Una difesa della militanza

The Moral Distinctiveness of ‘Party ID’ By Nancy Rosenblum

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The canonical history of political thought is a record of relentless opposition to parties as institutions and moral disdain for partisans. Parties do have one classic defender, Edmund Burke.

IL PARTITO: ISTITUZIONE ODIATA

On the Side of the Angels: An Appreciation of Parties and Partisanship

UN LIBRO A DIFESA

one is that parties are “unwholesome parts” that disfigure what should be a perfectly unified political community; another accepts political pluralism but sees parties as fatally divisive, magnifiers or creators of cleavage and conflict.

TASSONOMIA DEGLI ANTI PARTITO

Whether the aspirational perspective is subversive Socratic questioning, Humean impartiality, or a transcendent “view from nowhere,” it is the antithesis of a partisan perspective.

LA FILOSOFIA DA SEMPRE CONTO LA MILITANZA

Proponents of democratic deliberation, for example, favor specially created deliberative polls and citizens’ juries removed from conventional political arenas, with participants chosen to represent “lay citizens and nonpartisans.”

UN’ ALTERNATIVA

that parties are convenient mechanisms for “reducing the transaction costs” of democracy while still insisting that voters should be nonpartisan.

QUEL CHE SI CONCEDE AL PARTITO

The Luster of Independence

A “no preference” response on a survey of political attitudes is widespread throughout advanced democracies, but the proud self-designation “independent” is unique to the United States. The positive moral resonance of independence here owes to a civic ideal of self-reliance as a virtue in economic and social life.

LA SUPERIORITÀ MORALE DELL’ INDIPENDENZA

In Judith Shklar’s formulation: citizens [must] “be independent persons in both their political and civil roles, who give and withdraw their votes from their representatives and political parties as they see fit.”

JUDITH SHKLAR

To be clear: the core of independence as a political identity today is antipartisanship rather than antipartyism.

PARTITI E PARTIGIANI

“Escape from the Deadly Groove”

Progressives introduced the influential view that where the partisan is seduced or bought, the independent is a free agent. The supporters of party organizations were characterized as ignorant, inert, set in some “deadly groove”

L’ORIGINE PROGRESSISTA DEL VALORE DELL’INDIPENDENZA

“Far from being more attentive, interested, and informed, independents tend as a group to have somewhat poorer knowledge of the issues, their image of the candidates is fainter, their interest in the campaign is less, their concern over the outcome is relatively slight.”… “Pure independents” are the least interested in politics, the most politically ignorant, the lightest voters.

L’EVIDENZA: INDIPENDENZA=INDIFFERENZA

Partisans spend more not less time attending to politics and have more hooks for taking in new information. Unanchored, independents’ considerations are more likely to be chaotic and ad hoc than partisans’. They participate less.

UN CONFRONTO SPIETATO

For one, “escape from the deadly groove” does not make the independent bravely Thoreauian… There is no warrant for casting independents as Humean impartial observers, either…

There is no warrant for casting independents as Humean impartial observers, either

Nor is there warrant for viewing independents as peculiarly sensitive to Mill’s “half-truths” and to the dynamic by which every position derives its utility from the deficiencies of the other, so that truth is “a question of the reconciling and combining of opposites… and it has to be made by the rough process of a struggle between combatants fighting under hostile banners.”

LA FUGA DAI PARTITI NON È SUFFICIENTE

independents are cast as the beneficiaries and carriers of the corrections that emerge from the clash of objections by “persons who actually believe them, who defend them in earnest, and do their utmost for them.”

L’ INDIPENDENTE COME PARASSITA DEL MILITANTE

Weightlessness

“We partisans” organize and vote with allies, not alone. If Ignazio Silone is right that the crucial political judgment is “the choice of comrades,” independents do not make it. Independents are as detached from one another as they are from parties. They are not sending a coordinated message… Independents do not assume responsibility for the institutions that organize public discussion… Atomism is an overworked metaphor, but it applies to independents:

GLI INDIPENDENTI NON SI COORDINANO E NON HANNO PESO

Teddy Roosevelt warned against “the deification of independence,” and what he called “mere windy anarchy” is the perennial anxiety of those who imagine independents as the hope for democratic reform.

TEDDY ROOSVELT CONTRO GLI INDIPENDENTI

I’ll give the last word on this point to Edmund Burke, who said it first: “In a connexion, the most inconsiderable man, by adding to the weight of the whole, has his value, and his use; out of it, the greatest talents are wholly unserviceable to the publick.”

BURKE SULL’ARGOMENTO

Inclusiveness

At its most basic, partisanship is identification with Democrats from Florida to California and with political competition at every level of government. No other political identity is shared by so many segments of the population as measured by socioeconomic status or religion, and partisans are not clumped tightly together on an ideological spectrum.

LA MILITANZA TI IDENTIFICA

Comprehensiveness

The second element of an ethic of partisanship and ground for appreciation is attachment to others in a group with responsibility for telling a comprehensive public story about the economic, social, and moral changes of the time, and about national security.

LA MILITANZA TI COORDINA DANDO RILEVANZA AL TUO SFORZO

Inclusiveness and a comprehensive account of what needs to be done are only possible if “we partisans” demonstrate the disposition to compromise. Compromise with fellow partisans acknowledges the larger “we.” We have only to think of political purists to underscore compromisingness as a moral disposition.

LA MILITANZA TI INSEGNA A RINUNCIARE ALLA TUA PUREZZA

The Achievement of Partisanship

drawing the lines of division and shaping the system of conflict that orders democratic deliberation and decision.

IL LAVORO DEL MILITANTE

Creating lines of division is the achievement of partisanship, the heart of introducing “power into the political world.” Politically salient positions are unlikely to be cast as Mill’s “serious conflict of opposing reasons” unless partisans do the work of articulating lines of division and advocating on the side of the angels.

GREAT DIVIDE

“the clash of political beliefs, and of the interests and attitudes that are likely to influence them,” which Rawls and other political philosophers concede is “a normal condition of human life,”

MOLTI TEORICI MINIMIZZANO LA COSTRUZIONE DEL GREAT DIVIDE

parties crystallize, coagulate, synthesize, smooth down, and mold. Creativity in politics is rarely a subject of political theory, and then it is identified with founding moments or constitutional design, higher law-making or transformative social movements, and not with “normal politics.”

MAURICE DUVERGER SU QUESTO PUNTO

The Moral Distinctiveness of ‘Party ID’

While thinking they should speak to everyone, partisans do not imagine they speak for the whole or that their victory is anything but partial and temporary.

IL MILITANTE HA COSCIENZA DI ESSERE PARTE

Skeptics of my appreciation of partisanship can be forgiven today. For several decades, party leaders often appear to want to destroy one another as an effective and legitimate opposition— even to the extent of trying to criminalize political differences.

LA CRIMINALIZZAZIONE DELL’AVVERSARIO POLITICO GIUSTIFICA IL DISPREZZO VERSO I PARTITI

What we need is not independence or bipartisanship or post-partisanship but better partisanship.

DI COSA ABBIAMO BISOGNO

Responses on Political Theory, Idealism, and Extremism – Partisanship and Political Theory

democratic politics cannot be carried on by men and women who take the independent or impartial standpoint democratic theorists typically invoke as most likely to produce good public reasoning and fair outcomes.

DIFENDERE I PARTITI È DIFENDERE LA DEMOCRAZIA. POCHE ALTERNATIVE

the dominant strands: deliberative theory, neo-republicanism, and “epistemic democracy.”… If they allow that parties are a practical necessity for organizing elections and legislatures, partisan citizens are not.

TRE CONCEZIONI CONTEMPORANEE. NESSUNA METTE AL CENTRO IL PARTITO

One of the main thrusts of Angels is the intersection between partisanship and deliberation— an absolutely crucial question in a “mixed regime.” I argue that parties themselves are arenas for deliberation; the internal workings of parties require it… Consider a moderate position that democratic theorists might take. If we understand the value of parties in the Millian sense of shaping lines of political division and staging “trial by discussion” (where does this fit in Fishkin’s typology?), we could assign partisans a modest role….

LA MILITANZA SI SPOSA BENE CON LA DEMOCRAZIA DELIBERATIVA

As Nadia Urbinati emphasizes in an earlier response to Angels, ideally parties are stable institutions that create ongoing connections between partisans and representatives.

I PARTITI FACILITANO LA COMUNICAZIONE

Leave aside my view that all politics is partisan whether or not there is a formal party system. Leave aside my view that wherever we have pluralism we will have partisanship, again, even if we do not have parties.

LA PARTIGIANERIA È INESTIGUIBILE

democratic theory today has little to do with political organization or action. It has little to do with the day-to-day business of building political associations, setting political agendas, choosing comrades, or influencing electoral and policy outcomes.

LE TEORIE CONTEMPORAMEE NON CRITICANO IL PARTITO. LO TRASCURANO

respondents have picked up on my juxtaposition of partisanship and independence. In addition, I create another division: between partisanship and other forms of political association— social movements, interest groups, “public-interest” advocacy groups, and voluntary associations in civil society that episodically enter politics.

A COSA CONTRAPPORRE IL PARTITO?

Partisans take sides on comprehensive matters of national interest. Many partisans are also advocates of particular issues, but as partisans they are more. So zealousness on behalf of a party is different from uncompromising zeal on behalf of guns or consumer protection.

MA IL PARTITO RESTA UNIVERSALISTA

One of the important aspects of parties in comparison with other forms of political association is that they are relatively open and changeable:

IL PARTITO È CONTENDIBILE

Lindsey believes that partisanship has evolved from concrete, personal political loyalty toward an affiliation based on ideology, and he judges this an improvement.

LA DEGENERAZIONE DEI PARTITI E’ INNEGABILE

After all, the origin of important European parties (socialists, Christian Democrats) was quite different; as a generalization, European parties began as ideological parties and are converging increasingly on American-style umbrella parties.

AMERICANIZZAZIONE O EUROPEIZZAZIONE? PARITO PRAGMATICO O IDEOLOGICO?

Good Enough vs. Ideal Citizens and Partisans

he echoes the disparagement of partisans on the basis of bias, ignorance, and inattention to the public interest. I’ll address the question of zeal or extremism in the next section. But how many responses from contributors address partisanship specifically, rather than citizens in general who have run amok and are selfish, inattentive to the public interest, lazy, ignorant, or biased?… It is not hard to build up a discouraging list of negatives, summed up by Larry Bartels as “unenlightened self-interest.”

L’OBIEZIONE DI LINDSAY

The comparative question is whether partisans are better or worse than others on the score of ignorance, bias, and falling off from virtue. Empirical studies suggest that on every dimension they are better than nonpartisans.

LA VERA QUESTIONE… E LA RISPOSTA EMPIRICA

The common thrust is that attitudes do shape party id, and that changing political attitudes alter political orientation. Partisanship is active, alive to the connection between preferences or attitudes and party positions. Revisionists have absolved partisans of the arbitrariness of the claim that “partisans are partisan because they think they are partisan.” Whatever deficiencies political scientists uncover, the appeal of revisionism is to tie party id to reflection on experience and responsiveness to events and therefore to undercut “blind partisanship.”

UNA VERSIONE RIVEDUTA E CORRETTA DEL PARTIGIANO: IL PARTIGIANO È SINCERO E INTERESSATO

Partisans do absorb information and revise opinions and don’t reflexively view party leaders or programs in a positive light. The “biased learning” hypothesis is rejected by Green, Palmquist, and Schickler.

IN FONDO ANCHE UN MILITANTE IMPARA. ANCHE IL MILITANTE, DENTRO DI SE’, SA QUALI SONO I SUOI PUNTI DEBOLI

“we can expect a disjuncture between what voters think of parties and the degree to which they identify with partisan groups.” As some readers will doubtless recognize from their own experience, partisan hearts and minds are not always in sync.

CUORE E TESTA DEL MILITANTE

“I believe there is an inverse relationship today between one’s commitment to both the truth and the public interest and one’s commitment to partisanship.”

OBIEZIONE: IL PARTIGIANO NON È MAI PARTIGIANO DELLA VERITÀ

Understanding Extremism

Lindsey also brings up zealousness— always a simmering element of anti-partisanship.

L’ACCUSA: PARTIGIANI=> ESTREMISTI

We should not allow this concern to trump our concern for the more widespread, enduring, and dangerous phenomenon of apathy and disengagement.

ATTENZIONE: TERZISTI=>APATICI

One example of this mindset is the faith often seen in the ability of random citizens in nonpolitical contexts to arrive at policy decisions in the public interest.

UNA FEDE INGENUA

Extremism, I argue, is a deviation from the three elements of my ethics of partisanship. Specifically, extremism refers to failure to take responsibility for mobilizing voters.

L’ESTREMISMO IN REALTA’ È UNA VIOLAZIONE DELL ETICA MILITANTE

the values or positions that partisan extremists advance are not necessarily outside the mainstream or off-center, as the spatial model would suggest. Extremism is a matter of modality. “Extremism” says that values and programs are advanced in a temper, at a register, and in a mode that is unyielding.

L’ESTREMISMO E’ SOLO UNA MODALITA’. ESISTE ANCHE L’ESTREMISMO QUALUNQUISTA

COMMENTO PERSONALE

Non so se accogliere la contrapposizione proposta “partigiano/indifferente”. Mi sembra più naturale il confronto tra modalità diverse di affrontare la politica, in questo senso chi non partecipa sta fuori. Inoltre, ci sono molti modi di impegnarsi nella vita civile, l’impegno politico è solo uno tra i tanti possibili. Per la gran parte di noi è auspicabile un impegno civile alternativo: per esempio arricchirsi facendo bene il proprio lavoro.  Detto questo, anche “creare un interesse” puo’ essere un valore. Io stesso, se mi guardo indietro, registro il fatto che la passione nasce spesso da una militanza, per quanti errori possa portarsi dietro un atteggiamento fazioso. Esempio: uno si avvicina al calcio grazie al tifo, e poi magari diventa un vero intenditore. Diciamo allora che occorre distinguere tre gradi di relazione con la politica: 1) indifferenza 2) militanza 3) indipendenza. Il terzo grado è il più nobile e – nel mondo ideale – il più diffuso. Ma per giungervi bisogna passare quasi sempre per il secondo.

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