09 May 2016


Revised and updated a bit.

I saw David Brooks, on Charlie Rose, observe that, “I am a Whig.” I suspect I may be one too. Brooks suggested that there are not two trends conservative and liberal in America. Rather there are three: liberal which seeks to use government to increase equity, conservative which seeks to limit government to increase freedom, and a third way, call it “Whig” which seeks to use liberal and yet vibrant government to increase love, relationship and mutual growth.

I am trying to think about how that triad works in terms of national policies. I have been recalling President and Mrs. Kennedy who defined his career as, “politician” and hers as, “politics.” They understood that they probably possessed at best partial truth, and that the opposition might have some part too. So, to quote another president,Ronald Reagan, “It is better to have a piece of the pie, than no pie at all.” About the same time, the Senate had two leaders, Ev Dirksen for the Republicans, and Lyndon Johnson for the Democrats. They were famous for being two of the three leaders – the third being the Jack Daniels Whiskey they shared after each session. We were the most centrist country around, and the most successful.

These few people met, debated, argued, discussed, and then brought their members into the coalition. For decades, they effectively ran the country. We were better for them. They agreed with President Kennedy that, “politician” was an honorable title, with Eisenhower that politics and compromise were how the country was designed to work.

So the question, what is wrong with us now? I think the,”tea party” movements (they are legion) have grown out of the social media phenomena. It is observable, and many have, that we now have a mix of anonymity and access that allows us to be horribly rude. We can express horrible ideas about each other, never know one another, dispise compromise, and avoid the reactions and responses with a key stroke. With humanity's unerring guidance system engaged we have managed to take the magnificent benefits of our technology and turn it to sin.

Add in our propensity to be about ourselves first, call it racism, homophobia, or Trump, and we have a perfect storm. We do not do compromises any more. We do not do politics. We instead, “primary” any one who does. And in the most sinful way, we claim this is virtue. After all, when we refuse to see the other person's view, we are "pure."

It is clear to me that the fault lies on both sides. Angry “conservatives” are no worse than smug “liberals." Both fail precisely because, of their legalistic puritanism. I cannot make you a progressive, nor should I seek to do so. But at the same moment, I should not dismiss you if you are not. I am not correct, I possess a portion of the same truths you share.

We need to learn politics again. We need to consider the possibility that some of us have a point, eve if we do not like it much. We need to bring collegiality back to our institutions.

Maybe we need to start with Jack Daniels. I have no idea if Mrs. Clinton whom I hope will be our next president drinks, nor do I know if Speaker Ryan does. But I do know that if they, and half a dozen others do, and get together to consider how to move government and society forward, on a regular basis, we will be a better, safer nation. There is something to be said for freedom, but also for commonwealth.

There are evil ideas abroad. Anything Ayn Rand wrote or said comes under that rubric in my view. Misuse of social media so it becomes almost anti-social media, privacy taken to an idolatrous level, attempting to enforce inclusion and diversity on people, all of these are evil. We need politics, a chance to be ourselves and grow together instead of becoming an ever more self-segregating collection of ideologues.

Ideology, at the end of the day is almost always sinful. Liberal ideologues are not better, conservative ideologues are not better. Compromise is better. I guess I am a Whig. Who knew?

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