Let's Agree to Disagree

Barack Obama's official campaign website makes the following claim: 
"Americans are tired of divisive ideological politics, which is why Senator Obama has reached out to Republicans to find areas of common ground."
He might be reaching out to those who disagree with him, but not many conservatives are ready to jump onboard, jettisoning their most fundamental beliefs.

The freshman wunderkind from Chicago joins a long list of politicians (invariably liberal) urging us to climb aboard the sacred ground of bi-partisan consensus.  Such politicians never get tired of repeating the slogans du jour: "It's time to put politics aside."  Or:  "We need to find common ground."  And:  "Let's put an end to partisanship."  "We must work together." 

The reality, of course, is that a consensus-bi-partisan or otherwise-exists on almost nothing.  In fact, the idea that one can take the politics out of politics is rather odd, particularly when the people promoting it are, well, politicians.

Let us consider a few issues and see why common ground is a fantasy.

You think that the government needs to help people in the inner city?  Can you do it without raising my taxes?  Oops-common ground already lost.  In fact, I think that government intervention has already done quite enough harm to poor people in our cities, thank you, so you actually already lost me even before you started eying my taxes.

How about border security?  You are offended by the idea of a fence?  You cannot build it fast enough to satisfy me.  In fact, you should have built one decades ago.  Not much common ground there.

Affirmative action?  I'm against it.  You're for it-while also denying that you are discriminating against me.  So I guess that is kind of a double strike in my book.  Hard to find common ground there.

Free trade?  You think that we should keep out foreign goods that are made more cheaply than we can make them, thus putting Americans out of a job.  I say that tariffs raise prices and make people poorer.  Plus, whenever countries try a protectionist trade policy, it doesn't work.  I guess there is not much common ground there either.

Campaign finance reform?  You think that there is too much money in politics.  I don't.  And I am against limits on political speech in any case.  Don't think we will agree on that one.

Military spending?  You think that we should cut the military.  I believe in peace through strength, and that evil actors throughout history have taken advantage of a rival nation's weakness.  That is what they are doing now.  Doesn't look like we will find agreement here.

A balanced budget?  You are in favor of balancing the budget.  Me too!  What?  You think that we should start by raising taxes-but only on the "wealthy"?  Oh, oh, there goes that issue of taxes again....

Gun control?  Surely we can all agree that we need to "get the guns off the streets."  No we can't.  Gun control doesn't work, and it always and everywhere leaves more guns in the hands of criminals, and fewer in the hands of the law-abiding.  Next issue?

One could go on, but perhaps the point is clear.  There would be no need for politics, no need for free speech, and no need for democracy itself if some magical "common ground" existed and everyone agreed on what it was.  This is a point that seems to escape the journalists in the mainstream media who openly endorse the common ground myth.  One can only conclude that the media's breathless and uncritical reporting of his promises to "transcend the partisan divide" reveals them to be less political reporters than leading members of the Barack Obama fan club.

Michael Nyilis is a speechwriter in Washington, DC. 
Barack Obama's official campaign website makes the following claim: 
"Americans are tired of divisive ideological politics, which is why Senator Obama has reached out to Republicans to find areas of common ground."
He might be reaching out to those who disagree with him, but not many conservatives are ready to jump onboard, jettisoning their most fundamental beliefs.

The freshman wunderkind from Chicago joins a long list of politicians (invariably liberal) urging us to climb aboard the sacred ground of bi-partisan consensus.  Such politicians never get tired of repeating the slogans du jour: "It's time to put politics aside."  Or:  "We need to find common ground."  And:  "Let's put an end to partisanship."  "We must work together." 

The reality, of course, is that a consensus-bi-partisan or otherwise-exists on almost nothing.  In fact, the idea that one can take the politics out of politics is rather odd, particularly when the people promoting it are, well, politicians.

Let us consider a few issues and see why common ground is a fantasy.

You think that the government needs to help people in the inner city?  Can you do it without raising my taxes?  Oops-common ground already lost.  In fact, I think that government intervention has already done quite enough harm to poor people in our cities, thank you, so you actually already lost me even before you started eying my taxes.

How about border security?  You are offended by the idea of a fence?  You cannot build it fast enough to satisfy me.  In fact, you should have built one decades ago.  Not much common ground there.

Affirmative action?  I'm against it.  You're for it-while also denying that you are discriminating against me.  So I guess that is kind of a double strike in my book.  Hard to find common ground there.

Free trade?  You think that we should keep out foreign goods that are made more cheaply than we can make them, thus putting Americans out of a job.  I say that tariffs raise prices and make people poorer.  Plus, whenever countries try a protectionist trade policy, it doesn't work.  I guess there is not much common ground there either.

Campaign finance reform?  You think that there is too much money in politics.  I don't.  And I am against limits on political speech in any case.  Don't think we will agree on that one.

Military spending?  You think that we should cut the military.  I believe in peace through strength, and that evil actors throughout history have taken advantage of a rival nation's weakness.  That is what they are doing now.  Doesn't look like we will find agreement here.

A balanced budget?  You are in favor of balancing the budget.  Me too!  What?  You think that we should start by raising taxes-but only on the "wealthy"?  Oh, oh, there goes that issue of taxes again....

Gun control?  Surely we can all agree that we need to "get the guns off the streets."  No we can't.  Gun control doesn't work, and it always and everywhere leaves more guns in the hands of criminals, and fewer in the hands of the law-abiding.  Next issue?

One could go on, but perhaps the point is clear.  There would be no need for politics, no need for free speech, and no need for democracy itself if some magical "common ground" existed and everyone agreed on what it was.  This is a point that seems to escape the journalists in the mainstream media who openly endorse the common ground myth.  One can only conclude that the media's breathless and uncritical reporting of his promises to "transcend the partisan divide" reveals them to be less political reporters than leading members of the Barack Obama fan club.

Michael Nyilis is a speechwriter in Washington, DC.