One of the reasons I became involved in the Modern Whig Party was my reaction to the emotional base of our politics.
At the time of our founding, politics were based on a concern over promoting the common good. Using the Enlightenment values, problems were addressed by reason and analysis. The goal was to produce a rational response that would promote the liberty, property, and well-being of the greatest number. Long term solutions were promoted, and the short-term costs were accepted under the concept of enlightened self-interest. This system had its short-comings, notably when strong personal ambitions clashed (think Adams and Jefferson), but this period of politics also produced the "Era of Good Feeling" and the quieting of partisan rancor.
However, in the 19th century, this period came to a close. These new politics saw the rise of politics based on emotion, and campaigns based on symbolism. Rational policy debates receded. Interestingly, this era saw the founding and the rise of the Democratic Party, which continues to plague us to this day. Originated as an emotional-based political party, and to serve political bosses, the Democrats are the most successful political effort in American history.
The 19th century Whig Party was the last gasp of an attempt to base politics and policy on rational analysis and the common good. Interestingly, they had to use emotion-based rhetoric to counter that of the Democrats, and an age of partisanship began which has never ended.
Can this process be reversed? Can we again have politics based on dialogue, analysis, and the common good? Can we get away from emotional appeals, and develop a political party that promotes reason, freedom, science, and a free market? How about promoting egalitarianism by making an inclusive political process open to all?
Or are we doomed forever to a political process closed to those without big money backers? Are we stuck watching blowhards yell at each other on television while calling it a political debate? Are anger and vitriol here to stay?
Politics indeed makes strange bedfellows: public spirit and goodwill are buried beneath an unholy alliance of big money and moral posturing. Compromise, necessary in a nation as large and as varied as ours, becomes impossible. Unifying principles give way to passionate single-interest agitators. Meanwhile, effective politics has disappeared.
The demand of the screaming fringe for conflict without end with their partisan foes, shouting for supposed principles and "To Hell with the consequences!" has produced a generation of politicians whose only concern is short-term comfort. The disastrous long-term consequences of which are building to nothing less than an economic collapse. Doesn't the other side have principles as well? If you won't compromise yours, why should they compromise theirs?
Workable, equitable government demands alliances and compromise. But the entrenched parties promote economic insecurity and radicalism. Party activists hope to reap the whirlwind that they have sown.I want no more of those games. The excusing of the behavior of your partisans while lambasting those of the opponents. The fabricated outrage. The phony concern over the "regular guy."
America is a great country, that is superior to our benighted politicians. It is time for all of us to reject our entrenched parties, and work for something new.