ICYMI: Partisanship ahead of the public good?

My latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-PIlot Thursday.  I was reading part 2 of the CNU poll (pdf), which was released Wednesday morning, which included this graph. CNUPartisanshipOverPublicGoodHow often do 70% of us agree on anything?

My first reaction was: wow.  If the majority agrees, why do we keep electing folks that don’t look out for us?

But the more I thought about it, it dawned on me that perhaps the question (#17 in the survey) actually was answered honestly but with partisan overtones.

It seems everything these days have partisan overtones – even when they don’t. I’m fond of using current events in my tax classes, because I think it makes things more relevant. One night, we were talking about gross income and gifts. Naturally, I mentioned Giftgate, and the gifts made to Maureen McDonnell, making the point that if these were truly gifts, then they would not be income to the McDonnells. A student pipes up, “But she didn’t do anything wrong.” My response was that I didn’t say she did.  (I go to great lengths, by the way, to keep my politics out of the classroom. I think inserting politics is a barrier to learning, one of the reasons I dumped the textbook we had when I started teaching the class. Besides being poorly written, I couldn’t stand the politics injected into everything.)

Looking at the question, I’ve convinced the reason for such high agreement was that the survey respondents heard a different question. I think they actually interpreted “politicians” to mean those of the party that you don’t support. Think about it. Asked to agree or disagree, a Republican hears “Democrats in Virginia are more concerned about partisan advantage than good of the state,” while a Democrat hears “Republicans in Virginia are more concerned about partisan advantage than the good of the state.”

Of course they agree with the statement.

For the record – I’m not sure what the Independents heard. If Pew’s study on partisanship is any indication, there are more R/D leaners in the bunch than true independents. (Has “independent” come to just mean “independent of my party?”)

Perhaps the 30% that were neutral or didn’t agree with the statement are the ones that aren’t going to show up on Nov. 5th, anyway.

In any event, taking it at face value seemed to be a stretch.

My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot.


One thought on “ICYMI: Partisanship ahead of the public good?

  1. “Why do we repeatedly elect those who put partisanship over what is good for Virginia?”

    Because that is who runs for office. In the primaries, we get to decide which Democrat or Republican we will nominate to put his party’s interests over those of the people, and in the general election, we get to choose whether we want the Democrat who will put the interests of his party above ours, or the Republican who will put the interests of his party above ours.

    We’d be better off choosing our representatives by lottery. Anyone who want to be a legislator puts his name in the hat. We then burn the hat, and choose someone who did NOT put his name in the hat.

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