A fetish of the modern Right in America has been complaining about and denouncing partisanship in Washington. In fairness, the Left will indulge in this on the rare occasions when the Republicans do something for their voters. Mostly it is a conservative fetish, as it is the Left that drives the debate. The Right needs to maintain the fantasy that republican virtue still matters, so they regularly complain about the Left acting in their narrow interests, rather than in the interests of the country.
In theory, the conservatives are correct. Partisanship is the great bane of a republic, as it subverts the very basis of a republic. What is necessary to maintain a republic is what Montesquieu called republican virtue, the willingness to put the interests of the system ahead of personal or factional interests. For example, you must respect the office, even if you have no respect for the man holding the office. This shows up in our military culture where you do not salute the person, you salute the rank.
The trouble with the conservative approach is we have not lived in a republic for a very long time, so they are playing make believe. We live in a liberal democracy that is decreasing liberal with each turn of the wheel. In democratic systems, the ends justify the means, so partisanship dominates. It replaces republican virtue in favor of subjective moral certainty. This is one of the reasons that conservatism is worthless in a democracy of any sort. It prohibits victory as defined by the rules.
A good example of how partisanship works is in this conversation on the Daily Wire program, which is part of a series they run call Backstage. It is one of those round table deals where the stars chat about issues of the day. The highlighted clip is the discussion of Israel and their attacks on the Arabs last week. The people behind the Daily Wire are hyper-Zionists, so the conversation follows predictable contours. Israel is heroically fighting attacks from those evil Arabs.
Matt Walsh tries to point out a true fact, which is that Americans do not have a patriotic duty to support Israel or any other country. Immediately, the rules of the show are suspended as Boreing, Shapiro and Klavan leap to attack Walsh. It is an amusing bit of mask dropping, given the title of the show. The rules of decorum stop mattering to the partisan, as soon as his interests are in play. They cut off Walsh a few times and make sure he cannot get his point across to the audience.
An example of how rules are meaningless to partisans is when Shapiro claims that patriotism means love of ideas, while nationalism means love of country. This is laughable nonsense, and he surely knows it, so it is also a lie. The word patriotism comes from the Greek for “of one’s fathers” or fatherland. Of course, nationalism means a devotion to one’s own people. Both concepts have been attacked for obvious reasons, but their etymology is never in dispute.
In other words, Shapiro does not feel bound by truth when it comes to these topics, because what matters is his partisan interests. He wants conservatives to think they are duty-bound to back Israel, so he feels justified in making crazy claims like Americans have a patriotic duty to blindly defend Israel. This is an instinct that exists in the lizard brain, so he does not think of what he is doing as dishonest or immoral. It is just what he does, like pulling his hand away from a hot item.
Another aspect of partisanship is on display with Andrew Klavan. In that clip he makes the case for exterminating the Arabs. He does not put it like that, but that is the implication of his argument. In his view, the Arabs will never behave, and the Israelis are justified in using lethal force. The logical leap from those two statements is that the final solution to the problem is the liquidation of the Arabs. His excitement at the thought of exterminating the Arabs is an insight into the partisan mind.
Partisanship, like ethnocentrism, places group loyalty at the top. The first thing the partisan does when encountering people or issues is place them on one side of the partisan lines. “Is this person on our side?” is always the first question. In the case of issues or events, the question is, “how can this be turned to our advantage?” Since the partisans swaps his own individual identity for that of the group, these questions always feel deeply personal. They are life and death.
In a sense they are life and death. Since who Ben Shapiro is, from the perspective of Ben Shapiro, is his membership in the Zionist subculture, any questioning of it is a questioning of his very existence. It is why Klavan starts to salivate at the thought of killing Arabs. He cannot see them as human, as they are opposed to his group, so they are his mortal enemies. One is always justified in using any means necessary when defending your life from a threat.
You hear this in the left-wing justifications for violence over the last year. When they say “silence is violence” they are not being cheeky. To the partisan mind, you are either on their side or against their side. Words and violence are the same to the partisan mind, as anything that opposes the group is seen as a lethal threat. That is why silence is viewed as violence, as not declaring your support means opposition and the partisan is free to use any means necessary to end a threat.
There is not only no reasoning with a partisan, but there is no appealing to their better nature or their sense of virtue. Their chief virtue, the thing that matters the most to them, is their loyalty to the cause. Everything is warped to fit that moral framework, even the very definition of words, as you see with Ben Shapiro. Everything is viewed as a tool that can either be used against opponents or can be used by opponents. Facts and reason have no more resonance than clubs and guns.
This is why moral appeals against partisanship fail. It is like making the claim that pork is healthy to a devout Muslim. He does not share your morality, so your morals appeal sounds weird and offensive. Your good intensions are proof of your bad intensions, which defeats the point of making the moral appeal. The only counter to partisanship is more extreme partisanship. Once that genie has been let out of the bottle, the only way to put it back in the bottle is through any means necessary.
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