In my last post, I reblogged a CNN opinion article “We’re Pointing A Gun At Our Democracy” , which called for Americans to stop all this current partisanship between Republicans and Democrats or else democracy is dead. In today’s post, I want to suggest the opposite: this political division that America is currently experiencing now is not dangerous, as the article suggests, but rather something that should be encouraged for a healthy democracy.
Recent polls in America have shown that we as a nation are deeply divided than ever before. I sometimes muse that this is perhaps actually America’s Second Civil War, where the war is not physical but rather purely political. This war occurs in almost every aspect of America- economically, such as in taxes; politically, such as in elections; and personally, such as in gay marriage. Republicans are feeling fervent for GOP policies and Democrats are feeling passionate about Democratic policies. As a result of this division or partisanship, they fight each other fervently for their principles. I even confess that I’m caught up in this war.
On the outset, it does look bad. As Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” And this can perhaps best describe our current situation in the government. But, if one rids himself of the thought that first comes to mind and thinks about it a little bit more, one might realize that maybe not all of this is so bad; in fact, it is perhaps necessary for a healthy democratic government like America.
CHECKS AND BALANCES
How could a house fighting against itself be good at all? you ask. Well, the first reason might be that the Founding Fathers would have wanted this. As you might’ve learned from your history class, it was they who implemented the concept of checks and balances into the Constitution. And as it conveniently turns out, this bickering between the GOP and Democrats is evident proof of this happening. How?
Refer back to my 1/4/2013 post. “Say the majority has the opinion of pro-abortion, and say that pro-abortion is truly immoral (this is just an example). Well, more than often will there be another group, a minority, who will have the opinion of being anti-abortion. This minority group restraints the majority group, because through media and persuasion, they are able to spread more of their influence, countering the majority’s influence. But this is not just a two-side issue. There are multiple sides, and thus multiple minority groups, each spreading their influence and thus each countering each other’s influence. In a sense, the minorities do have power over the majority, and if the majority is corrupt, then the minorities will keep it in check.”
The basic concept from here is that it is only through political division that this system of checks and balances can work. No party can become too powerful because it is restrained by other parties. No party can pass its own law because it has to wait for the opinion from the other party. Overall, no party can take total control, and the more partisanship there is, the less power a party has to do whatever it wants.
THE GOVERNMENT IMPROVES
Another reason why we should encourage this division that we have right now is because it helps make the government improve. Although this partisanship has made the government get things done a lot slower, as noted in the CNN opinion article, it has definitely made sure that the government doesn’t do things carelessly and quickly but cautiously and slowly.
Take the 2012 election, which was mostly characterized by mud-slinging between the Dems and GOP. Every time on TV, I would always see negative ads exchanged between Obama and Romney. Oh, boo hoo, one might say, it’s another sign of a deepening division within America. But notice how each negative ad almost always points out a certain negative aspect of the opposing candidate. Think about it: what’s the mostly likely response of the candidate being attacked? First off, he might work to fix that problem. Then the second thing would be to attack back. And now, the candidate being attacked back is also going to do the same thing. He’s going to fix the problem being pointed out and attack back again. Than that candidate that just got attacked again is going to fix his problem and attack back. And so on.
It seems like a dull, repetitive process, but that’s the point. What is the pattern here? As you see, each candidate, after being attacked every time, improves a certain mistake. However, it doesn’t just stop there; the candidate goes on to attack the other candidate, which in turn causes the other candidate to improve and attack back. Here, it’s a process in which both sides improve and gain benefit, and not just one time, but repetitively. It’s the same thing with our government: one “candidate” is the Dem Party and the other is the GOP and right now, they are both mud-slinging each other. And similarly, by mud-slinging each other, each party is continually fixing their mistakes and improving themselves. Thus, in the end, whatever action the government takes is usually not flawed– it has already gone through this system of continual improvement that by the time it is put into action, it is already at its very best. (Please contact me if you think I still need to clarify this part.)
Perhaps the strongest reason is history itself. If I were to tell you to imagine one day in America where the Dems and Republicans agreed on every single thing (in essence acting as one party), you probably would guffaw right in my face. You would say, “Yeah, that would be nice,” but then you would suspect that it would perhaps never happen.
If that’s the case, then you got it all wrong. One- it would not be nice. Two- it already happened. We can take many authoritarian regimes from the past, such as Stalin and his USSR or Hitler and his Nazi Germany. In both cases, both nations only allowed one party, meaning that there was none of the political division that the US is currently having right now. So was this wonderful, as one might expect it to be? No! What happened were many violations of human rights. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press was repressed. People were killed. Stalin and Hitler became infamous. You ask, “How could all of this happen? I thought that the government would be super effective once all partisanship and political division was gone. I thought that democracy would be saved once this division was gone, as said by the CNN opinion article.” The answer to why all this happened lies in that the parties, and specifically the dictators, could do almost anything to want, because there was no opposition party. There was no political division to do checks and balances. In the end, democracy was destroyed rather than saved. So the real fact is, by removing political divisions are we actually pointing a gun to our democracy. I find that very ironic given the title of that CNN opinion article, which stated that political division was pointing the gun. Apparently, the author of the article got that wrong big time.
In recent history are we also seeing this. Take Arizona, for where in one specific law the Dems let the GOP take control. (In essence, for this law, the GOP was in total control and there was no political division.) What law was it? It was that police could pull over anybody who looked like an illegal immigrant to see if they had legal status. In other words, they could pull over anybody as long as they’re Latino. Obviously, that’s very racist, but the government still refused to change it even when Latinos started pouring out protesting it. More importantly, notice how Latinos had no say in this law. Why? Because the party in control- the GOP- did not represent them. This violates the very principle of democracy. Not only that, the Dems who were supposed to represent the Lations did not argue against this. As you can see, this lack of political division failed to help Latinos become fully represented and thus violated democracy. So, we need political division in order to be able to represent all kinds of people. And in this case, too, to keep a party in check.
All in all, I want to warn you that I am not supporting total political division. No, especially not to that extent of the US Civil War. But neither am I supporting no political division at all, which was what that CNN opinion article did. All I’m supporting is for the government to stay a fine line between these two scenarios. And in that case, it’s happening right now in Washington D.C. So, why not continue this current political partisanship? Cheers for democracy!