Towards real bipartisanship

I really liked this NYT Op-Ed from conservative, but very much reasonable, scholar Arthur Brooks:

Consider, for example, that two billion people have risen from subsistence-level poverty in the past few decades. Mainstream economists, from left to right, recognize that it was no state organization or foreign aid that did this; it was the spread of globalization, trade and the rule of law. It is not political to say that American economic ideals, while not perfect, pulled billions of our brothers and sisters out of poverty.

To lift up the next two billion people, advocates for the poor need to work together with people who are passionate about the role of free markets — roughly speaking, the left and the right. This is not an appeal for anyone to abandon his or her political views. But each side needs to recognize that starting the ignition of prosperity in the corners of the world that need it most desperately requires two keys, one traditionally held by each side. [emphasis mine]

The current polarization in America obstructs this kind of collaboration. So what’s the antidote? I asked the Dalai Lama, one of the world’s experts on bringing people together. He made two points. First, the solution starts not with institutions, but with individuals. We look too much to political parties or Congress to make progress, but not nearly enough at our own behavior.

You can’t single-handedly change the country, but you can change yourself. By declaring your independence from the bitterness washing over our nation, you can strike a small blow for greater national unity.

Second, each of us must aspire to what the Dalai Lama calls “warmheartedness” toward those with whom we disagree. This might sound squishy, but it is actually tough and practical advice. As he has stated, “I defeat my enemies when I make them my friends.” He is not advocating surrender to the views of those with whom we disagree. Liberals should be liberals and conservatives should be conservatives. But our duty is to be respectful, fair and friendly to all, even those with whom we have great differences.

Very good points, but I want to be somewhat unwarm and raise a few complaints.  First, yes, both sides can do better, but the far greater resistance to compromise among conservatives is extremely well-documented.  Fair to say, they’ve got more work to do.  Also, all but the far left recognize the value of capitalism and free markets.  We just need properly regulated markets, damnit.  And a government that recognizes the inherent weaknesses of markets (e.g., public health care) and appropriately steps in.

Also, as for the “warmheartedness” (very similar, of course, to the principle of charity advocated by Jon K. and Jonathan Haidt) sometimes the other side is really not worthy of so much respect.  Oh, just off the top of my head, maybe fearmongering about safety in pubic restrooms to pass far broader legislation to ensure that LGBT discrimination is okay.  Cannot work up a lot of respect and warmth for that.

All politicians make mistakes

I suppose some of this mistakes mean they make lack the judgment to become president, but it’s an incredibly uncertain world out there and sometimes reasonable people are going to make the wrong call.  I appreciated this aspect of Krugman’s most recent anti-Bernie column:

But Mr. Sanders wasn’t careful at all, declaring that what he considers Mrs. Clinton’s past sins, including her support for trade agreements and her vote to authorize the Iraq war — for which she has apologized — make her totally unfit for office…

This is really bad, on two levels. Holding people accountable for their past is O.K., but imposing a standard of purity, in which any compromise or misstep makes you the moral equivalent of the bad guys, isn’t. [emphasis mine]

Obviously, the tendency to do this is probably somewhat universal in human nature, but it is clearly far more a problem in contemporary Republican politics.  I’d like to keep it that way.

Also, somewhat similar points in Obama’s recent comments cautioning Democrats not to become like the Tea Party:

Following the rise of the Tea Party and Donald Trump, Obama said infighting within the Republican Party is much worse than it is on the Democratic side.
But he urged his party’s voters to be mindful of that danger in the midst of a heated primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
“The thing Democrats have to guard against is going in the direction that the Republicans are much further along on, and that is this sense ‘we are just going to get our way, and if we don’t, then we’ll cannibalize our own, kick them out and try again,’ ” he said at a town-hall meeting with law students in Chicago.In that scenario, Democrats could “stake out positions so extreme, they alienate the broad public,” Obama added. “I don’t see that being where the Democrats go, but it’s always something we have to pay attention to.”

Obama’s comments come amid a major dustup between Clinton and Sanders that has Democrats concerned about keeping their party unified.

Sanders on Wednesday accused Clinton of being not “qualified” to serve as president because of her willingness to use a super-PAC and support for the Iraq War and free trade agreements…

“The danger, whether for Democrats or Republicans, is in a closed-loop system where everybody is just listening to the people who agree with them,” he said.

“And that anybody who suggests there is another point of view … well, then you must be a sellout or you must be corrupted or you must be on the take or what have you,” he added. “That is not, I think, useful.”

No Sanders’ supporters are not the equivalent of the Tea Party.  But I think there is a natural inclination towards ideological purity that is a dangerous thing in politics.  Unless, you think everything is great with Republicans today.

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