Monday, July 27, 2009

My Party

Returning to the issue of loyalty, then, I believe that our loyalties must start small and be based in loyalty to family and clan, friends, neighborhoods, co-workers and villages, and only through these mediating structures to larger-scale political groupings. Party politics seems to me to be a huge problem. - Boethius

Reading this brought to mind It's My Party, by Peter Robinson, and I skimmed it again for the first time in years. It's not necessarily a profound book, but it does have the important virtue of stating things which are obvious in retrospect, but wouldn't have crossed my mind otherwise. In any case, Robinson reminds us that party loyalties are largely tribal.

Furthermore, he argues this is actually a good thing. First of all, without them we would be in danger of fighting a civil war whenever the tribal disputes get too hot. Moreover, the fact that they are based on tribal loyalties means that they have some staying power. Therefore the existence of the opposition party is always a check on the tyranny of the government. In Robinson's book there is the example of the New Deal. The Democrats were dominant then like they are now. But, the banker/merchant class and Upper Midwest Protestants stayed loyal to the GOP for little other than tribal reasons. When Roosevelt overreached, for example his attempt to pack the Supreme Court in 1937, the existence of the Republican party still denied his ambitions even if it never politically defeated him.

In fact, if there were to be any cause of optimism today, it's because we've dodged that bullet for now. There was a period, say from December to March, where it looked like the GOP might die away altogether. Some say it still might. With Obama's recent missteps and the rise of the GOP in the polls, at least it's not imminent.

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