Partisanship pervades California politics. The state got a dose of the disease when the state Senate rejected Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appointment to lieutenant governor, Abel Maldonado. He is a Republican appointment, which is natural since the governor is Republican. But that’s no excuse for Democrats to reject his appointment for no reason other than his political affiliation.
And the Senate Democrats got so many things wrong in their arguments on the floor. Senator Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) told his fellow senators, “There is a time for us to be partisan. That is during an election.”
On the contrary, partisanship does not belong in politics at all — not in confirming political appointees, not in passing bills or budgets and especially not in elections. That’s what is wrong with the system. Politicians and many voters are too concerned about electing the person to best benefit their party, or passing the budget that reflects their party’s ideology, not what is best for the country.
A prime example of this is Cedillo’s chastisement of his fellow Democrats to an LA Times reporter: “A lot of Latino Democrats don’t want a Republican Latino in a high-profile office. And a lot of non-Latino Democrats don’t want that either. It potentially could make Republicans more acceptable to Latino voters.”
His own words condemn him.
And Maldonado is not a partisan ideologue. Even as a Republican senator, he voted with Democrats last election season to get the budget passed.
Maldonado’s response to the situation was, “Partisan, partisan, partisan — bickering, bickering. It’s a broken system.”
He’s right: It is a broken, partisan system. But the problem is not limited to California. National politics is also riddled with partisanship.
Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) sent the Democrats into a whirlwind of uncertainty when he announced that he would not seek reelection in the next season, because he saw politics in America as “dysfunctional” because of partisanship.
Asked on Morning Joe Wednesday whether he thought the political system was dysfunctional, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) said, “There’s nothing wrong with partisanship. We’ve got to get over this notion that there’s something inherently evil about partisanship.” He went on to identify the real problem as a “lack of civility.” He continued, “It’s the lack of ability to compromise.”
Dodd’s argument is just as broken as the political system itself. Politicians can’t compromise and are not civil because they’re too partisan. They’re looking out for their own interests, not the interests of Americans. That causes them to refuse to cross party lines and to generate their backstabbing, slash and burn tactics during election seasons.
And I don’t blame Evan Bayh for wanting to leave politics to do good on a smaller scale. Congress is not functioning anymore. It’s mean, it’s ugly and, more importantly, it’s counterproductive.
I don’t know how this problem of partisanship can be fixed. It is such a nationwide problem, and it’s now so indistinguishable from the practices of our politicians that we would have to remove the majority of the senators and representatives out of office and elect new representatives to even begin to see reform.
What I do know is that our generation is generally opposed to partisanship, and the fact that it exists will either create apathy or a zeal to change the system. But it begins with each of us. It’s important that people who vote think about the character of our representatives, and that we consider the other side’s point of view.
I write my column every week, and I read the comments that are posted, too. And while there are certainly exceptions, what I see in those comments is partisanship and meanness — the very thing we all seem to hate. I just encourage everyone to come up with reasons for their beliefs, which don’t include a basic ideological hatred or fear of the other point of view. Otherwise, politics in America will never change.