Between a Rock and a Hard Place

A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Dan Henninger had something extremely interesting to say about the current state of bi-polar US politics:

Forget your political biases, which impair comprehension in direct proportion to their intensity. Clarity comes only to those willing to see all this for what it is: a crude death struggle for power.

Though intense polarization has certainly been getting worse and worse, I had failed to totally comprehend Henninger’s description of current politics as a crude death struggle for power. I wonder if he’s correct.

Republicans just passed a tax reform bill with no Democratic votes. Obamacare was passed with no Republican votes. Both major parties increasingly demand loyalty to party over loyalty to country.

The last presidential election had two of the most disliked major party candidates in US history. Many major party votes were clearly cast in opposition, even though there were other good choices on the ballot in every state.

For most of us, however, governing is supposed to be about finding common interests, pursuing compromises, and figuring out how to work together. The two major parties are clearly not doing that. This only two thing is getting to be really, really old!

If Dan Henninger is right, the situation may get worse before it gets better.

Wars to the death bring out the worst. If attempts to bring alternative voices into the mix begin to be seen to threaten one or both of the duopolistic giants, they will fight back even harder than they do now. If alternative political voices begin to make a difference, obstacles are bound to increase.

The problem with being on a war footing is that it’s hard to get off. Giving the other side any credit or even a seat at the table of dialog is portrayed as betrayal. Finding common ground with a friend is one thing. Finding it with an enemy is quite another. And rational arguments are rarely heeded in the fog of war. 

Hopefully I’m wrong. But in the meantime, I’ll heed Sun Tzu’s advice, including (especially) the part about knowing oneself:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

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