Ezra Klein’s Fundamental Pact

It’s tempting to point and snicker at the schadenfreude in this Ezra Klein entry, Demoralized Democrats, but that’s rather pointless. Anyway, there’s a useful insight to be drawn from his partisan naivety. Consider:

The fundamental pact between a political party and its supporters is that the two groups believe the same thing and pledge to work on it together. And the Democratic base feels that it has held to its side of the bargain. It elected a Democratic majority and a Democratic president. It swallowed tough compromises on the issues it cared about most. It swallowed concessions to politicians it didn’t like and industry groups it loathed. But it persisted. Because these things are important. That’s why those voters believe in them. That’s why they’re Democrats.

The problem with Klein’s fundamental pact is that disaster must result from believing one can be all things to all people, even when “all people” is a subset of all people. He seems to believe the Democratic base consists of everyone who voted Democrat in November 2008. But the proof against his theory is within his paragraph. Where do concessions to politicians come from? Where do concessions to industry groups come from? Our corrupt two-party system requires compromises like this because the complexities of life must be divided into either-or options. But there are many people who possess ideas and preferences other than either-or. It’s a stupid way to run a government, but it’s obviously our current system. Klein’s fundamental pact doesn’t exist the way he thinks it does. I suspect his belief is widespread among all partisans, which is why this stomach-churning political pendulum continues.

The silliness of this supposed pact is why libertarians prefer a government of limited, enumerated powers. Everything else is left to individuals to decide for themselves. Concessions are voluntary or there is no agreement. Life isn’t viewed as a zero-sum game, as it must be in politics. The partisans continue playing this game, bloating our government more as each party’s minority-of-the-population base wins its next “decisive” victory to dictate public policy, believing that somehow its newest win is the final, lasting proof of its divine correctness. The rest of us must take solace in the predictable schadenfreude, which is expensive and unrewarding.