Just as a brief aside, it is sometimes entertaining to be a libertarian without an affiliation to either the Coke or Pepsi party. It's amazing, from the perspective of standing off to the side on a point of the political spectrum that most civics books don't even acknowledge exists**, how much of political discourse is team-loyalty politics rather than meaningful policy discussion.
The posts that happened to set me off down this path were a pair from Kevin Drum about poor Barney Frank having to meet rowdy protestors and a lament on the frustrations of cloture in the Senate, but I am not particularly singling him or the left out. In fact, I read Drum because he is less bad on the team politics angle than others. I force myself to read a couple of political blogs on the left and right to see what they are saying. A few observations:
- Both teams are absolutely convinced that they are occupying the high ground and it is the other side that is resulting to personal attacks, negative campaigning, astroturfing, whatever. Seriously, its really hilarious -- I see exactly the same posts written about "our side is losing because we don't resort to the low tactics of the other side" written by bloggers on both sides of the political spectrum on the same day.
- Both teams are absolutely convinced that the media does not give their side the coverage or respect they deserve.
- Both teams are guilty of trying to block dissent through clever rhetorical games without having to actually answer policy critiques. Team red did it with the Iraq war, saying it was wrong to criticize a President in wartime, a useful concept when it is combined with the theory that the President can declare any time to be wartime. Team blue takes a different approach, by claiming any opposing argument on subjects like climate or health care are being raised as part of plots funded by nefarious interest groups, and so therefore don't deserve a response.
- Both teams hold up wacky members of the opposing team's fringes and attempt to portray them as representative of the mainstream opposition. (OK, I may have been guilty of this once or twice myself)
- Both teams can be loud and strident where they are energized and ticked off (this is a good thing). Both teams have recently compared the opposition president to Hitler. Both teams have been "obstructionist" as the minority in Congress. Both teams have dreamed of changing the filibuster rules in the Senate while in the majority. Both teams have freaked at suggestions the filibuster rules in the Senate would be changed while in the minority. Both teams have promised bipartisanship when they were in the majority and not delivered on it. Both teams have members who are corrupt. Both teams have members who have had affairs.
- Both teams have supposed evil genius schemers in the background (Rahm Emanuel meet Karl Rove). Both teams have found it convenient to make concerted personal attacks on individual opponents (Sarah Palin meet Bill Clinton).
- Both teams have promised respect for the Constitution in the Executive office and not delivered on it. Both teams have promised a less interventionist foreign policy and never delivered on it (people forget GWB first campaigned almost as an isolationist against Clinton's Kosovo interventions). Both teams have Presidents who are addicted to signing statements. Both teams have really gone after selected Supreme Court nominees.
- Both teams have Congressmen who support ethanol subsidies, which thoughtful people agree are stupid. Both teams have Congressmen who support farm subsidies, which thoughtful people agree are stupid. Both teams have Congressmen who support trade interventions (e.g. sugar tariffs) which thoughtful people agree are stupid. Both teams have actively supported ratcheting up the war on drugs, which some thoughtful people may agree with but I think is stupid. Both teams have voted in the last 15 years for major government interventions in medicine, education, and limitations on personal freedoms in the name of security. When team blue was in power, it supported a law that was basically the Patriot Act, but had it voted down due to team red opposition. When team red was in power, it forcefully pushed through the Patriot Act which it had previously opposed, this time against the opposition of team blue members who had previously supported it.
All this is not to say that libertarians are necessarily better people. If we had a real team that wasn't a political joke, we'd probably engage in similar behaviors. Of course, the difference is that we would be trying to lower the stakes of the political game rather than continue to raise them.
** Footnote: I don't know about you, but my civics textbooks in elementary school described a 2-dimensional political spectrum that ran from "fascism" on the political right to "communism" at the extreme of the left. How does a libertarian even place himself on a spectrum that ranges from totalitarian statism to totalitarian statism? I haven't seen such textbooks lately, so I don't know if this "heads statism wins, tails freedom loses" approach to the political spectrum still exists.
By the way, I have been reading a book called The Vampire Economy by Gunter Reimann, published in 1939. It is a description of the economic policy of Nazi Germany, a subject that gets very little coverage because, frankly, later Nazi atrocities are such a magnet for attention.
I challenge anyone to read that book and find any substantial point of differentiatoin between Hitler's economy and a strongly socialist country. And the section on strong-arming the banking industry for political goals was especially entertaining the context of the last 2 administrations.
Hitler approached his later war with Russia as an ideological war to the finish between polar opposites, but in fact it was really a feud between blood brothers.
Full Quote Referenced in the Title from Zoolander: "The man has only one look, for Christ's sake! Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigra? They're the same face! Doesn't anybody notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"