(By Bill Moloney, ’76 Contributor) In U.S. political discourse today there are few more popular attitudes then the endless lamentations over “political polarization”. The Cassandras insist that divisiveness is damaging, attack ads are despicable, and the prevalence of same does great harm to the fabric of American Democracy. In essence these critics become staunch advocates of the Rodney King approach to politics: “Can’t we all just get along?”
Such pious poses are profoundly wrongheaded and completely divorced from the misunderstood genius of the American political system.
Those who view the lies, half-truths, mud slinging, personal attacks, and general slanging matches of this current election year as unprecedented simply don’t know their American history. The political combat of 2016 is actually a rather tame version of a great American political tradition. Those who doubt this should glance at the Presidential elections of 1800, 1860, or 1896. There- and there are other examples- you will find real political polarization. You will also find elections in which great issues were at stake and critical turning points in American history were at hand.
Best of all you will find there elections in which the American people were given real-even stark- choices. These elections were- to borrow a phrase from Ronald Reagan- drawn in “bold colors, not pale pastels”.
Before we yearn for that Utopia where political polarization has been abolished we should recognize what a disaster such a world would be for the freedoms and health of the American political system. In effect the United States would have become the European Union (E.U.) where citizens are routinely denied any meaningful choices and elections are about mere details concerning the trappings of the long regnant socialist welfare state.
Today Europe is in crisis and democracy is on the ropes owing to stagnant economies, soaring unemployment, unsustainable entitlement programs, cultural dissolution, and electoral systems purposely designed to prevent citizens from achieving any real change via the ballot box.
The dysfunction of European democracy has been made painfully evident by the near collapse of sovereignty across the Continent occasioned by the waves of uninvited migrants from Asia and Africa now flooding the E.U. countries.
Most pathological of all is the impotence of the “bi-partisan” elites who increasingly rule the E.U. from the supra-national capital of Brussels and today are utterly clueless on how to deal with this migrant crisis that is alarming the people and destabilizing governments in country after country.
A main result of these disorders has been the rapid growth of heretofore “fringe” political parties that are now insistently thrusting themselves into a mainstream long dominated by the Tweedledee and Tweedledom traditional parties.
A prime example of the institutional political chicanery that so frustrates popular will is France where currently the largest political party- the anti-migrant, anti- EU National Front of Marine LePen- is via a rigged two stage electoral system denied any real political power no matter how many votes they get. This is illustrated by the most recent election where the National Front finished first in the first round with pluralities in a huge number of constituencies only to be almost totally shut out when the two “Establishment” parties- Socialist and “Conservative”(further Left than Bernie Sanders)- colluded to combine their votes in the second round run-off.
Similar electoral trap doors aimed at non-establishment parties can be widely found among other E.U. countries. In sum they’ve succeeded in abolishing “political polarization” by replacing it with “Political Suppression and Stagnation”.
American politics surely has its’ defects, but they are much preferable to those of Europe. When we vote this November we will actually have real choices between two very different political parties with very different visions for the country’s future. Hearing Hillary call The Donald a bad name or The Donald calling Hillary a worse one is a small price to pay for this privilege.
So, let us celebrate America’s “political polarization”. Long may it endure.
William Moloney’s columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, and Human Events.