May 28, 2004

The blatantly partisan blogosphere.

This blog is a mix of things. Like many, perhaps most, blogs, the mix is based on what catches my attention and inspires me. I enjoy discovering what the mix turns out to be. Some of what catches my eye is political. A political observation, especially if it catches a presidential candidate making a mistake, draws a lot of traffic to the blog. I like to think some of these people will stay around for the other components of the mix, but I realize it will only be a small percentage of the people who are drawn by the political gotcha that got the link. But I was quite struck by comments on this post yesterday, taking the position one ought to avoid politics altogether:
The blogosphere is blatantly partisan. ... I think it's quite difficult if not impossible to find any well-reasoned political debate on the internet .... It's hard to appear to be an equal-opportunity offender or critic much less actually be one. I haven't seen any large-scale blogger who really effectively does either.

I know, politics is important, and potentially interesting, but when I see stuff like this I am reminded both of why the Supreme Court doesn't hear political questions and what a very wise famous computer named JOSHUA once said:

"A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?"
I think that's well put, but terrible if true. We should cede the political speech to the hardcore partisans? A moderate observer of political things ought to opt out of political speech because of the danger of being used by the hardcore partisans that somehow rule the blogosphere? That's far too big a price to pay and far too pessimistic. It's far too perfectionistic too: of course, no one can become completely balanced in the center and dish out criticism in precisely balanced portions. And what does it mean to be "really effective" as a blogger? It's always just one more day of assorted posts, one more sampling of the mind of this particular blogger, out there for the world to dip into. If I were more of a hardcore partisan, I suppose I would worry that I might somehow, in my meanderings, hurt Kerry/Bush, and then I will have lost the game. The demonstration of my nonhardcore, nonpartisanship, is I don't care enough about that to worry the way this commenter thinks I will.


Anonymous said...

Isn't there really only one kind of centrist, the ideological centrist?

The ideological centrist is one whose beliefs are not driven by a core ideology that being equality vs. liberty. The ideological centrist is more concerned with practical results and will disregard the the liberty vs. equality debate. The centrist, however, will always have an ideological enemy because you can't have both liberty and equality. You will always either have more of one and less of the other.

Ann Althouse said...

You're saying pragmatists are ideologues? And centrists are all pragmatists, so centrists are ideologues. That's draining all the meaning out of the word ideological. And you think everyone has to make a choice between all-out liberty or all-out equality unless you want to buy into all-out pragmatism? I think it would make more sense to say no one really buys any of those three extreme positions!

Anonymous said...

An idealogical centrist? You can't strive toward both liberty and equality? Are you suggesting that heavy taxation (eg. Sweden)is a form of liberty deprivation? [nc]

Anonymous said...

Yes, generally heavy taxation does take liberty away from those who are taxed. It obviously depends on what the government is spending the taxes on, because some taxes are required.

Generally, governments tax the poor and middle class to the ultimate political limit. Middle class taxes are the most stable because it comes from wages that are usually steady. After than governments must get all additional monies from the wealthy (about 50% of the budget in the U.S.), which is a more unstable source. You can get the money from the wealty in two ways: 1) you can tax them; 2) you can borrow from them. Either way the money is coming from the wealthy. Poor and middle class people have no extra money to be taxed or to lend.

You can use taxes to redistribure wealth and create more equality, but then the the less freedom there is for investment and growth which is what ultimately leads to the rise in standards of living

Anonymous said...

That assumes that only economic determinism drives the equality v. liberty debate and that centrists are swayed by such concerns about spending and taxation, to the exclusion of other positions on matters outside the sphere of spending. [nc]

Anonymous said...

A centrist is one who is not driven by a liberty or equality leaning ideology. I would argue that they are driven more by pure pragmitism. This does not mean that the pragmitist always makes the better choice. For example, it was the industrialists, aka the pragmitists, in Germany who tipped their support to the Nazi's because it was more practical to support Hitler's economic plans to revive the country. In doing so they rationalized the dark ideological side of Hitler as just political babble, and paid for it in the end. Pragmitists are also often fickle in their support.

The equality vs. liberty debate is all about economics. The idea of social equality is economic equality. To have a truly utopian socialist society, you either need all people to think the same (which is impossible) our you need dictatorship and the supression of liberty to force the system to operate.

Again, if you live in a total libertarian society you probably would end up with the same result.

Just study a little ancient Greece... they tried everything.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

As the Anonymous who posted the comment of discussion, I'd like to add some things.

It's not as though I was saying you or we shouldn't talk about politics, we should. I just don't know if you'll get the interesting even-tempered rational debate in the comments section that one would hope. More likely you'll get exactly what you just got...Kerry loves terrorists and Bush is evil. I don't think that moderates or more accurately undecided voters are generally inspired to comment on posts because they have nothing to defend or attack passionately.

So being the self-described moderate or undecided blogger basically means constantly shunning off remarks of partisanship when you "attack" one candidate or the other by constantly saying..."but I'm a moderate!! An independent!!" and pointing to some evidence of such.

So if you don't care about having to do that or decide that you just won't...then there's really no issues.

I think a lot of these problems stem from a general distrust of "moderates" or undecided voters because those with affiliations can't understand why in this battle of good vs. evil you can't seem to make a choice. It's so clear cut!

So more precisely I was saying that it's hard (meaning not enjoyable) to be the moderate in a room of electioneering Bush and Kerry supporters. A lot of the truly rational arguments will never be discussed because neither side will yield anything.

Yes, you could call that pessimistic. But I also have read political blogs from both sides of the spectrum for over a year that have comments and the section usually gets hijacked by people who hate Kerry or hate Bush...bringing you, the moderate who hates partisanship, down into the jungle with the rest of them.

Anonymous said...

" be the moderate in a room of electioneering Bush and Kerry supporters. A lot of the truly rational arguments will never be discussed because neither side will yield anything..."

I think this statement is a bunch of bull. People take positions, make arguments, and then compromise. It's what democracy is all about. A moderate could be someone who is completely for invading Iraq with no reason other than that Saddam is a bad guy, while at the same time opposing tax cuts (i.e., John McCain). Or you could be totally pro-life, while at the same time in support of government controlled campaign finance reform (i.e., John McCain). Just because your a "moderate" doesn't mean you waffle on every issue. In fact you could be hard-core on all issues and considered a moderate because you don't fall in as a traditional liberal or conservative.

Although the above argument breaks down when you take it to the extreme. Take Hitler for example; he was a socialist and for total economic and social equality for the German People. But, he was a ultra nationalist in that the German people and the German nation should be unequal, and therefore dominate, all others. People often refer to Hitler as "Right" Wing, but he was really an extreme of both wings.

Ann Althouse said...

I've been listening to partisans rant about politics for many decades, and I know how to keep my bearings. I don't like to get into face to face arguments with irrational ideologues, but the blogosphere, being a place that exists in writing, is a quiet place. I enjoy writing about these things and am trying to be a good role model for political moderation. No one is here yelling at me, and I feel quite empowered through writing--especially when other people are being irrational.

Anonymous said...

How is it "a bunch of bull" to say that in a room of partisans, not all rational arguments will be explored? That's what I said. To disagree with that you would need to think that somehow a truth or at minimum an efficient workable solution will be derived through that discussion. I guess I don't.

I may be wrong but it also seems as though you assume that "compromises" are made for the best of the American people or the democratic process rather than the best of the political party making the compromise.

I never discussed much less defined what I consider a moderate to be, although you can certainly take a stab at that (which you did). I personally don't agree with any strict party line mantras...but I do think there are better examples of political moderates than John McCain. Any of the Northeast Republicans.

Anonymous said...

I think to be a moderate is really to be a liberal. Absolutes belong to conservatives.

Anonymous said...

"...I think to be a moderate is really to be a liberal. Absolutes belong to conservatives."

Hmmm, perhaps another duly pointed out divide for liberal vs. conservative. I would agree that most conservatives believe in absolute truths, in that morality stays constant throughout the ages. While a few liberals, who associate themselves with moral relativism, believe in nothing.

However, I would disagree with the quote above and argue that most liberals have a sense of absolute truth and those that don't should be considered extremists.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but the absolute truth liberals believe is a convoluted, amorphous mess. It's always changing. While there's nothing wrong with changing with the times, at some point we have to stop hemming and hawing and babysitting and get to a solution.