Diversity without division: Partisanship is not the problem

An election year always brings a fresh crop of books earnestly warning against the perils of partisanship. The solution to this “problem,” these books usually suggest, is a kind of bland nonpartisan attitude — the Golden Meh.

This is a popular pose among pundits and op-ed columnists, one that seems to arise from an intense desire not to be disliked. The prescription of such pundits always seems to be that we mustn’t take our politics too seriously. If we take politics seriously, then we’ll want to try to get it right — thereby implying that others might be wrong, which might lead to all sorts of unpleasant disagreement. Such disagreement should be avoided, they advise, by floating above it all and never taking a clear stand one way or another. Ignore diversity of opinion and maybe it will just go away.

The high priests of nonpartisanship thus present a vision of the public square that resembles the excruciating awkwardness of Thanksgiving Dinner with relatives. Lots of small talk, evasion and denial, but no substance or conviction lest people start raising their voices in disagreement and spoiling the meal.

I don’t care for this proposed solution because I think it misrepresents and misunderstands the problem.

Partisanship is not the problem. Here in America, partisanship is necessary — the inevitably result of a democracy structured so as to produce a two-party system. There are other ways to structure democracy, and it can be fun to dream of how things like proportional representation or fusion could be incorporated to allow for something other than what Duverger’s Law produces here in the U.S. But right now, and for now, we’ve got a two-party system and participating in our democracy means taking sides.

No, of course that doesn’t mean taking sides mindlessly, uncritically or unquestioningly. But it means making a choice and taking responsibility for making that choice. That’s what self-government means — accepting responsibility for making the difficult, imperfect choices that government entails.

An “overcrowded genre” or sub-category of these election-year books is, as Tony Jones describes it, books “on how Christians of different political persuasions can nevertheless maintain faithful and congregational unity.”

Such books tend to earnestly remind us that Jesus is neither a Republican or a Democrat. Amen! And, also, No duh! Because Jesus doesn’t have to vote in the next election. I do. And my choice will be between a Republican and a Democrat. Jesus won’t be on the ballot.

Many of these books offer a Christian variation of the anti-partisan Golden Meh argument. Christians can “maintain faithful and congregational unity,” they suggest, by downplaying or denying political diversity. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” they say, echoing Yeats without seeming to realize he wasn’t offering that as advice.

Happily, Mike Slaughter and Charles E. Gutenson have attempted something more ambitious and more constructive with their election-year book, Hijacked: Responding to the Partisan Church Divide.

That subtitle conveys what sets this book apart from much of the genre. The real problem, the authors say, is not the partisanship, but the division.

In the strongest parts of this book, that focus is clear, and the authors offer many constructive suggestions for how to prevent political diversity and political distinctions from producing division in the faith community. In other places, that focus is shakier, with the authors occasionally following the partisans of nonpartisanship into treating partisan politics as the heart of the problem. That makes for an uneven argument, undermining and distracting from their firmer, central concern about not allowing political diversity to create a “church divide.”

Slaughter and Guterson write from a Methodist perspective, and at the center of their argument is a good, solid Methodist ideal: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”

They work hard — and at times make the reader work hard — to locate political partisanship and political diversity in the realm of “non-essentials.” Such political convictions, they say, should not be made into a threat to or a condition for church unity. I think this is correct — but not absolute — and the authors’ discussion of why political stances should be regarded as distinct from the core essentials of doctrine is often insightful and helpful.

Most helpful, I think, is the fourth chapter, on “The Logic of Disagreement.” This is a thoughtful exploration of how Christians often fall into “conflating theology and ideology”:

Quite often, the first step involved with a partisan ideological position becoming intertwined with a theological or faith commitment is the belief by one political party or the other that such a combination can be exploited for partisan political gain. In other words, generally speaking, the engagement of the issue is not for the sake of the issue itself, but rather the perception that the issue can be aligned with faith in a way that encourages Christians to support that party because of the perceived conflation of the partisan issue with a particular faith commitment. We all are familiar with the term “wedge issue” — an issue that can be given enough priority that it will create a “wedge” to divide the voting patterns of a particular group in order to gain political support for our own group. …

For the strategy to work, however, the issue has to cease to be just an ideological issue and must, rather, come to be seen as a matter of faith — that is, religious faith and ideological commitment must become conflated. Ideally, this has to happen so thoroughly in the minds of the Christian group being targeted that they no longer take time to reflect on the matter. It simply is taken for granted that Christians must necessarily believe in this particular way on this particular issue. … Christian believers “must” believe in this way.

This chapter is very strong at tracing how this process unfolds on the side of “the Christian group being targeted.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t go as far in exploring who it is that is targeting the Christian group.

The passive-voice construction of “the Christian group being targeted” masks 30 years of American evangelical history. If evangelicals have been the object of that targeting, who was the subject? And why should those subjects have been allowed to “hijack” evangelical identity, reshaping a faith community into a voting bloc and even rewriting how those Christians go about reading their own Bibles?

Slaughter and Gutenson’s discussion of “The Logic of Disagreement” also clarifies what comes up short in their broader emphasis on “in essentials, unity.” In opposition to the well-funded political operatives manufacturing wedge issues, the authors argue that contingent political opinions ought not to be regarded as of equal importance with essential credal doctrines.

But for most American evangelical Christians, there’s no such thing as essential credal doctrines, because evangelicals don’t pay much attention to the creeds. Instead, evangelicals employ “statements of faith,” which tend to be much, much longer and more detailed than anything dreamed of at Nicea. And where the creeds focus on what we believe about God and about the church, these statements of faith are primarily focused on what we are required to believe about the Bible.

Specific partisan political stances are regarded as equal in importance to core doctrinal beliefs because those specific political stances are expressions of those core doctrinal beliefs. They function as a short-hand for the exhaustive claims about the Bible contained in those dense, multi-page statements of faith. Thus, in 2012 among American evangelicals, a statement of opposition to same-sex marriage or to legal abortion is meant to be synonymous with an affirmation that the Bible is the “inerrant, infallible Word of God.”

The conflation that Slaughter and Gutenson warn against is already a done deal. For many American evangelicals, it is already simply “taken for granted that Christians must necessarily believe in this particular way on this particular issue.”

What is taken for granted there is that this is what their inerrant, infallible Bibles obviously and unambiguously and unquestionably teach as central, pre-eminent doctrines. The Bible forbids legal abortion and civil rights for GLBT people. They simply know this to be true because everyone they know knows it to be true. This, for them, is what the Bible has come to be about.

“Hijacked” is a good word to describe what happened there. And I can’t help but hear it spoken in Denzel Washington’s voice: “You’ve been hijacked. You’ve been had. You’ve been took. You’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok.”

Your Christian group has been targeted.

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    This doesn’t directly address your point about the evangelical church, but whatevs. Anyway, what annoys me most about the mainstream punditry’s anti-partisanship stance is that, in order to pretend that they’re non-partisan, they have to pretend that the Democratic Party is just as far-left as the Republican party is far-right, which is patently ridiculous.

    Most centrists in the US (except for the “centrists” who are basically conservatives but are aware of the GOP’s reputation for being racist, sexist asses) basically agree with the Democratic Party, because the GOP is fucking ridiculous. But the punditry does its damnedest to hide that from us, because just flat-out saying, “Look, the Democratic Party tends to make a hell of a lot more sense than the Republican Party” is just so improper.

    Let Krugman say it better than I have.

    I’m no centrist myself. I’m far to the left of the Democratic Party. I’m nowhere near happy with the Democratic Party. But the Democratic Party is largely in tune with mainstream American sensibilities, while the Republican Party is largely in tune with the sensibilities of Americans who happen to also be assholes. If the media would stop playing this “lol both sides are CRAYZAY” game, maybe people would realize that the two parties are not equal in sanity and legitimacy.

  • Anonymous

    This is a popular pose among pundits and op-ed columnists, one that seems to arise from an intense desire not to be disliked.

    I don’t think so.  I think it arises from a fear of people starting to think of each other as enemies, rather than as neighbors who we feel are mistaken about xyz.  It’s the fear, in other words, that we might start killing each other over politics.  That’s an entirely understandable fear, if maybe not a reasonable fear, because that has been known to happen.

    But right now, and for now, we’ve got a two-party system and participating in our democracy means taking sides.

    I don’t think “taking sides” is a good way to characterize “voting, usually for individuals who belong to one of the two dominant parties.”  “Taking sides” is a term that conjures up imagery that has nothing to do with voting or democracy.

  • Lori

    I think it arises from a fear of people starting to think of each other as enemies, rather than as neighbors who we feel are mistaken about xyz. It’s the fear, in other words, that we might start killing each other over politics. That’s an entirely understandable fear, if maybe not a reasonable fear, because that has been known to happen. 

    I’ve never seen any indication that the kind of pundits and op ed writers who practice High Broderism/The Golden Meh are worried about political violence. I have since considerable indications that they’re concerned about not getting invited to the right Village cocktail parties.

    In the long run I think the kind of false equivilence that drives the “add together and divide by 2ish” school of punditry is probably doing more to push us toward violence than to keep us from it.

  • Anonymous

    In the long run I think the kind of false equivilence that drives the “add together and divide by 2ish” school of punditry is probably doing more to push us toward violence than to keep us from it.

    I’m not saying that Golden Mean thinking isn’t stupid, but how do you think?

  • Lori

    What do you mean, how do I think?

  • Anonymous

    I mean, what’s the mechanism for that?  How is Golden Mean foolishness pushing us towards violence?

  • Anonymous

    I should point out that violence is the end point, not the beginning, but the beginning itself is bad: if we see each other as enemies rather than as neighbors who are mistaken.

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    Disagreed (with the first half of your comment). The media does this “fair and balanced” song and dance because they need to preserve the legitimacy of the GOP. They certainly can’t do that by accurately reporting reality; five minutes of that and the GOP would disappear faster than Enron.

    The reason they need to do this is because:
    1) The GOP is in line with corporate interests (and the media is run by corporations, remember), but not in line with the 99%’s personal interests, which is why they have to be misrepresented as being more reasonable than they are
    2) The partisan divide makes for interesting news, in the sense that “interesting news” is essentially a product to be designed and manufactured
    3) While the GOP is certainly the primary source of corporate fellatio, both parties are useful, not only because the Democratic Party is also largely beholden to corporate interests (which it is), but because, well, we’ve seen what happens if you let the GOP run wild. Even the 1% gets uncomfortable with that level of wingnuttery.

    Point 3 requires the media to maintain this delicate balance in which the Democrats are just as mendacious as the Republicans, and the Republicans are just as civic-minded and serious as the Democrats. The cyclical back-and-forth between the two parties is necessary, because if the Democrats went away, we’d be living in Gilead before you could blink, and if the GOP went away, public policy might inch leftward, gods forbid.

  • Ian needs a nickname

    “…the inevitably result of a democracy structured so as to produce a two-party system.”
    Is that necessarily the case?  If so why?

    There’s a truism that first-past-the-post voting produces a two party system and a game theory argument to back it up, but that’s just not what happens in most democracies.  Take Canada: we currently have five major parties.  We gain or lose a major political party once every ten years (on average over the past century).  Stagnant parties die.

    By the standards of other democracies it’s weird that the mainstream Republican party and the Tea party keep running on the same ticket when their policy preferences are increasingly different.  In other countries, party in-fighters are willing to hive off, split the vote and lose election after election if that’s what it takes for their ideology to be dominant once they all merge back together.  A weak constituency can split the vote until the stronger faction admits that they exist and makes concessions.

    Are Americans interested in politics being short sighted?  Is losing an election now worse than permanently stagnant parties?  

  • Lori

    I have to go and so can’t give a full answer to this until later tonight, but the short version is basically what Triplanetary sad. It’s helping to create the utterly false notion that the Left is as far Left as the Right is Right. That distortion is not going to prevent violence.

  • Anonymous

    That’s actually my greatest irrational frustration with this post: that word of his related to this, “dream.”  It’s not a fucking dream.  It’s really a way parts of the world really are.  It’s really a way the United States could really be.  Not today, but eventually.

  • Anonymous

    Disagreed (with the first half of your comment). The media does this “fair and balanced” song and dance because they need to preserve the legitimacy of the GOP.

     
    In lots of cases, you are probably right.  I’m thinking of Jon Stewart right now, but I guess he’s not a part of the mainstream punditocracy.

  • Anonymous-Sam

    This year, I feel like the problem is less one of partisanship and one where one side is horribly wrong and the other side is out to ruin everyone’s life. :p

  • Lori

    Is losing an election now worse than permanently stagnant parties? 

    In some ways I think this is a more interesting question than why the US only has 2 major parties—why has the US had the same two parties for so long? The names haven’t changed in more than 150 years and the relative positions on the Left-Right spectrum haven’t changed in 50ish years. By all rights at least one, probably both, of the parties should have died a natural death and been replaced.

  • Lori

     

    I should point out that violence is the end point, not the beginning,
    but the beginning itself is bad: if we see each other as enemies rather
    than as neighbors who are mistaken.

    IMO, seeing someone as a mistaken neighbor rather than as an enemy really has nothing to do with the Golden Meh school of pundirtry. People like Broder back when he was alive, or Thomas Friedman or David Brooks aren’t advocating for embracing the humanity of those with whom we disagree. They’re pushing for pretending that the answer always lies in the middle. In the current climate, to the extent that they succeed they’re handing power to the Right.

    The Dems and the GOPers both have their problems, but they are not equivalent. Pretending that they are leaves folks on the Left under-represented and resentful & fearful over being mischaracterized and it feeds the tendency of the far Right to fight imaginary monsters. That’s the sort of situation that makes violence more likely, not less.

    I believe that you’re concerned about political violence, but I don’t believe that Friedman, et al are.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    “…the inevitably result of a democracy structured so as to produce a two-party system.”
    Is that necessarily the case?  If so why?

    There’s a truism that first-past-the-post voting produces a two party system and a game theory argument to back it up

    You just answered your own questions.  Yes it is.  Because of how it is structured.The second answer was largely redundant considering that the original quote included “structured so as to produce a two-party system.”

    Canada’s democracy is not structured that way.  Which is probably part of the reason that the sentence you quoted began with, “Here in America…”  Probably also contributes to the next sentence beginning, “There are other ways to structure democracy…”

    And speaking as an American, it can be fun to dream about doing things how other countries do things.  (I’ve spent a good deal of time dreaming about your healthcare system.)

    But if you’re talking about the here and now then yes, it is necessarily the case because the American system of democracy will not be restructured in time for the next election, and if one does want to go about restructuring it then one is going to have to do that restructuring within the context of the current system (or bloody revolution but I don’t think you’re in favor of that) which means that even for those who would change things it is necessary to consider the constraints the present system places upon us.

    To do otherwise is to dream dreams without practical application.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but that is all it is.

  • P J Evans

    By all rights at least one, probably both, of the parties should have died a natural death and been replaced

    They’re working hard at doing that. (I’m hoping for four parties: left and right of center (majority parties), and way left and way right of center (minority parties). Having a party that’s right of center and one that’s falling-off-the-edge right is definitely not working, though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I think the bigger parties tend to absorb or co-opt smaller parties. The outlook of both major parties are almost completely different (almost the opposite) of where they started, and even within each party you have different wings. I really think that under a different system each party would actually be two or three separate ones.

  • Lori

     My question is about why the co-option has worked for so long. The GOP’s “big tent” should have fallen in years ago. The groups huddling under it are, or should be, fundamentally incompatible. I know that the answer is the power of white resentment, but I think there’s a part of my brain that just refuses to deal with the idea that white pissiness is that powerful.

  • Baeraad

    “The solution to this “problem,” these books usually suggest, is a kind of bland nonpartisan attitude — the Golden Meh.”

    I love you a little right now. :D

    I keep feeling like there are two, and only two, voices shouting: one that gets more and more ludicrously extremist conservative, and one that cautions everyone to not get the idea that politics are important enough to feel strongly about or anything. I don’t know who is crazier, the people who want to drag us all back to the Stone Age, or the people who would rather let them do it than suffer the horror of anyone *raising their voice.*

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s worth reading the page Fred linked to if you want to know why it’s not just the US that struggles to maintain more than two parties of any note

    I don’t think I agree with Ian, because most of the rest of the English speaking world has struggled to maintain more than two parties with first-past-the-post systems – i.e. the USA, UK,  Australia, and New Zealand before it became proportional.  Canada seems an exceptional case – and even then it’s still really more like a two-party system than anything else most of the time. It’s always been governed by either the Liberals or some variant of the Conservative party, hasn’t it?

    While technically it’s a multi-party democracy if there’s more than two parties in Parliament (and that’s a good thing), I don’t think you’ve really ‘made it’ as a multi-party system until a third party is in Government (possibly as a coalition party) a significant amount of the time.

    I’m not all that au fait with how things work elsewhere, so I’m happy to decide that Duverger is wrong if someone can show that first past the post elections elsewhere commonly don’t result in two party systems (I’m happy to count Canada as one example).

  • Anonymous

    @Lori
    Isn’t it enough that as it stands they’re a very powerful bloc, and if they fall apart they won’t have any power at all?

    I think all it needs is for people to care more about power than principle, either as individuals or as a group.

    (The reverse has had a historic tendency to plague progressive groups, where any difference in principle often results in a splintering of the group)

  • Anonymous

    On the subject of bland nonpartisanship in the media:

    there’s two things worth noting, alongside Lori’s excellent point that being ‘nonpartisan’  these days means being right wing (and not just in the USA) (by the standards of the 20th century, at any rate, and also, I believe, by the standards of what ordinary people actually care about when they’re not thinking about ‘politics’).

    1.  being ‘nonpartisan’ means you don’t actually have to go to the trouble of investigating anything.  Just gather the press releases on the issue from either extreme. 

    1a. on a related note, it means if you’ve got a talking heads show or similar, you can play the fun game by getting extremists from both sides knocking their heads together, while you play referee (a referee who’ll stoke the fires if the game is getting boring).

    2. it means you can’t be wrong, because you’re not making any claims yourself.

    and a corollary to that:

    2a. it means you can continue to sell your product to the entire population, rather than half of it.

    So it’s cheaper, easier, better for your self-esteem, and keeps your market open – what’s not to like?

    (OK, so that’s really four things… )

  • vsm

    The GOP’s “big tent” should have fallen in years ago. The groups
    huddling under it are, or should be, fundamentally incompatible.

    There’s a similar problem with the Democrats, who are somehow broad enough to include both Progressives and Blue Dogs. Maybe the unwillingness to support third parties is because supporters of both parties would rather share a tent with people undermining their cause than give the other side any kind of advantage? For conservatives, this would probably fit under white pissiness, while liberals are still traumatized over Ralph Nader.

    For better or for worse, the system seems to work relatively well for both parties. While their fortunes may wax and wane in the short term, the system is quite stable, as you said earlier. The Tea Partiers would probably need to do something that’d seriously damage the party for any kind of split to occur, but I’m not entirely sure what that could be anymore.

  • Anonymous

    you can play the fun game by getting extremists from both sides knocking their heads together, while you play referee (a referee who’ll stoke the fires if the game is getting boring).

    When was the last time you saw a real left-wing extremist on a talking heads show? It’s far more frequently a middle-of-the-road / conservative Democrat plus a fairly conservative Republican.

    I’d be okay with it (sort of) if the situation were counterbalanced by having extremists from both sides. But the way people are chosen, it can give you the impression that public opinion is extremely right-wing. It constrains the range of choices made by the public.

  • Anonymous

    if we see each other as enemies rather than as neighbors who are mistaken.

    I’m going to call concern troll here, because, last I saw, you’d said absolutely nothing productive.

    If you haven’t noticed, all of the violence is coming from one side, and from particular factions at that (e.g. abortion). It’s not a general phenomenon.

    I for one don’t give a shit about general outlook towards the other side. I care about getting public policy to move forward. And if that means that we see the other side — or, at least, the politicians of the other side — as enemies, I’m fine with that. I’d rather have universal health insurance than have respect for a conservative Republican in office.

    And the last time we had true widespread violence over a political topic in the US was the Civil War — and that was quite likely the best thing that could have happened to this country.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    I think it arises from a fear of people starting to think of each other as enemies, rather than as neighbors who we feel are mistaken about xyz

    I tend to think it’s more about being self-righteous and lazy pundits than anything else – at least when it comes to those who are paid to tell us what we’re supposed to think (cf., David Brooks).

  • John Small Berries

    “The Bible forbids legal abortion”

    Well, apart from Numbers 5, in which God himself provides the formula for a magic potion which will maim women who commit adultery and abort any pregnancies conceived by infidelity, yet leave faithful women (and their pregnancies) unharmed. No similar potion to punish male adulterers, but that’s God for you.

    “and civil rights for GLBT people.”

    If only Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31 hadn’t had that disclaimer excepting them from the Golden Rule.

    “They simply know this to be true because everyone they know knows it to be true.”

    If only these “Year of the Bible” type resolutions actually moved people to read the entire Bible. But I guess that’s just too hard for many people, who’d prefer to sit in the pews and be told what the Bible says instead.

  • Lori

     

    Maybe the unwillingness to support third parties is because supporters
    of both parties would rather share a tent with people undermining their
    cause than give the other side any kind of advantage?

    Yes, that would appear to be the case, I just don’t entirely understand why that impulse works out the way it does here in the US. Which I guess is why I went into IR instead of poli sci.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    To be honest, I’ve noticed the word “heretic” being tossed around in a very flippant – but absolutely serious – manner by Neo-Calvinists. It seems any pastor or Christian who disagrees with them theologically is “unorthodox” and therefore a heretic – despite the fact that they have no substantiation from the Creeds themselves. So rob Bell’s view of the afterlife, which more closely approximates the Eastern Orthodox church’s view than Dante’s/Jonathan Edward’s Greek mythology-enhanced view, gets him ironically labeled an unorthodox heretic…

    On the political side – and neo -Calves aren’t quite as political in this regard as they are doctrinally-centered, I get the more, “THIS IS PLAINLY BIBLICAL AND IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IT, IT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE COMPROMISED WITH THE WORLD!”

    Fun stuff, that…

  • Anonymous

    What’s “productive”?  I’m sorry if my posting constitutes concern trolling.  I don’t think it does since I really do believe the things I say and am not, in fact, a conservative here to sabotage the morale of the liberal alliance.

    I’ll concede the first point I made in my first post at this point.  Yes, it probably is true that people arguing for Broderism are mostly trying to be popular by making an argument that’s safe and inoffensive.

  • Dan Audy

     I think it has mostly to do with short-term losses vs long-term gains.  While progressives (or tea partiers) might wield more influence or even get elected directly if they break from the party (defect in game theory) it almost certainly ensures that the values they are most opposed to will control power for a not-insignificant amount of time before they can reform and reach equilibrium giving them a chance to be elected.  Both Bush and Obama have shown how much influence (damage in their detractors view) can be done in only a short time with it being extremely hard or impossible to reverse that impact.  The general attitude is that it is better to have something tolerable if distasteful than the possibility of something good down the line with a guarantee of something really bad first.

  • Anonymous

    Why shouldn’t I see a party that has been steadfastly wrong on every single major issue and made their entire political lives around destroying me and denying that I’m a real human being and possesses a completely unbroken track record of fucking up this country worse and worse each time as my enemy? They’re not my fellow Americans anymore, and they’d be the first ones to tell you that.

    I don’t want violence, but I do want to politically bulldoze and disable the entire Right wing to finally clear the way for liberals to come in and start picking up this shattered country, one piece at a time and one policy at a time. We can’t do that with our enemy still sitting there and physically blocking us from any forward progress on any issue.

    I sure as hell don’t want to make peace with the Right because I hate them for their many, many sins.

  • Lori

     

    The general attitude is that it is better to have something tolerable if
    distasteful than the possibility of something good down the line with a
    guarantee of something really bad first.

    I can see how that would be the case. I’m just not sure why that calculus applies so rigidly now when it did not in the past. Is there some issue with Reconstruction that I’m not considering that cemented the parties? Prior to the Civil War parties came and went.

  • Anonymous


     Canada seems an exceptional case – and even then it’s still really more like a two-party system than anything else most of the time. It’s always been governed by either the Liberals or some variant of the Conservative party, hasn’t it?

    Only if you have an overly simplistic idea of the way in which Canadian politics function.

    1) Provinces are very powerful in Canadian politics and there are parties that exist only at the provincial level and parties that have been in power in particular provinces for years although never in power federally. 

    2) Historically Canada has had many minority governments — and in those cases  parties such as the NDP have wielded enormous amounts of power.

    3) Technically the Unionist part (a group of Conservatives and disaffected Liberals under the leadership of Borden — a Conservative) won power in 1917.

    4) Don’t get fooled by the name “Conservative.” First they were the Liberal-Conservatives (who, led by Macdonald defeated the Conservatives.) Then the Conservatives became the Progressive Conservatives [there had been a party called the Progressives.] Then in 1988 the PCs led by Kim Campbell went down to flaming defeat after having had back to back majorities. The party was left with TWO, count them, TWO seats. The present day Conservative Party grew out of the remains of the old PCs, the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance Party. For a few moments the reformulated party was actually named the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance — which made it CRAP and they quickly changed the name.

    5) Don’t get fooled by the misleading Wikipedia entry that says “if one regards the modern Conservative party as the successor to the historic one” since that is the type of simplification that actually obfuscates more than it clarifies. 

    6) The important thing is to remember that a) Canada has often had minority governments which means that third and fourth parties wield enormous powers and b the powerful provincial parties are amazingly independent of the national parties and sometimes have quite different names and ideologies.

    For example: 
    — the Parti Québécois in Quebec (which has been in power many times over the last 40 years)
    — the Social Credit Party in British Columbia which was in power for more than 3 decades over the last 60 or so years. [note: the SoCred party is very distinct from either the Liberals or the Conservatives.]
    — the Social Credit Party of Alberta (also the “ruling” party of that province for some number of years”)
    — the New Democratic Party of Ontario (before Bob Rae was a Liberal he was the NDP Premier of Ontario) — and no the NDP and the Liberals are ideologically quite distinct.
    — in 1944 the CCF (Co-operative Commonwealth Federation) won election in Saskatchewan under their leader, Tommy Douglas. Douglas is generally considered the most beloved Canadian in our history since he is considered the father of Canada’s “socialist” (we don’t call it that) medical system. This was also the first time a socialist party was elected to power in North America.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “and civil rights for GLBT people.”

    If only Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31 hadn’t had that disclaimer excepting them from the Golden Rule.

    Leviticus 20:13

    [13] If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have
    committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is
    upon them.

    Leviticus 18:22

    [22] You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

    Both quoted from the Revised Standard Version.

    Given how selective some Christians (who are promptly No-True-Scotsman-ed by other Christians, who in turn No-True-Scotsman their contradictors) are about applying the New Testament to the Old …

    I think I’ll go with the “yes, some people do indeed use the Bible to justify denial of civil and human rights to non-straight people”.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    USAian is not a real term,

    FWIS

  • vsm

    I’m just not sure why that calculus applies so rigidly now when it did not in the past

    To answer that, it might be useful to study movements that came relatively close to starting a new mass party. The Socialist Party, for instance, may have had a chance in the first decades of the 20th century when ~900 000 people voted Eugene Debs for president. This nascent popularity, of course, resulted in official persecution and Debs being locked up for daring to oppose WWI. During Roosevelt’s time, the Democrats swung to the left, taking the rest of their supporters. Of course, the longer a party can survive, the stronger its position becomes in various institutions and communities.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’ve also occasionally heard/used the term USAian. 

    Signed,
    A Canadian

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    I also occasionally hear/use the term USAian.

    Signed,
    A Canadian who felt seriously wigged out when Rick Perry says that Americans buying oil from Canada are not getting it from a “foreign source.”


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