09 August 2009
Partisanship: An Entitlement to Lie?
Former governor Palin calls the Democratic healthcare reform plan "evil" and claims that, under its provisions, the government would claim the prerogative to determine whether her handicapped child would be allowed to live. This is a variation on the "deather" theme that reactionary Republicans have been playing all summer. And no one dares to call them liars to their faces. No one makes the call that their claims aren't worth hearing. Why? Because they are the opposition, and liberal democracy gives dissent the benefit of the doubt. Unlike other notorious nations, we effectively grant the opposition party (though only the "official" opposition party) an entitlement to appear on television whenever they please to make whatever assertions they please. No extreme of outlandishness, no obvious lie, disqualifies them from this entitlement. Thus the deathers and thus the birthers. The problem with this situation is twofold. First, it basically entitles the official opposition to lie if they have nothing more substantive to say. Second, the entitlement, as I said, really only extends to the official opposition. There are dissidents against the Democratic plan who want a greater government role in providing health care and insurance. They are not as often heard as the hysterics who happen to have the Bipolarchy seal of approval that identifies them as the legitimate opposition. If anything, the rotating monopoly on dissent only emboldens the current opposition party to take more irresponsible positions, so long as they aren't answerable to any third group that might claim that they are equally legitimate in opposition to both major parties. But any claim about the Bipolarchy, I'm obliged to admit, begs a question. If the Republican party can do or say nothing in opposition to discredit it permanently among the electorate, is that because the system is rigged to protect both major parties, or because the electorate, bipolar in its own right, is incapable of thinking outside the Bipolarchy box? The answer might determine whether political reform in this country is actually possible.