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Lyons: Blind party loyalty will never see the light

Published: Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Anyone who’s been watching what’s happened in recent weeks in both Washington, D.C., and Springfield should be astounded at what government is unable to accomplish.

Call it laziness, stupidity, stubbornness. Blame the media, Lovie Smith, violent video games or whatever helps you believe that you understand it better. But it’s actually even simpler than that. The reason is the frenzy of hyper-partisan politics.

People who cling to party regardless of the argument, facts, circumstances and, in some case even ideals, have always baffled me. It’s as though there’s a part missing in their brain, and I expect scientists to someday discover tissue scarring in the cerebral cortex or some other scientific explanation for this psychological disorder.

Humorist P.J. O’Rourke summed up my feelings on our two major political parties fairly well.

“The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”

That doesn’t mean that people’s ideology won’t cause them to lean a certain way or side with the positions of one political party over another. That’s perfectly rational and to be expected. And this doesn’t mean that any political candidate or politician who attaches an “R” or a “D” to his or her name is a fool. Generally speaking, it’s a requirement to get elected to higher office.

But political parties themselves exist for only one purpose: to create more power for the party. As a unit, that’s what they do. It’s up to the individuals to do what’s in the best interests of the state or the nation as a whole, just don’t expect a political party to do it.

That often means making the other side look bad so you look better, which again has nothing to do with solving real problems, whether it’s the deficit, the state’s pension crisis, entitlement spending, or something else. Maybe your party won’t even look better, but it’s a considered a win if the other guy looks worse.

There’s always an election on the horizon and an opportunity to amass more power.

Some of this is our own fault as a lazy electorate. We’d prefer that a party or a news outlet that tailors content for one particular kind of audience do our critical thinking for us. It’s us against them, even though “them” often are our neighbors, co-workers and sometimes our own family members.

We cling to unreasonable positions because: 1) the Constitution demands it 2) Barack Obama likes it or doesn’t like it 3) John Boehner wants it or hates it 4) rich people are evil 5) unions are greedy, and on and on.

Then we elect candidates who boast about how they will not compromise even though this representative, three-branch system of government demands compromise for government to function. We even mock and chase people out of office for having the audacity to compromise. We have no tolerance for tolerance.

This take-no-prisoners approach often leaves taxpayers as prisoners. Growing deficits. Ballooning unfunded pension mandates. A hands-off approach to entitlement spending. Status quo.

So when considering candidates, also consider just how attractive unbending party loyalty is and ask yourself whether you’re getting exactly what you wished for.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH.

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