Thursday, November 04, 2004

I'm not Partisan, I'm Opinionated

The folks over at Tapped (weblog of the American Prospect) make an excellent point about the difference between being a partisan and having an opinion. They are very seperate entities. To boot:
Can we get something straight here? There is a difference in kind between "partisan" and "opinionated." In fact, in a political context, these words often mean the opposite. True political partisans say whatever is best for their party. They don't have any opinions of their own, merely a line of the day. A journalist with an opinion is, one hopes, someone who has gathered enough facts to come to a conclusion about whatever it is they're writing about. You can be opinionated without being a partisan, and you can be partisan without being opinionated. (Nor is partisanship proportional to ideological fervor: You can be highly partisan as well as centrist, as Tom Daschle was, or highly conservative and also bipartisan, as John McCain is. Why is this so hard to understand?)

I try my best to be opinionated, not partisan. To be clear, my opinions tend to lean Liberal. Does that make me partisan? I don't think so, because I evaluate issues independent of what the Democrats say on the matter. If you don't think that's true, then you can think I'm a partisan. That's fine. All I'm saying is that I do my best to be as non-partisan as I can, and call the issues as I see them. And all I expect of my colleagues in the blogosphere is that they do the same.

This issue is important to me, because I think it aptly synthesizes a couple of very core beliefs I hold. When one has opinions, rather than blind faith in a party, it makes for a stronger Democracy. The tendancy of people to substitute party affiliation in place of actually thinking about and discussing issues of importance to our nation is extraordinarily damaging to democracy as a whole. At the same time, the people can't take all the blame. Partisan politicians are every bit as bad, in fact they're worse, because they feed the cycle and actively prevent the nation from breaking out of its hyperpolarized mindset. Hence the anger bordering on rage I feel towards Tom DeLay and his ilk. People like him are ruining the country. I pray for a day when we have more McCains and Liebermans in office, and the DeLays and Roves and Moores of the world are off writing wingnut blogs like they should be. But the key point is that one can still hold deep, abiding, sincere convictions, and fight for those convictions, without turning into a reckless partisan. John McCain is a perfect example. Chuck Hagel, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama are others. These men are models that the rest of us should hold ourselves up to, and I think it's in keeping with the ethical standard I hold myself to as well.

1 comment:

Randomscrub said...

Interesting point. I had always interpreted partisan to mean that your opinions were consistently shared by one party. But that may just be because I can't concieve of anyone blindly following a party regardless of their personal ideals and opinions.