Senator Nancy Pelosi’s associates had their noses in the thesaurus on Friday as the GOP announced its “Better Way” tax reform plan. Pelosi’s statement, regarding what she has cleverly renamed the “Wrong Way” initiative, declares with an artistic choice of words that the Republican proposal would “ransack our investments” in a number of areas, and that it would “explode the deficit.”
Perhaps Pelosi cannot be blamed for doomsaying, playing the partisan game, and retreating to her base: everyone does it, because that’s what politicians do. But her statement indicates something grim about the fundamental nature of our politics.
We have teams, and players must be loyal to their teams. Such a division holds no necessary evil within itself, unless it drives partisanship at the cost of informed and principled discourse – which is what it does.
Pelosi’s statement exemplifies the universal partisan reaction to an opponent’s proposal. The natural response is draw the rhetorical gun and to attack the plan with brash language and, sometimes, ad hominem. But this approach leaves us at a stalemate.
Shamefully, both the Right and the Left use this tactic. Quite literally, it has Trump calling others names, while ignoring the potential viability of the policy measures put forward.
Pelosi’s remarks had no facts and no numbers backing them up. There was only tough language, a tactic we often see from Trump. Discourse about policy proposals has largely become futile for reasons like this. Politicians and non-politicians tend to simply talk past each other.
But if facts are facts, why are there still disagreements? Because facts have become secondary in politics: facts are often only used to support a conclusion, and only after it has already been drawn.
This probably appears to be critique of Pelosi (and it is to an extent), but it is actually a critique of a greater political reflex, the need to talk tough and build straw men simply for the emotional reinforcement it provides. Pelosi’s statement didn’t convince anybody that the proposed “Better Way” is actually the “Wrong Way.” All it did was bolster hers and others’ drive in going after a political opponent.
Politics has become largely that, a push to fight political opponents rather than to actually govern. We’re better off at least recognizing that reality and, ideally, reforming it.