Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Republicans and Democrats

Supposedly in our country there are only two ways to be political. You are either Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. We are "bipartisan" and so split along party lines.

And never the twain shall meet.

Yes, the parties periodically shift focus and morph. Yes, there are smaller political movements with which a minority identify (Green, Tea, indie, progressive).

But for the most part bipartisan politics appears to be our reified and painfully narrow options.

Perhaps these are two ways of thinking about or viewing the world, basic philosophical commitments we make--or hold--that then enter into dialogue and conversation one with another, kind of like points on a sliding scale.

But still points on a scale. Like this:

Democrats                              Republicans

However, I have become increasingly suspicious that this is not the way it work. That in fact, the two "parties" now reside in different parallel universes. It is as if we are seeing the same thing, but from completely different and incommensurable perspectives.

And because we don't simply differ in our opinions, but actually reside in different universes, the conversation we hope for between the two sides is now no impossible. There is no possible fusion-of-horizons (horizontverschmelzung), because you can't fuse parallel universes. They are by definition different universes.

If this is the case, and I think it is the case, our task is now how to survive in a meta-political science fictional universe.

Consider one simple example. The Democrat solution to many of our current economic concerns is the exact opposite of the Republican (Keynes vs. Draco), and both sides are convinced the alternative side's proposal will destroy us economically (and may, additionally, be immoral). We hear someone from the other side describe the current intractability, and we think to ourselves, "What universe does this person live in?"


I don't have a solution. But it does help me in various conversations to realize that when I get into a talk with someone from the "other side," it might actually be that we are not simply lining out our position on a sliding spectrum of political options, but we are in fact trying to scream across universes to each other. Just so each of our conversations is grounded in a completely different epistemological, phenomenological, and perhaps even ontological, situation, one from the other.

This makes me sad. I lament it. But I think it is true. And I wonder if there is anything to be done about it, anything at all.

Lord, help us.

p.s. The novel that best develops this thematic, a novel I wish everyone would read, is China MiƩville's The City and the City.


  1. Kathy S.10:04 AM

    I agree that our differences are grounded in "epistemological... situation." Besides that, we view the interpretation of Scripture differently. There is no question that the political divide widened by an order of magnitude when Obama endorsed gay marriage. Romney's choice of a conservative Catholic V.P. only underscores this difference. Still, we will have a fair election, unlike many countries, and we must trust God that the outcome will be according to His will. <><

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  3. Maybe Draco is the wrong politician to name. I was intending whoever recommends austerity rather than the approach recommended by Keynes.

  4. Also, I don't think Ozment is hijacking Luther for austerity. His idea of meeting the neighbors needs could just as readily be met through progressive taxation ala FDR.

  5. You mean Draco like the ancient Greek lawgiver? Kind of anachronistic. Why not use Hayek? He is the economist most often juxtaposed with Keynes.

  6. Anonymous1:12 AM

    Jesus Christ unites us, but the interpretation of how to define Christianity or live as Christians separates us. What does it mean to be labeled a Lutheran, Baptist or Catholic? It means something different to each of us.

    Concerning politics, we do not worship a political king, because we are united as parties in the understanding that we are not ruled by dictators. "We the People" is a phrase that should unite us as our forefathers envisioned a country governed by the people. Once again, the interpretaion of how to define an American or live as an American separates us. I agree with Pastor Clint that our inability to connect is sad. If you truly believe in the vision of our forefathers, we should be willing to solve problems and find solutions with respect for one another. What does it mean to be a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican? Once again, it means something different to each of us.

    It is very dangerous to judge our opponents and neighbors based on his or her political or religious labels. I wish our political leaders would just listen to one another and care more about the country than self preservation.