The Amusing if Unfortunate Toll of Partisanship

Courtesty of Ricochet is this amusing video, one of the latest in the ongoing fad of making videos featuring dialog between two computerized voices.

I don’t completely agree with the video (I support intervening in Libya myself), but it certainly captures quite strikingly a phenomenon we are all almost certainly familiar with: What people support is significantly driven by partisanship as well as principle. As a college Dartmouth is by default full of proud left-wingers, and when the subject has come up I have heard several people refer to Bush as a liar, blundering idiot, or even an outright war criminal. Many (though not all, by any means) have nonetheless strongly backed intervening in Libya, on the same humanitarian grounds Bush and others used to justify the Iraq invasion. Supporting the war in Libya and opposing that in Iraq is not by default hypocritical (there is the matter of scale, for one), but it is at the least certainly true that one cannot call Iraq an illegal war for oil while denying Libya the same label.

The right is, of course, hardly immune to this problem. Sean Hannity, for example, decried the American bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo Crisis because he failed to see any strategic interest. Both parties are guilty of bemoaning budget deficits while in the minority and suddenly defending them as necessary policy once they call the shots. People are entirely willing to point out these cases of hypocrisy, but unfortunately it’s often only to fuel further partisanship. People are very good at spotting when an opponent is inconsistent; they are less vigilant in reporting their own side’s failures.

Sadly, policy opinions that boil down to little more than partisanship are probably impossible to eliminate, as they reflect fundamental human psychology (I am certainly not an optimist who thinks he can change the world with a blog post). However, we would all do well to be aware of it and, through vigilant self-assessment of our own beliefs, reduce its harm.

–Blake Neff