Sunday, June 05, 2005

Passion is Vital to America

Writing for Time, Joe Klein claims that the real division in American politics is the party of sanity versus the party of passion. Right now, both real parties are being represented by members of the passion crowd while those in the so-called sanity crowd are left out or left to do little more than cobble together compromises like the filibuster deal.

Klein’s basic thesis is that the passionate populism of the left and right have gained lots of strength which, in turn, has caused more reasonable Americans to start aligning in an effort to stave of the overreaches of passion. This makes for an intriguing theory but one that is ultimately far too simplistic. I don’t think we are so easily divided into rationale and boring versus flame-throwing and enthralling.

Sure, most of us probably tilt one way or another, but I think all of us have both passion and sanity inside of us. And I don’t think having passion excludes acting sanely. For instance, I think it’s possible to be passionate about workers rights but to approach it not through destructive strikes but through working with employers and industry professionals to develop mutually beneficial solutions. Or it’s possible to be passionate about ending abortion but to approach it not through angry protests but through the development of effective programs of adoption, child-care assistance and other ideas directed at finding a real solution.

It’s about how we focus those passions not whether or not we’re passionate to begin with.

I don’t think we’ll end the current environment of political partisanship and extremism by mobilizing the so-called sanity politicians to kick out the so-called passionate politicians. I think this era of destructive politics will end when we find ways to channel those very real and very important passions into actual solutions. We need those with passion to tap into their inner sanity and decide that actually addressing the problem is more worthwhile than inflaming the electorate.

The history of America is the history of passion. From the Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement to the War on Terror, we Americans are fueled by our passion. But we succeed with our minds and our ability to channel those passions into workable ideas.


At 1:42 PM, Blogger Rob Jackson said...

I haven't read the article, but what comes to mind when I think about passionate politicians is the age-old argument about a politician's mandate in the first place. Passion is so internalized, I have to ask whether polititians are acting on behalf of their constituency when they're acting passionately. On a broader scale, does this even matter? Do we expect our elected officials to act on our behalf, or do we elect them to vote solely their conscience so we don't have to think about those issues?

Also, passion didn't exist before America??? YOU SEE, THAT'S WHY THE WHOLE WORLD HATES US...GHEEEEEZAS!!


At 1:51 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

The age old debate. Do we elect people to lead us or do we elect people to follow the will of their electorate? I say we elect leaders. If we don't like what they're up to, we can vote 'em out.

As for passion, of course there wasn't passion before America. We invented that. Along with twinkies and the hoola-hoop.


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