To Remain Viable, Political Parties Require Internal Debate

Post-2016 tribalism has put defensiveness at the forefront of politics. Particularly on the right, Reagan’s 11th Commandment—don’t insult members of your own party—has always held sway, but the Trump cult of personality has put such thinking into overdrive. One cannot criticize the president on any grounds without being harangued, dragged over the coals and called any number of rude names you’d be loathe to repeat in front of your mother. The 11th Commandment has long…

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America’s Party Culture, Part 2: Destructive Behavior

Discrimination is an operative force in politics; a functioning government must calculate what courses of action are likely to benefit the citizenry and the nation as a whole. To do so, politicians must have a vision of an end towards which they are working, meaning ideological belief is the driving force behind an efficacious politics. Parties are an organizational tool to this end; they connect members of the citizenry, who have disparate sets of belief…

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America’s Party Culture, Part 1: An Exclusive Club

An efficacious politics requires some degree of exclusivity, even in a democratic society. A functional government is built on choice; politicians must sort through vast troves of information, not all of it reliable, in order to identify and pursue the one course of action most likely to lead to a desired outcome. But it is not enough to lobby for the passage of a specific policy on the grounds that it benefits a certain constituency;…

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The Media As Modern Day Philosopher-Kings

The modern media is, in many ways, not unlike Plato’s utopian dream city of Kallipolis. Eschewing democratic ideas and the concept of a meritocracy, Plato’s famous Socratic dialogue, The Republic, embraces a natural aristocracy of minds and argues that, for justice to be a reality, those of ability—the philosophers—should rule and those lacking the requisite mental acumen—the followers—should simply accept their lot in life and allow those who know better to order their affairs. Plato’s…

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In defense of political polarization

The attempt by a deranged individual to assassinate a group of Republican legislators was all too illustrative of the ugly rhetoric of force, the last resort of those who know not how to reason. It cast a pall over the collective mood of the nation’s elected officials and led to a rare moment of universal clarity, causing both Democrats and Republicans to descry the discourse of venom and acrimony which seems to increasingly dominate politics…

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It’s time to embrace division in American politics

Modern political ideology has devolved into a form of sectarianism. Party identification now serves as nothing short of an intellectual brand. If an individual claims to be a Democrat or a Republican, or to have a deep ideological connection to a sect of either party, all sorts of assumptions are encouraged. To some degrees this is logical; the point of political parties, after all, is to provide structure and organization to a complicated electoral system…

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