Monday, November 26

A Mashing of Political Alliances

I've never been much impressed with the Red State/Blue State political warfare narrative. There are plenty of institutions that have an interest in perpetuating this story of black and white competition. Of course, the political parties themselves do whatever they can to build internal cohesiveness and demonize the opposition party. That's just how a two-party system plays out. And the media is well attuned to our desire for a sporting event. Weaving a story complete with understandable plot lines and a cast of characters (Pat Robertson, Sam Harris) provides us with information as well as compelling entertainment. Bloggers are notorious for "survival of the shrillest." Often the angriest and most partisan rise to the top of the fierce Darwinian competition for hit counts. I know that I have a tendency fixate on a good ideological battle. Sorry about that.

But all of this betrays the real, complex interactions of beliefs and desires that each of us holds, and it makes it a little tougher to express these views in the democratic system. After all, what logical connection could there really be between issues like abortion, social security, and foreign policy? Loose, at best.

This is one of the things that attracts me to urbanism. It makes hash work of these grand political alliances. Libertarians can't even agree among themselves whether zoning laws infringe upon private property rights or help protect property value. Progressives, with various special interests, also clash, as evidenced when the NAACP sued Los Angeles Transit Authority several years ago. A little while ago, a well-credentialed conservative Paul Weyrich wrote a column on Town Hall praising the governmental transportation policies in Portland, and he inspired a veritable insurrection among the commenters. They reflexively consider Portland a communist enclave. New Urbanists, pining for traditional Main streets and town squares, would seem be the ones committed preserving what Russell Kirk called "permanent things." Or are they elitist liberals stuffing regulations down all of our throats? Even Russell Kirk himself despised automobiles and refused to drive one. Hardly the champion of neo-conservative suburbanites.

I think there is an alternative to either passionate partisanship or bland moderation. It is simply looking at each particular issue in its particular context and having the conviction to do what is right.

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