Partisanship revisited


According to Wikipedia, Partisan (political) In politics, partisan literally means organized into political parties. The expression “partisan politics” usually refers to fervent, sometimes militant, support of a party, cause, faction, person, or idea. . .

Just for a moment, forget about Democrats and Republicans, Greens and Libertarians.  I want  you to think about fervent, militant support of a faction, person, cause, idea or party.

A lot of us talk about our respect for independent political voices.  Heck, I talk about that, why shouldn’t you?  But frequently, we mean a voice that opposes a particular set of positions — the same positions we oppose.  By our natures, that means a voice that supports a different set of positions — the same positions that we support.  What makes that independent?  And why don’t we consider that partisan?

Political party positions evolve, dependent upon who becomes involved in setting those positions.  I’m too close to the Democratic party to be objective, but I’ve watched the Republican party move further right, and further away from the positions I could share.  I know that those positions evolved in reaction to other social pressures and to the positions of the Democratic party.  We find it easier to identify the ‘other’ if there’s a clear line of demarcation between our positions and theirs.

But really, is there such a clear line, especially in local politics?  Let me take some local issues to play with, and break them down a bit.

Development: Development downtown.  Development in near-downtown neighborhoods.  Development along business corridors.  Development in suburban neighborhoods.  Development outside the City limits.  Sprawl.  Density.  New businesses.  Economic incentives to build.  Economic incentives to build work-force housing.  Economic incentives to build affordable housing.  Economic incentives to build housing for the homeless.  Economic incentives to build new businesses.  Economic incentives to build new businesses in the downtown.

Human services: Affordable housing.  Affordable housing in the downtown.  Affordable housing in near-downtown neighborhoods. Replacing the 100 units of SRO (single room occupancy) that were lost with the old YMCA.  Affordable housing with support services.  Workforce housing for downtown workers.  Supportive housing.  Supportive housing in near-downtown neighborhoods.  Housing — workforce, supportive and/or affordable — along business corridors. Housing for the homeless.  Increased support services.  Foreclosure moratorium.

I’m already tired.

Safety services: Sufficient staffing.  Sufficient equipment.  Sufficient benefits.  Increased employee contributions toward benefits.  Changing retiree benefits to defined contribution from defined benefit.  Union contracts.  Retiree health care. Healthy working situation.  Uniform allowance.  Meal allowance.  Transportation allowance.  Paid cell phone.  Radon.  Vehicles.  Budgets for new vehicles.  Budgets for new equipment.  Unallocated funds.  Staffing levels funded but not filled.  Mid-year retirements.

Transportation: Public transportation.  Parking.  Cars. Electric cars.  Electric car charging stations in parking structures.  Zip cars.  Zip cars at the train station.  Zip cars in parking lots.  Zip cars on business corridors.  Zip cars at high-density housing.  Bike lanes.  Bike parking.  Bike rental at parking structures.  Bike rental at the train station.  Bikes on the train.  Bikes on the bus. Parking rates.  Parking management.  Parking tickets.  Traffic tickets.  Rapid flashing beacons at crosswalks.  Pedestrian rights.  Pedestrian crossing.  Potholes.  Street maintenance.  Lane marking.  Speed.  Speeding tickets.  Speeding tickets as an income source for safety services.  County wide transit.  Regional transit.  Intra-city trains.  Inter-city buses.  Federal funding.  Federal funding for bridges.  Federal funding for trains.  Federal funding for train stations.  Funding for transit systems, period.

I’m done.  I can’t begin to list all of the issues in one sitting.  

But really — is there only one way to view this list?  Does each item have only one right position?  I’d say a resounding “NO”.  I think there are sides to all of these issues, and as we take sides, we align ourselves with others who take the same side.  And that’s what partisanship is all about.

If some of us always take the same group of positions — for or against any constellation of issues — we’re partisan.  If we follow someone else’s lead always, we’re partisan.  If we are overly influenced by those in power, or those who wish they were in power, we’re partisan.

I don’t pretend to myself that there aren’t voices I respect more than others, just as there are voices I don’t respect as much.  Nor should you.

I hope you’ll join me in trying to listen to those voices without deciding they are always right, or always wrong.  Doing that, we can move closer to independent, and away from partisan.

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