Here’s another case in which I got carried away with a comment response, and decided to turn it into a separate post.
This morning, Phillip observed:
Also, important to remember that parties have been born, fragmented, and died during the course of American history. The fact that we’ve had “Democratic” and “Republican” parties as the two main parties (even as each one’s identity has changed radically over time in many ways) since 1856 has made us forget that a little bit. Perhaps we are seeing the real fragmentation of the Republican party, an upheaval in the two-party system unknown for a century and a half.
Some of this may be attributed to the unusual nature of Trump as a candidate himself, but the wave he sits astride will not vanish with his probable defeat this November. The GOP will not go all kumbaya after this election, whether Trump loses narrowly or loses by a “yuge” margin.
It was a trenchant, relevant comment of the sort we expect from Phillip, and it got me going along these lines…
We’ve had these two parties for so long not because of anything special about these two particular parties and their respective, shifting platforms.
It’s about having two parties, period.
It’s about the binary paradigm. It’s about the fact that we decided some time ago that we had to have a dichotomy. Left and right. Winner and loser. Up and down. Black and white. American League (boo!) and National League. You get two choices, and that’s it. There are only two teams on a football field — there are no players out there wearing a third uniform, or no uniform at all — so why should politics be any different? Isn’t football the perfect analogy for life? (I may never fully extricate my tongue from my cheek after typing that.)
We’ve decided there have to be two parties. It doesn’t much matter how those two parties define themselves, or what they are called. We’re used to Democrat and Republican, so we stick with that. It’s convenient. We don’t care enough about the particulars of parties to try to start new ones, and besides, starting new parties means you might temporarily have three or four before they are winnowed back to two, and that’s contrary to the whole idea of the game.
Worse — and this is particularly maddening to someone who engages in ideas in the public sphere and despises both options — if you reject one option, tout le monde automatically places you in the opposite category. Because you’re not allowed other options.
And to digress – yes, my horror of being accused of adhering to Option B when I criticize Option A leads me often to make a point of noting that the same problem, or a problem of equal magnitude, exists with Option B. Hence the “false equivalence” that drives some of you to distraction. Except that it’s not false. I really mean it. It’s just that bringing up the fact may seem forced or out of place to you, no matter how elegantly I try to put it. You Option B folks wish I’d just point out the oh-so-obvious faults of Option A without gratuitously picking on your team. Sorry, but I’ve been conditioned to making a particular point of placing myself outside both camps to avoid confusion.
To digress from the digression: Interestingly, Option B in this analogy is pretty much always the Democrats. Y’all notice that? It’s usually, if not always, my more liberal interlocutors who complain of the “false equivalence.” A search for that phrase yields comments by Bud, Kathryn, Phillip, SCL and Tim. Not a conservative in the bunch. OK, not all of those accusations of “false equivalence” are aimed at me, but usually they are. SCL provides a particularly good example:
Honestly, you are the king of false equivalence. Have you EVER written a piece, going back to your editor days, that you didn’t try to fit into that “both sides are at fault” template? I’m not a member of either party, but you’re wrong to say the blame for this one lies anywhere other than 100% with the SCGOP….
I wonder why that is — that it’s usually, if not always, liberals/Democrats. I have a couple of theories. The first is that, as holier-than-thou as the Republicans can be, it’s Democrats who are more fully convinced of their own virtue, and of the other sides’ failings. So they are outraged by observations that challenge that. Does that strike you as true? Perhaps not. Here’s my second theory: That Democrats/liberals agree with Republicans/conservatives in seeing the media as liberal, and it particularly irks Democrats when they see a media type going out of his way to lay Democrats’ sins alongside those of Republicans. They feel that he’s letting down the side, breaking an unspoken pact. No? Well, offer your own theory.
Or maybe it’s just that I seem to make more of a point of it when I’m describing Republicans’ failings and feel the need to stick in the Democrats’, as opposed to vice versa — being particularly sensitive to that “y’all are all liberals” meme. And therefore, the Democrats are more likely to notice it…
It was at this point that I decided to turn this into a separate post. Your thoughts?