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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Partisanship Examined

It's not that I think partisanship is inherently bad. Partisanship is part of competition, which is good in every facet of life. The problem with partisanship arises when it becomes the sole barometer of political thought in deciding on an issue, candidate or vote. There is a problem when blind support for an ideology leads someone away from making a decision that is in the best interests of his country and himself.

Unfortunately this kind of partisanship seems to be the direction in which both major parties are headed. Where I live in Connecticut, this turn toward extremity is being played out in the race for the Senate. Joe Lieberman, a conservative Democrat who was once mainstream enough to be his party's vice presidential nominee, is now being challenged by a fairly extreme liberal. Lieberman has held two "conservative" positions in his life: He condemned Bill Clinton for his adulterous actions, and he now is a moderate supporter of the war in Iraq. Despite his lifelong record of voting left on abortion, civil rights, alternative energy, healthcare and government and tax reform, the Democratic Party is pushing itself left and Lieberman out.

Partisanship is not a partisan issue; both Democrats and Republicans are guilty and should condemn it. The Republican Party tried to do the very same thing to moderate Senator Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island. Steven Laffey, a candidate who opposes stem cell research and has made a number of borderline homophobic remarks, mounted a serious primary challenge to Chafee from the hard right. Despite the fact that Laffey would have stood almost no chance in a general election and his campaign targeted a true moderate voice in the Senate, Chafee was nearly defeated. Lincoln Chafee is a Republican Senator who opposes ANWR drilling and supports same-sex marriages and a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Yet this independent voice was almost unseated by blind partisanship -- putting politics above the best interests of the country.

We see this same struggle between blind partisanship and informed moderation playing out right here in New Hampshire. In the Congressional race between Charlie Bass and Paul Hodes, many people are so anti-Bush and anti-Republican that they refuse to look at the actual records of the two candidates. I am confident that if we can all look at their records, instead of resorting to partisan knee-jerking and thoughtless heuristics, the choice in this election will be clear.

For example, Paul Hodes's record is not discussed because he literally does not have one. He has never won or held elected office, and in his last attempt, his fairly extreme views understandably garnered him only 38 percent of the vote. Hodes is a trial attorney proffering opinions on complicated issues on which he has no training or experience. Support for Hodes seems to amount to little more than opposition to Bush rather than constructive ideas. Although Bush deserves legitimate criticism on a number of measures, his failings do nothing to support Hodes' candidacy.

The record of Charlie Bass is transparently moderate and clearly desirable. Bass is involved with moderate organizations and legislation supporting stem cell research, abortion, alternative energy proposals and social security. Throughout his five terms in Congress, Bass has probably been criticized more often by conservative Republicans than liberal Democrats, and has earned the not unflattering title of "RINO," or, "Republican in Name Only." Bass assumes the title of Republican, however, based on his support for low taxes, small government. and national security (on a more responsible and sustainable level than most other Republicans).

A week before the election, there is already a great deal of misinformation in the air about the records of the two candidates. If you look at the records and positions of the two candidates, you will find that one is running a dishonest campaign of partisan division, while the other is embracing independence and the best interests of New Hampshire and the country.

Earlier this year, when John McCain called partisan bickering in the Senate a charade of legislating, and Robert Byrd complained that the Senate floor had become a factory for sound bytes rather than debate, it became clear that partisanship was, and is, a problem. When the Senate was debating an end to the filibuster rule and only 14 Senators could be found who were moderate enough to discuss a compromise, it became clearer still that partisanship is a problem. If we have any desire to see our legislative branch actually function over the next two years, compounding the partisan divide would probably not be best. This Nov. 7, let's transcend the boundaries of party lines and vote for the candidates, of whichever party, who are best for America.