Sunday, March 4, 2012
Over the years, as I've posted opinion pieces and commented on various online articles, I have often been chided for being 'partisan'. That got me thinking about what it really means to be 'partisan'. Well, the best place to start when debating terminology is, of course, a dictionary. This is the primary definition of 'Partisan', according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:
"a firm adherent to a party, faction, cause, or person; especially : one exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance."
Now the first part of that is pretty light-weight and would apply to any political preference. So I'm assuming that we're more focused on the second part. That's the real issue. Not that you have an opinion, but whether that opinion is supported and rational. Do you consider other views or do you cleve to your own despite all evidence?
By that reasoning, which you are free to dispute, I don't believe I am partisan, as a general rule. Sure I rail against conservative policies and Republicans, but I do so because I disagree with the point in question, not simply because they are conservatives and Republicans. It doesn't mean I mindlessly support Democrats and liberals on all issues. The truth is, the reason I'm usually in opposition to conservative positions is simple; they don't make sense. It's not that I dream Democratic dreams, or that I have a man-crush on President Obama. It's that conservative policies are so often focused on effect instead of effectiveness.
For example, I do not support gay rights because I'm in thrall to the Gay Liberation Front! I support it because it is right and just to do so. Because, while I respect anyone's right to be personally grossed out by the idea of homosexuality, I will never accept the view that a gay individual is any less of a person or citizen than anyone else simply because of who they are attracted to.
I don't support every Democratic or liberal idea, but I do find myself on that side of more arguments than not. Doesn't make me partisan, just means I have opinions that are more liberal than conservative. But the important distinction is that I take each issue as it comes and then make a decision based on the information and what makes sense to me. I don't do it because Rachel Maddow tells me to, though I will value the insight I get from her opinion because she has earned my trust and respect. Others have not. Yes I have a lot to say about certain people and the noxious drivel they produce, but that's not because they are the 'other side', it's because they are wrong. Or at least they continually champion ideas that don't make sense to me.
What inspires my most frustrated rants are ideas or policies that do not seem to follow any logical thread. Or put another way, it's like someone declaring triumphantly that their equation equals 100, yet no matter how many times I look at the numbers, they only add up to 83. A great example is the financial collapse. I am amazed when I stumble upon people who will declare with absolute sincerity that the root of the problem was government interference and how the banks were forced to give out mortgages to people who couldn't afford them. Huh? Sure it fits a certain preconceived notion about 'big government', but it makes no sense! There were no Congressional or Presidential orders issued to the banks demanding they grant $500K mortgages to couples earning $20K a year. It never happened. It's a figment of their imaginations. Not to mention that the financial industry has tremendous lobbying power, and they would never let something like that pass in the first place. No matter how often or loudly some individuals proclaim it to be true, it just doesn't add up. Unfortunately that won't stop them from continuing to declare it as fact.
This, to me, is what being partisan is all about. Standing by a notion despite all evidence against it. Championing a theory that is unsupported by the facts. In short, someone "exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance" to a political party or popular theory simply because it fits the narrative you are comfortable with. Look, sometimes the facts are just against you. Sometimes no matter how much you wish they proved your side right, they just don't. When that happens, you step back and re-evaluate.