A professor who studies political parties makes the case for the value of partisanship in American politics.
While it’s true that “[t]here seems no escape from the vitriolic partisanship enveloping American politics,” Muirhead (Democracy and Politics/Dartmouth Coll.; Just Work, 2004) combats the negative connotations of partisanship in the United States. Although he treasures his friends who agree with him on vital issues decided by legislatures, presidents and judges, the author also values his friends who disagree with him. Their thinking, he writes, provokes him to marshal his arguments and stimulate his mind to consider alternatives. To Muirhead, political disagreements should be resolved through dialogue and active discussion whenever practical. In this philosophical but clearly written book, the author examines how party loyalists can reach common ground, providing ample real-world examples of successful bipartisanship—Muirhead offers former Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming as models of positive partisanship. The author also explores the legislature of Nebraska, the only unicameral legislature in the U.S., which, though not an entirely compelling example, at least offers a glimpse of the possibility of nonpartisanship in this country. “Aside from Nebraska,” writes Muirhead, “most exceptions to the partisan rule consist of tiny island states with populations under 10,000.” While the author understands that the goal of “better partisanship” will not be easy to achieve—especially given the failed promise of Barack Obama to become a post-partisan president, as well as the equally failed promise of George W. Bush to become a uniter rather than a divider as president—he provides a jumping-off point for further discussion and experimentation.
A useful introduction to a new brand of electoral politics.