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To Solve Partisan Division, Bring it to the White House?

Most of the consideration I’ve given to Unity08 over the past nine months has actually been actually pretty generous of spirit: I’ve looked at what Unity08 has said about itself and what it would do, and then simply compared that to the reality of what Unity08 is and what it has done. Those are pretty generous terms for evaluation of a corporation that calls itself a political movement. That Unity08 has failed to come out smelling like a rose after such consideration is really the elite organization’s own fault. These people have supposed professional expertise, they have the connections, they have the high-priced lobbyist lawyers, and they’ve had the benefit of dozens of fawning national media treatments. If the Unity08 corporation finds itself flailing to keep its own commitments with that set of advantages, then it’s probably a good thing that Unity08 is headed toward failure. Imagine what they would mess up with the resources of the entire federal government at their disposal!

But pause for a moment and suspend everything you’ve come to know about Unity08. Imagine that Unity08 was run competently, that it maintained consistency and honestly represented itself. Imagine, counterfactually, that it gathered supporters at a faster pace than a petition about Dick Cheney’s appearance at Brigham Young University. Would it then be an organization whose goals you would support?

Of course, you can only answer for yourself, but I get stuck on the following point: Unity08 cites conflict between the Democrats and the Republicans as the central problem of politics in Washington, DC. And as a case in point (why, just today on their front page) they discuss the U.S. Congress, which Unity08 thinks just doesn’t work. Why doesn’t the Congress work? Why, it’s plagued with partisan rancor. The solution to this? Why, make the executive branch like the legislative branch, adding partisan divisions to the office of the president, the cabinet, and the various executive agencies. Because in the executive branch, members of different parties will… what? Have tea parties? Hug?

How will making the federal executive more like the Congress make the government less like the Congress? This line of thinking is internally inconsistent. It just doesn’t make sense. And that’s a core problem for the project of Unity08 — the effort is not about making sense. It’s a public relations effort, which is about saying things that sound good on the surface. Public relations and policymaking run at cross purposes, which is why the Unity08 effort is not only hypocritical and deceptive but also a really, really bad idea unworthy of public support.

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