Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


What's So Absurd About Partisanship?
September 27, 2002 3:04 AM   Subscribe

What's So Absurd About Partisanship? The Lying in Ponds* website is a clever attempt to measure partisanship in the daily columns of the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Although - or perhaps because - its methodology is simple and straightforward, its conclusions, though necessarily unsurprising, are quite interesting, often amusing and seem fairer than er, more partisan "media watch" thingies [Don't miss their 2002 Top Ten.]. But why is being openly partisan seen as such a terrible thing in America? Why is so much time and effort expended to hide it or deny it? Or, put another way, why is bipartisanship such a desirable thing, often presented as being somehow above politics? Is it American exceptionalism again?
*[Echoing what Dennis said in Monty Python And The Holy Grail: "Listen!Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government!"]
posted by MiguelCardoso (20 comments total)

 
It seems to me that both partisanship and bipartisanship hide the truth. I would like those with a partisan agenda to let me know up front that that's where they are coming from and similarly, if bipartisanship is the path then let the commentary come from different partisans or, in a straight news item, let them quote the opposing points of view.

It's hidden partisanship that is the problem along with boring attempts to avoid having an opinion that somebody may not like.
posted by donfactor at 3:36 AM on September 27, 2002


Bipartisanship "sounds" nice. But I (and I would assume most) didn't send my representatives to Washington to just lie down with the opposition. I believe my party (Democrats, in this case) stands for something - otherwise I wouldn't bother to vote in the first place. Ditto goes for the opposition. So if it's partisan to fight for what you stand for - I'm all for it.

BUT, if partisanship is just being an ass over one tiny detail, then some bipartisanship is needed. Of course, "one tiny detail" is in the eye of the beholder.
posted by owillis at 4:17 AM on September 27, 2002


Fantastic post, MiguelCardoso, much appreciated.

Not only is it a wealth of information, but it's interesting to see both sides on an issue, even if you think you know where you stand. This is an oasis in a desert of eternally divided opinion.

I promise to stop making horrific metaphors, if you promise to appreciate the kind of thought that goes in to making this kind of site.

One thing though, from the site: "The views of pundits who are excessively partisan cannot be taken seriously"

Does this mean that I can't worship Ann Coulter as the most hilarious pontificating partisan pundit?
posted by hama7 at 4:24 AM on September 27, 2002


If she makes you laugh, then by all means do.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 4:51 AM on September 27, 2002


Interesting. But aren't all the articles used to build the db from 2002? It is possible that some writers scoring high in (anti-republican) partisanship might score equally high the other way if the dems were in the White House; in other words, it's normal to analyze (and often criticize) the actions of whatever body is in power at the moment. I wonder how much, if any, the index would change if an equal number of articles from a given year from the Clinton admin. were also included?

At any rate, mad kudos for the name alone!
posted by taz at 4:59 AM on September 27, 2002


"[W]hy is being openly partisan seen as such a terrible thing in America?"

It's certainly not easy to speak for an entire nation so I will forgo offering any answer in that context. However, for me, partisanship is a sign of exactly those elements of politics and government that are undesirable: Representatives of the people instead acting as representatives of a party. I don't go to the polls to elect a party, I elect a representative. Any interest above and beyond that of that representative's constituency -- be it the party or some other generous campaign sponsor -- implies that my elected official is no longer acting in my and my community's interests.

Perhaps this is a somewhat naive view of politics in general, but it's the way I and possibly a few other Americans think it ought to work.
posted by majick at 6:00 AM on September 27, 2002


I don't trust bipartisanship in politics and I, like owillis, prefer that politicians take a stand, be firm, say what they believe, and be honest about things. Then I can vote accordingly.

But I do not want journalists to be openly partisan in news articles. Editorials are one thing - that's where the opinions and biases can come out in the open. But news articles should be impartial.
posted by acridrabbit at 6:10 AM on September 27, 2002


In case anyone doubted Paul Krugman was way above all the other pundits in terms of partisanship, followed less than closely by Claudia Rosett, here's the Combined Partisanship Index to cement all certainties there might be.

Cheers, Hama7; I'd hoped you'd like it. Lying in Ponds is the work of Ken Waight, a research metereologist living in Cary, North Carolina, married with "three awesome kids". The idea of this guy getting up early every morning to read and score the columns on the Internet, following his own admirable agenda for independence in newspaper pundits, is, for this baffled European at least, a prime, inspiring example of the true American spirit. What need over-financed "media watch" think-tanks after this?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:03 AM on September 27, 2002


What need over-financed "media watch" think-tanks after this?

Exactly. This eloquently provides a glimmer of hope in a dizzying array of bickering.

For clarification: In my comments above the "you" I mentioned should have been "one".

Thanks again, MiguelCardoso.
posted by hama7 at 8:11 AM on September 27, 2002


When a politician appeals to 'bipartisanship', you know he's up to something. But there's a distinction between partisanship and dishonesty carried out for that purpose. The attention should less be upon people's self-acknowledged positions, but on the manner by which they're justified.
posted by riviera at 8:40 AM on September 27, 2002


I believe my party (Democrats, in this case) stands for something - otherwise I wouldn't bother to vote in the first place.

They stand for greed and powermongering, just like the other party.

Vote for individuals, not "parties."
posted by rushmc at 8:50 AM on September 27, 2002


It seems to me that in a party system, albeit one that's being whittled away at with open primaries, partisanship is to be expected. Frankly, I was growing concerned that there was too much bipartisanship over the last year and was glad to see some over the Homeland Security bill and the Iraq thing.
posted by spudworks at 8:55 AM on September 27, 2002


Very, very interesting stuff. Does this mean that I can trust the Washington Post more than the other newspapers? They've got a partisan index of 4 on the dems side (and it would seem somewhat logical to have more criticism of the party in power, which is how their current index gets that way)......

majick: You said I don't go to the polls to elect a party, I elect a representative. That may be true for you, and it is for me, but here in Utah and a few other places I've lived, it's amazing how often people simply vote the party line. My theory is that it's simply laziness or conservation of focus... but I don't really understand it yet.
posted by namespan at 9:30 AM on September 27, 2002


MiguelCardoso: Krugman's columns are pointedly partisan, though. He doesn't pussyfoot around, or attempt to act non-partisan just for show, or take a contrary viewpoint just to be provocative (even when, say, arguing that child labor in Third World countries is not evil - he seems to mean it). He's very straightforward, and seemingly driven - both admirable traits for an op-ed columnist, and also rare.
posted by raysmj at 9:34 AM on September 27, 2002


When a politician appeals to 'bipartisanship', you know he's up to something.

Exactly right - an appeal to bi-partisanship or accusation of partisanship is just an easy way to discredit your opponents' arguments. That said, splitting intellectual issues into only two sides is an easy way to impoverish the discussion. I think people just like being in groups when they argue with each other.
posted by tranceformer at 9:38 AM on September 27, 2002


Vote for individuals, not "parties."

So I can get "president" Bush? No thanks.
posted by owillis at 10:47 AM on September 27, 2002


it seems like nowadays once a cabinet is chosen, the office of president is largely ceremonial.
posted by mcsweetie at 4:11 PM on September 27, 2002


So I can get "president" Bush? No thanks.

You wouldn't have him if the Democrats weren't cowards.
posted by rushmc at 12:05 AM on September 28, 2002


I wouldn't have him if the Naderites lived in the real world.
posted by owillis at 9:23 AM on September 28, 2002


Mighty small conceptualization of the "real world" where it only provides us with 2 men to choose from to run our country out of 300+ million, inherently, inevitably, with no possibility of change...
posted by rushmc at 8:02 PM on September 29, 2002


« Older A professor of vision science at MIT understands t...  |  If you still go to raves, thin... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments