I am constantly bemused by the very large crowd of political activists who wants us all to “just get along” or “get things done” or drop the partisanship or avoid “going negative” in policy or electoral debates. My sense is that most of this comes from the pragmatic, “whatever works” people who are only casually or periodically involved with either electoral politics or public policy advocacy, but it’s an attitude that I consider to be both naive and non-productive. Moreover, it represents an essential misunderstanding of our republican system, which was not designed for ease in “getting things done”. It was built and thrives on an inescapable condition–the ongoing clash of interests and ideas.
The most recent manifestation of this sentiment is the “No Labels” movement, which is comprised of some very capable, knowledgeable and well-intentioned leaders from around the country and the full ideological spectrum who are circulating a petition urging our political leaders to drop the “labels”, presumably the ideological or partisan ones, to come together to solve the crisis of governance.
I’m OK with dispensing with labels of the kind that bind us to an ideological pigeon hole or blind party discipline. What bothers me is that many of these people seem to expect that we can dispense with our deepest held convictions in the interest of compromise and “getting things done”, or even the fantasy of bipartisanship. There are quite a few things that shouldn’t get done and many more that have been done that should be undone. As I have often written, there are some issues on which we cannot be neutral or even moderate. For example, how about the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence? The overriding causes are ordered liberty and freedom from tyranny from whatever source, whether internal or external. What’s the moderate or “no labels” position on that?