One way to describe the great divide within mainstream politics is that one side is the partisans and the other side objectivists. The partisans are focused on their objectives and what they think is good for their side. They just want to win and don’t worry too much about how they win. The objectivists are focused on facts and think that truth will prevail eventually. The partisans are what we call the Left and the objectivists are what we call the Right in America.
The partisans are an ends justifies the means mode of thought. They are unconstrained by rules or convention. In fact, they are not limited by what they said last week, as last week was a different time with different goals. In a world where winning is the only thing that matters, everything else bends to serve that end. If being seen as on the science is useful in the moment, they love science. If treating science like magic is useful next week, then next week they will mock science.
Objectivists, of course, find this mind boggling. They look at these contradictions as the Achilles’s heel of their opponents. They spend a lot of time pointing out how the partisans are contradicting what they said last week. Often this is effective, as the public tends to side with the objectivists in most things. The climate change stuff is a good example of how the partisans harm their own cause. Their flexibility with the truth is a liability when asking the public to take their word on science.
For the most part, though, this willingness to transcend facts, and even reality in some cases, is a great advantage in a democracy. Politics in a democracy is immediate, rather than deliberative, so that first impression counts for a lot. If in the fullness of time those initial arguments are found to be full of lies or simply wrong, it does not matter as everyone is onto the next thing. It is rare in a democracy for the debate to circle back and address an old argument or have a do-over.
A good example of how this works is the term “gun show loophole.” This remains a popular catchphrase on the Left. They know gun control is wildly unpopular, so they talk about ending gun show loopholes. The fact that there is no such thing as a gun show loophole does not matter. It sounds good. People don’t like loopholes of any sort as they seem dishonest, so they support ending gun show loopholes. The Left can appear reasonable, despite perpetrating a fraud on the public.
Of course, this summer we got to experience another example of how the truth is no constraint to the partisan. The people burning, looting and attacking people in the streets have been labeled peaceful protesters. Just this week, as video comes out of massive looting and pillaging in Philadelphia, the governor of the state called it a mostly peaceful protest. That strikes the objectivists as insane, but from the point of view of the partisan, it helps their cause and that’s all that matters.
As violence spread around the country this summer, the chant from the rioters was often something like “silence is violence.” In other words, if you did not vocally support them, they could rightfully assume you were plotting violence or supported violence against them, so they were justified in using violence. In other words, to the partisan, their violence is speech, while your speech is violence. The objectivists are stymied by this sleight of hand, so they have remained dumbstruck by it.
This willingness to transcend the rules of language was on display this week as democrats threw a choreographed tantrum over Judge Barrett. They claimed that Trump was packing the court, a term that goes back a century to when FDR tried to increase the number of judges, so he could get his guys on the bench. The fact that Trump was not actually doing anything like that was not a constraint on the Democrats bleating about court packing all week.
Just as their violence is speech, while your speech is violence, the logic of the situation is being turned on its head. They now claim that their plans to pack the court are a justified response to Trump packing the court. You see, when their enemy scrupulously follows the rules it is a gross violation of procedure, but when they overturn procedure it is restoring order and balance. This is not mere hypocrisy. This is the natural detachment from objectivity that is a predicate for the partisan.
This is why the partisans tend to prevail in a democracy. They have a wider range of options because they are not limited by facts and reason. Additionally, the objectivists are self-limiting, often ceding the field because they think the rules require it. One side gets to play dirty, while the other side tries to talk them out of it. The truth is, there is no reasoning with a partisan. There is no way to reason with someone who will not stipulate to the basic facts of life. They exist beyond reason.
This is the story of the last 30 years. As the partisans have become increasingly partisan, which means less constrained by reality, the objectivists have become more certain that reality will step and do the job they refuse to do. They imagine a time when the partisan suddenly realizes the truth of his situation, throws down his weapons and embraces the objectivist as a brother in logic. For the objectivist, reason has become escapism in order to avoid what must be done.
A byproduct of this dynamic is that most people have no voice in the media, government or any other area of public life. The partisans advance their positions on behalf of their cause, while the objectivists fret about factual accuracy. In a democracy, objectivity is not a constituency, so the objectivists end up representing the interests of abstract concepts, rather than genuine people, which means the bulk of the people have no representative.
Another old saying relevant here is that in war, truth is the first casualty. The reason for this is war is a conflict between two sides, neither of which has a reason to see things from the point of view of the other side. It is the ultimate partisan conflict. If there is ever going to be a force to topple the current Left, their first task will be to eliminate those more concerned about truth and reason than the welfare of genuine people.
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