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October 17th, 2009
A False Plea for Political Unity
photo credit: Darwin Bell
In various political gatherings I attend and view there are inevitably a handful of people who will vocally complain about perceived divisiveness and “in-fighting”. Their main argument is that it is counter-productive to spend our time and energy focusing on internal problems, and that our efforts would be better spent opposing the other party (whatever that means) and fighting for our common goals.
This argument has at least two problems. First, it is a smoke-screen for maintaining a status quo that the “establishment” would rather not see changed. By calling any attempt to root out corruption or improve internal processes “divisive” (simply because somebody who shares a party affiliation opposes the action), the person uses a red herring to deter anybody from changing the system they have worked hard to nurture and take advantage of. Second, any pleas for unity are disingenuous when there are strong or important disagreements between two or more people; any facade of agreement is deception at best, and a flat out lie at worst, when behind the scenes there is bickering and malcontent.
Enough with the generalizations; let’s use a specific example.
Republicans are in a bind. Having lost their foundation, their vision, and a slew of important elections, they are scrambling to “redefine” themselves, find a leader, and market themselves to attract new and energized voters. Establishment leaders within the party (at all levels) resist any notion that they themselves are the reason their voting base has all but disintegrated. Rather, their blame points to external circumstances, such as social networking, branding, and communication. These people seriously think that repackaging a bowl full of dog poop will make it more palatable. Months after both sides of the political aisle drove the “lipstick on a pig” mantra into everybody’s psyche, Republican leadership is out shopping for which shade will suit them best. (They’ve yet to realize that they, too, are nothing more than a figurative pig.)
Both mainstream political parties are taking us in the same direction, at varying speeds and paths. But the end goal—big government—is the unstated union that exists among all establishment elites. Thus, anybody who challenges this system is deemed “divisive” for refusing to participate in the tit-for-tat, let’s-fight-the-evil-Democrats false dichotomy upon which the entire fraudulent process relies.
Cries for unity are disingenuous when people refuse to allow scrutiny into their internal actions and proceedings. Until the inner vessel is cleansed, a group cannot effectively and sincerely have any real unity. When there is legitimate division, it is best to resolve the issue before jointly opposing external forces; in the mean time, those demanding that the divisiveness cease are simply opposing the cleansing process and resisting its corresponding scrutiny. Individuals with nothing to hide will not fear such a process.
Of course, this resistance is not found only among Republicans. People of all political persuasions fall prey to this tendency. If we truly desire to be united—and not just to preserve corruption and inefficiency—then we will welcome with open arms the probing process of internal improvement to ensure that we can put our best foot forward (and on sound footing) when it is appropriate and necessary to do so.
Unity is a worthy goal, and one we should all strive for. We cannot attain it, however, until we share a common foundation of principle and virtue. Those who enjoy and abuse their power and falsely masquerade as “one of us” are the very instigators of division that they complain about, and yet will use their pleas for unity to distract others from considering them as the cause of corruption. Unity will come naturally where it is invited through proper actions; it need not be forced by resisting the urge to consider improvements and changes to how we behave and what rules we follow.
Thomas Paine once wrote that “…the strength of government does not consist in anything within itself, but in the attachment of a nation, and the interest which the people feel in supporting it. When this is lost, government is but a child in power; and though… it may harass individuals for a while, it but facilitates its own fall.” Those who revere the Founders and desire to carry their standard forward are those who question the status quo continually and suggest opportunities for improvement—all this in an effort to demonstrate to others that there are valid reasons for supporting our government. If they are prevented in succeeding, then the false cries for unity will yield their natural fruits: lost interest, lost elections, and the loss of our framework of limited, constitutional government.
2 Responses to “A False Plea for Political Unity”
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Playing devil’s advocate a bit, but it’s fair to say that during some of the greatest times of productive change and upheaval in our country’s history, “unity” was barely present.
You can go back to the drafting of the Constitution itself for an example.
Unity within a party does provide for better strategy and organization toward a goal, but the very definition of the party in flux and redefinition may rely solely on disunity to promote the necessary change.
Democrats are enjoying electoral success now not because of a growing love for “big government” in the country, but because they spent several years in the woods in disarray and faced with a gigantic unity problem. It wasn’t resolved by dissolving the lack of unity, it was resolved by that very “in-fighting” weeding out some of the most ineffective machines of the political party.
There is as much a strategic “on the ground” perpetual motion to a party as there is a solidifying of unity for a platform or ideology. There are “machines” at play, as well as ideals. And those machines are rarely fine tuned or sharpened in effectiveness by unity. In fact, one could also argue the unity — at least in action and policy — of the GOP during Bush’s administration was the very factor that led to a certain complacency that took the party down.
Unity isn’t a bad thing, but it’s rarely enough to win elections unless it’s reached by a certain amount of fine tuning that a lack of unity can foster quickly.
Jason makes a great point that “the very definition of the party in flux and redefinition may rely solely on disunity to promote the necessary change.” I’m not sure that it would rely solely on disunity, but a unified party is not one that is going to make significant changes unless it is just at the tail end of the disunity of a redefinition process.
I think that an excess of unity gripped the party after winning an election based on the weak foundation of being “not Clinton” (or his heir). The internal dialog should have been starting no later than 2002 for the party to remain strong after it had regained governing majorities.
The best hope for the GOP right now is two-fold, disunity within the ranks and complacency within the Democratic party.