The Weekly Winston: Partisan Imperative Edition

Our pal Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review and Bloomberg News has a fun column up on Bloomberg a few days ago entitled “I’m Right, You’re Wrong, and Other Political Truths” that spoofs the degraded style of political argument in election season:

I can’t stand the people on your side. Not you, particularly. You’re fine. It’s your side that’s ruining everything great about this country.

Your side lies shamelessly. Your leaders just make things up. And you just follow them blindly, like sheep — like blind sheep. You hang out with people who think just like you, and listen only to shows where you’ll hear your own views repeated. It’s an echo chamber of lies!

That’s how your side wins elections. It whips gullible people into a frenzy about supposed threats to their freedoms and livelihoods, and it deceives everyone else into thinking it’s more moderate than it really is. Once the election is over, though, your side starts pushing its extreme agenda behind the scenes.

This isn’t a new phenomenon in American politics, and Ramesh quotes Tocqueville on this point.  But he could have quoted Churchill.  Loyal Power Line reader Bill Befort of Grand Rapids, Minnesota draws our attention to this passage from The World Crisis:

No one who has not been involved in such contentions can understand the intensity of the pressures to which public men are subjected, or the way in which every motive in their nature, good, bad and indifferent, is marshalled in the direction of further effort to secure victory.  The vehemence with which great masses of men yield themselves to partisanship and follow the struggle as if it were a prize fight, their ardent enthusiasm, their glistening eyes, their swift anger, their distrust and contempt if they think they are to be baulked of their prey; the sense of wrongs mutually exchanged, the extortion and enforcement of pledges, the infectious loyalties, the praise that waits on violence; the chilling disdain, the honest disappointment, the cries of “treachery” with which every proposal of compromise is hailed; the desire to keep good faith with those who follow, the sense of right being on one’s side, the harsh unreasonable actions of opponents — all these acting and reacting reciprocally upon one another tend towards the perilous climax.  To fall behind is to be a laggard or a weakling, not sincere, not courageous; to get in front of the crowd, if only to command them and to deflect them, prompts often very violent action.  And at a certain stage it is hardly possible to keep the contention within the limits of words or laws.  Force, that final arbiter, that last soberer, may break upon the scene.

Fasten your seatbelts: November 6 is still a long way off.


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