's rational interests might be better served by the other party. Any liberal who supported George W. Bush's adventure in Iraq would have been ostracized by his friends. A conservative who feels Barack Obama is a cool president will be made to feel like a traitor at church."

-- Shankar Vendantam in (read the full piece here.)

Two and a half years ago, we moved from a Big Blue City in a Red State, to a Small Red Town in a Blue State. DH and I bizarrely, and without much discussion, agree on nearly everything when it comes to politics. So much so, that we never really ever need to actually talk about it. We just send each other quotes and articles like the above, and nothing needs to be said because we are so much on the same page.

Sometimes I even forget that there really are people out here in Podunkville and elsewhere in the world who have Strong Opinions on Such Matters. And even an unfortunate few who need everyone else to agree with them... or else! I'd really like to think I'm not one of those people. I have friends of all political and apolitical stripes. My mom is a Democrat and my dad is a an ex-GOP-er, now Tea Partier, so I think, in a way, being raised without a single, dominant political viewpoint in my family-of-origin has made me relatively flexible in my political thinking.

I don't think any party has a monopoly on good ideas, and I tend not to be very One True Way about much anything. Except for Etiquette, that is. You wouldn't know it by all of the swearing I do, but I was raised with a few pretty hard-core rules of manners that to this day I find myself really believing in. Hand-written thank-you notes. Respect for elders: It's always Mr. or Ms. So-and-so. Ma'am and Sir. May I, Please, Excuse Me, and Thank you. Generally, it isn't proper to discuss sex, politics, or religion... (unless you have felt someone out thoroughly and know them very well... and/or perhaps live somewhere like DC or work in politics where it is a cultural norm).

One of the reasons I knew I had to leave El Shitty Book Club o' 23 Podunk Princesses was the time when the organizer affectionately quoted one of the other members who was missing that night, as having said about some other woman they knew: "Then M said 'She seems nice, but I'm really afraid she's a Democrat!!'" Everyone laughed. And no one except me even blinked an eye. And I wondered if I would pass this person's simple enough litmus test. I don't fit neatly into any of the usual categories. But then I thought about her overall demonstrated level of comprehension of some of the current political issues today, and realized that there were certain words I probably shouldn't use because she might not fully grasp their meaning, and I thought to myself, eh, fuck it. It isn't my job. I live in a small town now, just stay below the fray. Glad I took my own advice on that one.

Anyway, back to the quote at hand - when I first read it, part of me thought, um, actually isn't Racism still the same old Racism? We're just a lot more coded and careful about expressing it these days, but it's obviously still there. One of the comments to the original article suggested that Vendantam's analogy should have been to bigotry instead of racism, and I tend to agree.

Your thoughts?


Cloud said...

Yeah, I don't know if I'd call partisanship the new racism, since I've yet to hear of anyone not getting a job because of their politics. Or any laws or customs preventing Democrats and Republicans from marrying....

But I see his point. One of the biggest arguments I have gotten into with my sister as an adult (and believe me, there's some stiff competition on this) was over how I thought people on both sides of the political spectrum didn't really listen to what the folks on the other side had to say. She was sure that "they" were worse than "us". I think it just bothers "us" less because we think we're right.

San Diego county is slowly morphing from red to blue. So we're sort of purple right now. I'm quite liberal on social issues, and a real mix on fiscal ones. I usually vote Democrat because the social issues bug me so much, and because the Republicans are no better of a match for my economic views than the Democrats. Basically, I think they're all too tied up with concerns about electability to do what really needs to be done.

mom2boy said...

Partisanship as described sounds like bigotry to me. The unshakable belief that your pov is superior coupled with an intolerance for differing pov. But is there any other type of partisanship these days? So partisanship as currently and commonly used is just a fancy word for political bigotry. Your average partisan person is a bigot. Your political leader with strong partisan leanings and power can slide into totalitarianism or fascism or some other -ism. There has to be power over another person or group for plain bigotry to turn into an -ism, if I'm understanding it all correctly.

With ya on the etiquette all the way. Civility is underrated.

mom2boy said...

And I certainly didn't mean to imply that anyone with a strongly held political belief is a bigot! Strongly held beliefs aren't the problem. It's blind adherence to a strongly held belief even when presented with evidence that the belief may be unreasonable. Tolerance doesn't mean you support or give credence to every idea under the sun, just that you are open to supporting "reasonable" ideas that may not be your preference.

caramama said...

I live in the DC area, so... I'm not going to say much because I'm all politicked out most of the time. ;-)

But I can see the bigotry in the partisanship for some people. To me, the biggest problem that makes it bigotry is the inability to compromise in anyway because of the strict belief that their way is the only way. And also when people isolate themselves from the other side, only reading/hearing/watching/talking about the issues from their side, including misinformation intended to further divide the sides.

Okay, that's all.