Political Bickering

Michael Barone thinks political columnists and reporters should be banned from using the words “squabble” or “bicker” to describe the debates of politicians.

Reporters who use the verbs “bicker” and “squabble” seem to believe that it is silly for opposing parties to waste their time negotiating — they should just split the difference at the beginning. You can see something like this feeling in the polls showing majorities of voters “disgusted” with politicians.

But the truth is:

The Constitution establishes not a single united government but an arena for conflict. The Founders expected the House, the Senate, the president and the courts to disagree, and they hoped the net result of those conflicts would be good governance.

What we’re watching is not children bickering but adults with sharply different ideas trying to shape public policy as much as they can. It’s not squabbling, it’s democracy.

He’s right, of course. One thing that irritates me is this notion that differences between politicians are due to “partisanship” and it everyone will  just put it aside and work together, they can come up with simple commonsense solutions to all of our problems. The problem is that even people with the best will in the world are going to have very different ideas about problems are important and what the best solutions are. People have different experiences and different principles, so there is always going to be some debate and squabbling in government. This is a good and healthy thing as long as it doesn’t get out of hand

Congressional debate 1856

One thing though, I would like to ban comparing American politicians to dictators. There is no one in American politics even remotely like Hitler, Stalin, Mubarrak, or Castro. Not only is this kind of rhetoric ridiculous hyperbole, but it insults all of the people who have suffered under real dictatorships.

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