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Loyalty Versus Discernment: We Need a Blend of Both

August 28, 2018

Like most voters who follow politics, I am deeply troubled by the dysfunction at both the State and national levels of government, a dysfunction that I believe is the result of a difference in core values between both parties. The press has emphasized some key distinctions between the GOP and Democrats on several political positions. In general the GOP is in favor of restricting abortion, immigration, and spending on social programs while the Democratic party if more expansive on each of the issues. The GOP favors fewer government regulations and, therefore, more individual rights while the Democratic party supports regulatory oversight by the government.

But where the parties increasingly differ is in their perspectives on the world.

The GOP values loyalty above all else: loyalty to party positions; loyalty to fellow party members, and  loyalty to whatever hierarchical order is in place. Their thinking is that if an individual applies themselves they can and will succeed. There is no need for government intervention in any area, especially in the marketplace which naturally identifies winners and losers. Their core conviction is that deregulated capitalism is superior to deliberative democracy.

The Democratic party values discernment: a willingness to examine all issues– even social ones— scientifically and analytically and, through a process of trial and error, develop laws that will help everyone achieve a state of well-being. Government intervention, can and should level the playing field for all of its citizens and businesses, especially those who are disadvantaged for whatever reason. Their core conviction is that deliberative democracy requires an informed electorate who will vote based on objective facts.

Over time, the GOP’s loyalty has devolved into a suspicion of everything the government does– including data collection and scientific research, and blind faith in the marketplace. At the same time, the Democratic party has tied itself in knots trying to find the least objectionable and most evidence-based course for the government to take: a middle way between the increasingly libertarian and faith-based thinking of the GOP and the voters who want something else, be a more humanitarian approach to helping those in need or the application of rigorous analysis.

Over the past several years it is evident that voters value loyalty over discernment. The GOP loyalists are completely unwilling to move from whatever position they hold even when evidence demonstrates that the position they hold is wrong and damaging to the well-being of voters. The GOP position on climate change is exhibit A and it appears that their positions on health care, environmental regulations, and public education may result in subsequent evidence of ill-conceived policies that ultimately damage the well-being of voters.

In the meantime, opponents to deregulated capitalism and supporters of government intervention– which I believe should be the defining principle of the Democratic party– keep presenting data that undercuts the premise that the marketplace will fairly identify winners and losers and the premise that government regulations are unnecessary. The Democratic party, instead of seeking loyalty to the principle that good government and good governance are needed, relentlessly seeks a middle ground that they hope will persuade a majority of voters to support them and question their loyalty to “the marketplace”.

As the title of this post indicates, in order to advance as a democracy, we need a blend of both loyalty and discernment. GOP voters should be open to accepting evidence that some regulation and government intervention is necessary. Democratic voters should be open to the fact that some GOP voters and legislators will not be persuaded to change their minds under any circumstances making it impossible to find a “middle ground” unless they compromise their principles. With this fact in mind, they need to clearly oppose deregulated capitalism and support good government and good governance and generate the same degree of loyalty for THAT position as the GOP has generated for deregulated capitalism and opposition to the government.

Instead of fighting over hot-button issues like racism, abortion, LGBTQ rights, and gun control, the parties should move their arguments to a higher level and debate what role they want the government to play in the lives of individuals and what government action needs to be taken to regulate the effects of the marketplace.



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