Thought for the Day: Aaron Wildavsky on Party Turmoil

This reflection of the great political scientist Aaron Wildvasky (about whom I intend to write at much greater length some day soon), written in 1969 about the turmoil in the Democratic Party the year before, could apply in some ways to both parties today, showing that some things about our current moment are not new at all, nor limited to the Republican Party, despite what the “media” tell us:

The United States is witnessing a transformation of political styles. Traditional party politicians are being challenged not only on the substance of public policy but on their conduct of political activity. It is their behavior as political men as well as their position on issues that is under attack. Whatever their disagreements on specific policies, left and right-wing activists compete in excoriating the immorality of men in office. Everyone else has sold out, they say, and only we remain pure. These political purists consider the stock in trade of the politician—compromise and bargaining, conciliating the opposition, bending a little to capture public support—the epitome of hypocrisy. Their new style trades on declamation of principles and moral crusades. Since it is difficult to make public policy without compromising one’s self in some way, there is an understandable tendency for these public men to stand outside of the main action and criticize.

Wildavsky was often way ahead of the curve on where American politics was heading.

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