No, not really. I’m not cheering (or at least I hope I’m not cheering) for the rise of ISIS to prove I was right to believe President Obama’s Iraq policy has been foolish.
Surely I don’t want there to be an increase in death, destruction and misery just so I can be smug.
I want Iraq to be a peaceful, stable democracy, the economy to shift into overdrive and for the stock market to keep hitting new highs, even if a guy I didn’t vote for gets the credit.
But I’m a partisan. And when it comes to the news, it’s hard to put aside your partisan prejudices.
Everything that’s less than ideal is a disaster if the party you didn’t vote for is in power, and every burst of sunshine is sure to be followed by a drum roll of storm clouds.
Today our political affiliations are so deeply held, so tribal, and make such a profound difference in how we perceive everything that, as one observer put it, “Partisanship is the new racism.”
Putting party ahead of country is a problem on both sides of the aisle. Partisanship is a bipartisan vice.
In 2003, as the Iraq War appeared to be winding down, Salon’s Gary Kamiya wrote, “I have a confession: I have at times, as the war has unfolded, secretly wished for things to go wrong. Wished for the Iraqis to be more nationalistic, to resist longer. Wished for the Arab world to rise up in rage. Wished for all the things we feared would happen. I’m not alone: A number of serious, intelligent, morally sensitive people who oppose the war have told me they have had identical feelings…Dialectical pessimism is the dirty little secret of the antiwar camp — dirty because there is something distasteful about wishing for bad outcomes when the future on which those wishes are based is unknown.”
In 2007, when the Bush administration appeared to be winding down on a high note, the subhead of a frustrated Kurt Andersen piece in New York Magazine read, “The surge is working! Yikes. Stem cells can be harvested embryo-free! Boo-hoo. A recession in the offing? Happy days are near again.”
Ever been to a perfectly pleasant dinner party that suddenly turned into bedlam when someone started a political argument? It sometimes seems like people go a little crazy when the partisan hormones start to flow. They lose touch with reality.
Psychologists (and pollsters) can point to examples. Bush knew about 9/11 in advance — maybe even planned it. (In a 2006 poll, 51% of Democrats said it was either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that the government was complicit in the attacks.)
Obama was born in Kenya. (A 2010 poll showed 58% of Republicans either thought Obama was born outside the country or weren’t sure he was born in the US.)
When asked whether the president can reasonably act to reduce gas prices, Democrats said yes — when a Republican was president (in 2006). When the president was Barack Obama, some changed their minds.
A lot of them, actually: The percentage answering yes dropped from 73 to 33.
For Republicans, the same thing happened in reverse, albeit in less startling terms. (Forty-seven percent of GOPers said Bush could reduce gas prices, but 65% said Obama could.)
Did the surge in Iraq work? In February of 2008, when the subject was all over the news, 70% of Republicans, but only 21% of Democrats, said it was succeeding.
In 2006, 57% of Democrats felt threatened by the federal government. Only 21% of Republicans agreed.
In 2010, those numbers were flipped almost exactly upside down: 21% of Democrats and 66% of Republicans agreed.
These answers aren’t necessarily paradoxical; it’s possible, for instance, that the Bush administration harassed a lot more Democrats and Obama more Republicans.
On the other hand, it seems unlikely that anything like 57% of Americans (much less 66%) have ever had good reason to personally fear the US government.
The conservative news organization Breitbart.com was recently audited by the IRS; online, liberals argued they had it coming.
Did they feel the same when Greenpeace was audited while Bush was in office?
We should all be equaled outraged by IRS abuse. We should want our nation to succeed, economically and militarily, even if we disagree on the how.
We shouldn’t let what divides us be greater than what unites us.