Thursday, February 07, 2008

Academic studies show that partisanship is good when done by a Democrat

Prof. Susan Dunn of Williams College writes in praise of partisianship:
"[Conservatives] are united in their hatred for me," [FDR] jubilantly exclaimed to a roaring crowd at Madison Square Garden in the fall of 1936, "and I welcome their hatred!" FDR was willing to ignite and exploit conflict -- and fight for meaningful change. ....

It may be comforting to believe that consensus and unity are somehow healthier, more noble, less disruptive and destructive than sharp partisan battles. But it is the rough-and-tumble game of adversarial politics that preserves our freedom. Three cheers for disunity!

Her view of partisianship is a bit different when her discussion moves from FDR to Bush:
It is one thing to balance toward the party center, as FDR and JFK did. It is quite different for a staunch conservative like Bush to tilt the ticket toward an even more right-wing Republican. That creates acute imbalance, narrowing the party's electoral appeal and weakening its capacity to win support in Congress.

The Bush-Cheney presidency — shaped and led by ideologues who have rejected the creative, collective leadership that might be supplied by a vibrant, diverse Cabinet — has immobilized itself in its own narrowness and extremism.

Her view, and it is the kind of view that only a liberal can believe, is that FDR was a partisan extremist in a "vibrant" "diverse" way while George Bush is a partisan in a "narrow" way.

The family analogy that is so common to liberal arguments makes an appearance in Prof. Dunn's writings:

[T]here is something almost regressive in longing for more unity than that, for it suggests a dreamy nostalgia for an imaginary golden age of well-being and security in the bosom of a harmonious, loving family.
The desire for the "well-being and security" of a family, usually with the president as parent seems to be a central feature of liberal thought.

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