Friday, April 06, 2007

On Partisanship

There's a new blog in Columbus. And although I've enjoyed watching it hatch, one of the first things that ColumbusUser has done with his blog is express mild disapproval of the degree of partisanship I displayed in my last post.

Reading his post, I realized that I sometimes assume that everyone is operating in the same context cloud that I am, and what a lousy assumption that is. So I thought I would take a moment to address the comments Brian made, describe the 'mission' of Blue Bexley, and let anyone who wants to come to a more fully informed impression. Of course, it might strengthen that impression, but at least I'll have fully earned every bit of it.

1) When I started this blog, I was a newcomer to Bexley, having moved from the Short North with my wife and daughter (who turned one yesterday - it's time for another picture, but I digress). One of the reasons we picked Bexley when we swallowed our liberal guilt and moved to the suburbs was the support of liberal candidates and issues.

2) At that time, we were in the summer campaign of '06. Bexley was represented by two Republican Senators, a Republican U.S. Rep, a Republican State Senator, and a Republican State Rep., not to mention a State Government that had Republicans in every Statewide office.

3) In November, Ohio turned over those statewide offices (except for auditor), and sent Sherrod Brown to represent the state in the U.S. Senate. Locally, in Bexley, we saw all of our Republican legislators earn re-election (well, to be fair, it was December before our State Rep. election finally was declared for the incumbent).

4) How do we arrive at a point where a city that is firmly Democratic in its electorate has only Republicans representing it? More importantly, does it matter? Well, at the level of City Council, where Bexley has voted for a bi-partisan group that rarely mentions party affiliation, there are few day-to-day issues. Just as it was ridiculous to disparage Ned Lamont in Connecticut for his positive relationship with Republican Greenwich Selectmen, it would be ridiculous to target Bexley city council members this fall solely for their party affiliation.

5) There's a bigger issue, though. Patrick Tiberi has been in the U.S. House for six years now, and has been a very reliable party line vote. Many of the really bad things that have happened over the last six years couldn't have happened without the willingness of people like Pat to fall in line with Bush, Rove, Delay, Frist, et al. The U.S. House has become a party-line chamber, for better or for worse. When it comes to electing a representative for that chamber, unfortunately, 90% of the choice is simply D or R.

6) Pat has cruised to re-election due to the absence of a competetive opponent. Although Bob Shamansky had a number of positive attributes (certainly many more than the perrenial candidate Ed Brown), he never connected with voters outside the Outerbelt, and didn't get the turnout inside to make up for it.

7) Finding a credible candidate is not the easiest of propositions. The typical opponent for a Congressman is a local officeholder. For instance, State Senators often run for the U.S. House, but ours is David Goodman, a Republican. If we could get someone in David Goodman's seat, that person might be a good candidate. So how did Mr. Goodman get his seat? He came from the Bexley City Council and was appointed to a vacancy. State Senators often come from the ranks of State Reps, but ours is a Republican, Jim McGregor. How did Mr. McGregor gain the experience necessary to win that seat? By being mayor of Gahanna.

8) So, every time a city like Bexley elects a Republican to local office, especially a higher profile position like mayor, they help insulate a Republican U.S. House Seat. We, Democrats, have no farm team, and we need one. I can't expect New Albany to produce the Democrat who will eventually defeat Tiberi (or Goodman, or whoever holds the U.S. House seat in what is now the 12th District). The process of growing a grassroots infrastructure of locally elected Democrats is largely the responsibility of Democratic Strongholds like Bexley.

9) Therefore, even though I actually strung more consecutive positive adjectives together for Mr. Lampke than I've ever done for a Republican, I'd rather see the office go to a Dem.

10) Having said that, I won't push the candidacy of a clearly inferior Democrat against someone like Matt Lampke. I have limited blogging resources, and I save them for battles I consider worthwhile. I realize that my 'mouth predominantly shut' comment sounds a bit petulant, but if you were a Republican candidate in Bexley, and the only blog in the U.S. with 'Bexley' in the name was dedicated to getting Democratic representation for the city, wouldn't you settle for silence? Perhaps I'm a bit too full of myself, but I actually thought I was being more than fair with my policy.

11) Following up on the petulance bit, I play up my partisanship somewhat, at least in the strictest sense of the word. First of all, I feel that putting my subjective baseline views out front paradoxically gives me more credibility. If you mistakenly assume that I'm a disinterested bystander, you'll become disillusioned at some point. I think I'm fair, and I've always thought that if you couldn't make a decent argument for the other side's position, then you don't really understand an issue, but I have a point of view. And, when I'm writing as bonobo on Blue Bexley, I have an agenda.

12) The other reason that readers may overestimate my pure partisanship is because I have very little direct contact with the party. We're talking maybe three emails and some chatting in the few days immediately preceding the election. I'm still not sure what the Franklin County Democratic Party does, and when I went to their website yesterday I couldn't tell if they had finally made an update after six months of total neglect because the site was down. My belief and support relate to the Democratic Platform more than the Democratic Party. I'm not hostile, just disconnected. And I have an aversion to most things clubby, which fairly or not is how Party Politics has always struck me.

So, that's it. That's why Blue Bexley is a partisan blog, and why I, bonobo, promote partisan causes.

BTW, for folks who have missed it, I have offered up my real name in the past. One of my New Years things was an auto-outing, so that I wouldn't be tempted to engage in the illusion of anonymity. That post is in the archives.


Jill said...

Bonobo - I think this is an excellent post and I agree with all your points. Being fair and being partisan are not mutually exclusive. Fairness does not mean that one's conclusions won't end up being on one end of the spectrum more often than the other, it only means that the way in which someone reaches their conclusions involves numerous viewpoints, sources of information and reasoned consideration of all those.

I actually don't find that the word partisan has all that much meaning - I mean, what DOES it mean, really? I'm more likely to side with x than with y? Okay - so - that's not new. But I don't think it should be treated like a four-letter word.

I think perhaps people get letdown or something if we make a judgement with which they don't or can't agree - and that gets called partisan.

For me, since I know I've been called everything from a neocon to a socialist, I'm not too worried. It's what others call me - not what I call myself.

thanks for writing on this topic - ironically, just this morning I noticed some notes I wrote a month or so ago in a notebook I keep in my purse on this very topic. I should enter them some day, huh?

Brian said...

Bonobo- you make a pretty good case. There is the problem that if you want to build a "farm team" for the party even if one of their candidates (in a hypothetical case) is clearly inferior, then you're helping to build an inferior farm team. Even if you're merely remaining silent in this case. I suppose the answer to this is to become more active in the primaries, or run yourself if all the candidates suck.

I think this would be less of a problem if we had fewer of these career politicians. It seems that once they get elected to a local office a couple of times, we're stuck with them in one office or another for the next 40 years.

Also, I agree with you on number 11. I think the mainstream press would improve if they gave up on the faux objectivity and just put their biases out there. Many people can perceive these biases anyway, so it doesn't help their credibility when they pretend that they don't exist.

By the way, it's, not ColumbusUser.

To Jill: Partisan in this context means siding with one party over another regardless of other factors, which is what Bonobo has copped to. I don't think it would cover tending to side one way or another, as that suggests that the occasional change-up could occur.

Jill said...

Hmm - Bonobo - would you agree with Brian's definition of partisan "in this context"? I didn't quite get that.