Ross Douthat has an insightful word in today’s New York Times about the brain-stultifying effects of hyper-partisanship. He writes:
“Up to a point, American politics reflects abiding philosophical divisions. But people who follow politics closely â€” whether voters, activists or pundits â€” are often partisans first and ideologues second. Instead of assessing every policy on the merits, we tend to reverse-engineer the arguments required to justify whatever our own side happens to be doing. Our ideological convictions may be real enough, but our deepest conviction is often that the other guys can’t be trusted.”
Douthat argues that the controversy over TSA searches would have gone differently had a Republican been in power. I think he is right about this.
I remember thinking something similar back in 1999 in the national debate about EliÃ¡n GonzÃ¡lez. Here was a young boy who was separated from his Father, but who was being kept from him by his extended family in the U.S. The reason? Because his father was in communist Cuba. The Clinton administration wanted to return GonzÃ¡lez to his father, but Republicans were howling in protest. It was a sad spectacle, and I don’t know how to explain why Republicans did what they did except for partisanship. They just wanted to oppose the president. Whatever the President’s view was, they wanted to do the opposite. In this case that involved keeping a family broken.
There are countless examples of this, and it is important for Christians wishing to be salt and light to be discerning about our tendency to “reverse-engineer arguments” in order to justify whatever one’s political party happens to be doing. If we are not careful, we could compromise a matter of principle for the sake of defending “our guy.” That’s not a principled way to participate in the public square, and it will take a good measure of self-awareness to discern when you’ve slipped into this kind of thinking.
This is a helpful word from Ross Douthat. Read the rest here.