Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What are the limits of Leader-worship?

I think the post down below (regarding the Republican ditto-heads who, despite all logic and reason, continue to brazenly support our tragic misadventure in Iraq) deserves a follow-up.

First, I am not affiliated with any political party. My political views are a mix of those found on both the "left" and the "right", but are firmly rooted in principles of individual liberty and non-intrusive government. I think the current political climate where everything must be shoehorned into the dichotomy of liberal/conservative, right/left, or Democrat/Republican is very harmful to our political discourse. To me, this dichotomy is false and often precludes serious discussions of certain issues (for example, rolling back the drug war) because neither party officially supports the position (though, in some cases, a majority of Americans might support it, just not a majority of people within either party -- which makes it politically untenable).

So I reject this Democrat/Republican structure. But what I abhor, and what I believe is most harmful, is that a great many people, having picked one party or the other based on one or a small handful of issues most important to them, then feel it necessary to adopt that party's position on most or all other issues, without any serious thought being given to these other issues. And yet, for this type of person (let's call them "Partisans"), even though a given question may not rank high for them as a priority, and despite the Partisan not having independently analyzed the various approaches to the question, the Partisan feels a very strong urge to defend his Party's stance on the issue in the most vociferous and strident possible terms. So much so, that even after his Party's stance is proven -- beyond any reasonable doubt -- to be flat wrong, the Partisan will still support that stance until his Party's leaders have abandoned it.

I should here add that I think Democrats can be just as bad with Partisan thinking as can Republicans. That being said, I most often criticize Republicans in this space for the following reasons: (1) they have controlled the government during the last 8 years, and during that time they have done some of the stupidest and most villainous things in the long history of this country, and (2) as a group, on average, as a general rule, those on the "Right" are more likely to be "followers" in an intellectual sense than are those on the "Left". They are more likely to be conformists, people who follow rules. They are less likely to be independent thinkers and more likely to think as their "superiors" tell them they should. (a good example is the fact that such a relatively high proportion of Republicans are "religious", because they need structure, and discipline, and someone (God, their church, the Bible) to give them a set of rules to go by.)

But the specific question I want to examine here is, given that Partisans by definition are apt to follow and support the policies of their Party, what are the limits of Partisanship? I want to propose a scenario to help answer this question:

Suppose George W. Bush, President of the United States and undisputed Leader of the Republican Party, were to announce that he, in consultation with his National Security Advisor, his Director of National Intelligence, the Justice Department and OLC, and his military advisors, had come up with a new program to Make America Safer. With much fanfare, he comes on the teevee and outlines his plan: federal agents, in conjunction with selected state and local law enforcement, will immediately begin the process of identifying and locating all members of a certain class or group of people. [for purposes of this hypothetical, the identity of this group is not relevant; it could be based on race or ethnicity (Arabs, blacks, Aleuts, etc), or it might be based on religion or political affiliation (Muslims, ACLUers, or Seventh Day Adventists) or on profession or lifestyle choice (homosexuals, gardeners, kayakers, etc) or any other method of classification; for purposes of this hypothetical, lets call them "Others".]

The President states that he has received credible, reliable evidence that these Others are the prime cause of our nation being less safe. He knows this, he says, although he can't reveal the details of what he knows, because that would Make Us Less Safe. Rest assured however, he says, that he has rigorously reviewed this evidence, and there is no doubt that it is correct.

Continuing, the President says that the Others will be taken into custody and held in secret detention facilities, where they will be humanely treated. Each Other will then be interrogated in order to help identify other Others. They will then be offered an opportunity to be rehabilitated (or "re-educated"). But if such rehabilitation proves impossible, then the Others will be systematically pushed feet first through industrial wood chippers.

This will make us Safer and More Secure. While it may be unpleasant or inconvenient to the Others, it has been proven (albeit by secret evidence and secret analysis of that evidence) to the President's satisfaction that the Others are the cause of the danger facing our country. Furthermore, the President has consulted with his legal advisers and they have assured him that this program comports with all applicable laws.

That is the scenario. I don't intend to suggest that it is likely to happen, or even remotely plausible. I only propose it to ask the question: would Partisans, those on the "side" of the President, sit down at their computers and type up drooling and ludicrous comments in support of this program? And insult the character and patriotism of those who oppose it?

1 comment:

Gleemonex said...

"I don't intend to suggest that it is likely to happen, or even remotely plausible."

*I* do. It is, or very nearly so.

"[W]ould Partisans, those on the "side" of the President, sit down at their computers and type up drooling and ludicrous comments in support of this program? And insult the character and patriotism of those who oppose it?"

Yes, and yes.