Tents make me tense

A word on the near-civil war in the Republican Party. I hate disagreement, I hate culture war, and I hate civil war. The angry tone that the immigration debate has taken bothers the hell out of me, and I regret -- often very bitterly -- that so many people are calling each other RINOs and traitors and worse.

The paradox is that all this hatred and all this contentiousness tends to makes me respect the Republican Party. (Something that doesn't make sense without explanation.)

In one corner, the Republican Party contains people who want to felonize and deport every last illegal alien, as well as imprison their employers. In the other corner are people who would legalize them and who favor an open border.

These two positions are of course irreconcilable, and it's hard to believe that they're all in the same tent. But in the tent they are.

That's the famous Republican Big Tent.

Also in the Big Tent are bigots who still want homosexuals imprisoned, along with homosexuals they want to imprison. All these groups and more are screaming bloody murder at each other inside the same Republican Party. You'd think that would be enough to drive someone like me (who hates arguments) away.

Away to where? The Democratic Party? Instead of a big tent, the Democrats stand for the multicultural diversity of many small tents. I suppose you could argue that they're "separate but equal," but I think they're equal more in the French sense than the American sense. There doesn't seem to be any real interest in (or hope of) reconciling them. Instead, religious bigots (mostly of the Islamic variety) who would execute homosexuals are in one tent, while the gay activists are in another. Religious wife beaters are in one tent, and the feminists in another. They are all fed the line that they're part of some "Rainbow" of "multiculturalism," and it is hoped that the approach of separate-but-equal tents will keep them all happy.

I think that's as bogus as a bad check which hasn't yet bounced but only because it hasn't been presented for payment.

Bad as the Republican Big Tent is, I see it as at least making an effort. It strikes me as more sincere than this let's pretend game. The Republicans represent dissent and struggle, but I think they have more of the kind of tolerance that comes from an honest airing of views than the Democrats, who seem very accepting of a balkanized America. And make no mistake; multiculturalism means balkanization.

To be balkanized, to be in separate tents, that means giving up on assimilation. It means the inverse of e pluribus unum.

This is not to say that the Republicans are there yet. It just means they haven't given up on the idea.

While I'm tempted to call this "dissent versus demagoguery," that wouldn't be right because both parties contain plenty of demagogues. And lots of Democrats sincerely believe in multiculturalism. Sincerity is not demagoguery.

And of course, the fact that the Republicans are wracked by dissent does not translate into victory in the fall.

(Little help my pity will do them.)

posted by Eric on 05.03.06 at 09:31 AM


I wonder how much of this has to do with labels. Speaking out for something often means speaking out against something. And speaking out against something often results in speaking out against the insterests of some group of people, which is often labelled as speaking out against people. Nobody really wants to be labelled anti-woman, anti-black, anti-muslim, anti-anybody, really. (This is why we have pro-life and pro-choice movements rather than anti-freedom and anti-baby movements). Since the Democratic Party more explicitly divides its tents around groups of people rather than groups of ideas, it's more risky to dissent.

Just a thought

Euler Function   ·  May 3, 2006 5:28 PM

My obvious observation is that tolerance of dissent is a sign of strength. The members of the Republican Party share some general ideas about the value of individualism and responsibility. They may diverge wildly when applying those ideas to tangible events and problems, but the central guiding principle is still there. So they argue and generally come up with a compromise that most can live with. That's the way a healthy party should work.

The Democratic Party is more like a religion. Catholic to be exact. Officially, there is no free thought or dissent from dogma, and therefore no discussion about ideas, no compromises. So, because many Democrats, like many Catholics, cannot publically air their grievances as part of a process leading to compromise, they follow their conscience quietly behind closed doors or closed voting-booth curtains. And so the Democratic party is much less effective, much less able to respond to events then a healthy party should be.

tim maguire   ·  May 4, 2006 6:11 PM

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