Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Partisanry

     I was about to start writing this piece, but was diverted by a call from my wife. She’s just been rear-ended on the highway. Back later.

     EXTREMELY LONG UPDATE: Well, that was bracing. Yes, Beth is okay, though her minivan will need some work. Thank you for your concern. (Great God in heaven, Long Island drivers are completely inept on anything but a perfectly straight, perfectly dry road!) Now where was I? Ah yes: partisanry.

     A partisan is a party loyalist: one who allows “his” party to guide his electoral decisions. There are degrees of partisanry, of course. We might call one who always does as his party directs an “absolute” partisan, one who usually goes with his party’s nominees a “strong” partisan, and one to whom the party’s choices are determinative only if no other criterion emerges a “weak” partisan. All of these positions can be observed in the people around us.

     But wait: this “his party” business can be semantically misleading. A partisan doesn’t “own” his party. Who does? Who actually decides on the party’s platform, nominees, and other decisions? Surely we should ask who guides the party in those matters, and according to what criteria. Shouldn’t we?

     The answer isn’t obvious.


     Is there any sense in seeking the “owners” of a political party? An owner, in common parlance, is conceded rights over what he owns: excludability, times and methods of employment, ultimate disposition, and so forth. Does anyone have “rights” in a party, or to it, or over it? How does one become a party strategist, planner, manager, kingmaker? Who decides?

     A lot of voting and vote-like decision making occurs within a party organization, of course, but a fair number of important decisions are made by individuals as well – and not always because the individual in question has been accorded some kind of formal authority. So it isn’t all electoral in nature.

     Also, party behavior often seems to contradict itself. There have been numerous cases in the past few years when the seemingly powerful Republican caucuses on Capitol Hill went against the GOP’s platform in quite obvious ways. Nor was it always the case that “something more important” was clearly at stake.

     Clearly, if there are strategists, planners, managers, et cetera in the Republican Party, they’re not in perfect command of the party. Whatever authority they have isn’t absolute. It might be more than advisory, but it’s not unquestionable, nor can it be enforced as a government enforces its decrees. Whether the authority of the “top brass” in the Democrat Party is similar, I can’t be certain, though the evidence suggests it.

     There might be more guidance in the processes that govern a “colony organism:” i.e., an apparently unitary creature whose body includes much smaller organisms that have quasi-independent lives and exhibit some amount of “independent” behavior.

     Because we are conscious creatures, we have a concept of ourselves as unitary entities. However, we’re closer to being colonies of smaller symbiotic and commensal organisms: our many kinds of differentiated cells, plus the several varieties of bacteria and fungi that we must have inside us for our alimentary canals to work properly.

     Note that none of these smaller entities are aware of one another’s existence. “Our” cells aren’t aware that we’ve been “colonized” by bacteria that shares none of “our” DNA. Neither do the bacteria in our guts know about the “native” cells around them. Each does what it does for its own purposes. Sometimes they come into conflict. Sometimes they’re invaded by organisms that our bodily “zoning laws” can’t tolerate, and we get sick. In sum they allow us to do what we do: at some times well, at other times poorly.

     Political parties display some similarity to that model. Some of a party’s “cells” – call then the party’s central nervous system – have more overall influence than others on party behavior. As they’re human rather than microorganisms, they also have individual desires, fears, and convictions. They don’t serve the party in the blind fashion of a muscle cell or a digestive bacterium. And sometimes, when the party appears to have been invaded by something hostile to them – i.e., something that threatens their influence and stature within the party – they treat the invaders as a threat to the party at large.

     Consider in this light the behavior of Republican Party luminaries in response to the rise of Donald Trump. They’ve told us on many occasions that he’s a threat to the party itself. Perhaps they’re correct. But perhaps he’s really only a threat to them as high-status Republicans: strategists, planners, managers, et cetera. He says and does exactly as he pleases. He pays them no heed. If I thought myself to possess some sort of authority over the GOP – a sway that comes with personal prestige and the ability to influence the use of party funds, for example – I might react just as they have. It’s natural to want to protect one’s “rice bowl.”

     But of course, the strategists, planners, managers, et cetera. aren’t the only cells in this organism. There are also lots of digestive bacteria – the donors – and muscle cells – the activists and motivated voters. And they’re all conscious individuals with their own desires, fears, and convictions. So what the central nervous system wants to expel, the other cells just might want to retain...even if it must ultimately result in the expulsion of the central nervous system.

     Is this a perfect picture? Assuredly not. But as a model for thought, it has some relevance, and more than a little appeal.


     In all probability, you’ve heard the following joke. Nevertheless, after the above, I feel it’s mandatory to close with it.

     When God made Man, all the parts of the body argued who should be boss.

     The brain explained that since he controlled everything already, he had the position de facto and this should be recognized de jure.

     The eyes countered that without them, the man would be helpless, so they should be boss.

     The hands said that without them, the man could do nothing, so they should be boss.

     The legs pointed out that as they carried the man wherever he wanted to go, they should be boss.

     The stomach countered with the explained criticism that as he digested all the food, he should be boss.

     Then the asshole applied for the job.

     All the other body parts laughed so hard that the asshole got mad and closed up.

     After a while, the legs got wobbly, the hands shook, the brain went foggy, the stomach threw up and the eyes became crossed and unable to see. They all conceded and made the asshole boss.

     Which all goes to show you: you needn't be a brain to be boss.

     Just an asshole.

     Have a nice day.

7 comments:

  1. I hope and trust that you wife is uninjured.

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  2. I hope she's fine. God is telling you guys to move out in the country where there is no traffic.

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  3. Praying for her safety and wellness. Let us know, Fran.

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  4. ...you know, the Lord works in mysterious ways. And it is always easier to see in hindsight. (and other apt truisms...) in this, I agree with Malatrope... time to relocate to less crowded environs. Glad to hear your lady is unhurt. Be blessed... - Grandpa

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  5. Malatrope, I live out in the country, and while there is indeed far less traffic, nearly all of it moves like a bat out of hell.
    I just wanted to throw that in. I agree, it's time for Francis and his family to escape from New York.

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  6. Fran, if I can escape the enticements of the Kansas City Metro, where I lived and worked for fifty years, then you can escape from New Yawk. It ain't like you're copping out. However in my case, it wasn't so hard because I came back to my roots out here in the tundra of North Central Kansas. The house we live in now is three hundred yards from the house where my wife was born and raised. Next Wednesday will be our first anniversary of this return. The Lord has blessed us so greatly.

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