Steve King recently wrote a sharply drawn satire entitled If My Guy Loses: Confessions of an Anonymous Partisan in The Atlantic Monthly. His rather ingenious device is to give full voice to an angry everyman who is broadcasting a blind partisanship, anonymous in the sense that he could belong to any political party. Here are some excerpts:
- “If my guy loses I will wake up every morning with the name of my enemy on my lips. The man who beat my guy in the election. The man who hijacked my government and stole my country.”
- “If my guy loses I will dedicate my life to opposition of the president and his agenda. I will enthusiastically watch the cable news channel that affirms my positions and at once outrages and consoles me.”
- “I will accuse reporters of being ‘in the tank’ for the president.”
- “If my guy loses I will claim that the president is going easy on terrorists while at the same time eroding our constitutional rights.”
- “I will question the president’s commitment to our troops. I will say that his foreign policy is ruining America’s stature in the world.”
- “If my guy loses I will say to anyone who will listen that the president is destroying the Constitution and is the embodiment of the tyranny that our Founding Fathers fought against. I will misquote the Founders in the hope that they would be on my side of an issue.”
- “I will say that the administration is the most corrupt and least transparent in history, though the examples I will give will not actually reach the standard definition of corruption.”
- “I will lament the unsustainable levels of government spending. I will tell friends that the president has put the American Dream in jeopardy.”
- “I will claim the president is inexperienced, no matter what his background shows.”
- “I will condemn whatever military action is taken overseas, no matter how similar it is to that of the last president I supported.”
- “I will protest things I once advocated. I will threaten to move to Canada. I will criticize the president for dishonoring the office of the presidency while I question his patriotism, citizenship, and character.”
- “I will say bigoted things about the president’s religion, ethnicity, and background. I will champion the loudest and most vapid members of Congress. I will insist on impeachment.”
- “I will vote in the midterms for people who do not have my best interests at heart. I will vote the party line straight down the ballot without knowing who I am really voting for. I will compare the president to Nixon, the Antichrist, Hitler, and his party’s most recent one-term president. I will support a presidential candidate who doesn’t share my values but seems more electable.”
- “I will sacrifice my principles in the pursuit of my enemy’s defeat. My only agenda will be triumph over the opposition. My only political objective will be the ruin of the other guy. My religion will be hatred of the other party, and my church will be rhetoric. This is America and our only governing philosophy is winning. My only purpose for being will be the destruction of my enemies.”
“If my guy wins? Well …”
The degree to which each reader can see in this satire not only their partisan opponents but their partisan selves is the degree to which it is revelatory.
Passion over our political direction can be the best kind of motivation to participate in the political process, to debate with fervor solutions to our national problems, to take the time to understand the issues and assess our political candidates as to their fitness for office, and finally to exercise our vote. Passionate beings that we are, it is easy for us to slip over the edge into blind partisanship, and to waste our passions on more destructive behaviors, destructive not only to our body politic at large, but to ourselves, as we reap the negative consequences of political war.
With the upcoming U.S. presidential election, rabid partisanship is again running all too high. This is unfortunately nothing new; the election of 1800 was just as unseemly and destructive as today’s, when the followers of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson went at each other with much more vehemence and mendacity than our high school text books would admit to.
Blind partisanship gives us cover to behave badly, that is to make unfair, exaggerated or untrue accusations about our political opponents, makes us unwilling to acknowledge some of the weaknesses or mistakes of our party or unwilling to acknowledge some of the strengths of our opponent’s views; it can even paradoxically create conditions where we can vote against our own interests, small or large, local or national, moral or economic, simply to ensure that our opponents don’t win.
Blind partisanship is too often a tremendous waste of energy, generating distrust and emnity amongst ourselves, our fellow Americans, while delaying the dialogue and compromise necessary to forge workable solutions as applied to our next set of common problems.It would behoove all of us, the American public, whatever our political persuasion, to take a step back from the abyss of blind partisanship and consider the consequences of such feelings and the expression of those feelings as the election is decided, and we move on under the governance of a newly chosen president.
It is in all of our best interests to step back from the temptations of becoming overwrought about problems we care deeply about, so that we may spend our energies more wisely in the ongoing pursuit of solutions that support America as a whole. In order for our representative democracy to thrive, we have no other choice but to work together for the common good.