Mouthing the Party Line

In the midst of a political year, you cannot have failed to notice the phenomenon of party-line politics. It substitutes shouting for thinking. It makes a mockery of the national interest. It turns otherwise decent people into attack dogs and robots.

Party-line politics works like this. . . .

Each candidate listens to his or her opponent only to find a weakness to exploit in debate. Statements are taken out of context. Lines from speeches are deliberately distorted in order to caricature one's opponent and to attribute positions that the speaker knows are not embraced by an opponent.

People with any sort of commitment to a candidate are asked to join the ruckus. They are asked for blind loyalty that will endorse their party's platform and extol its candidate--even when the candidate is wrong or acts shamefully. They are told not to listen to anything said by the other party and to reject all its members and candidates as unworthy by virtue of their membership in it.

Allegiance is expected to be total to one's party. There can be no admission of inadequacy or failure by one's own party. There must be no concession to the truthfulness of the opposition on a single point.

One must learn to hear those outside his or her own party with resolute prejudice. Anyone speaking for one's party--even when speaking nonsense--must be cheered with gusto.

The goal of the process is neither to discover truth nor to advance the general good. It is to get one's candidate in office. It is to promote the party. It is to attact, undermine, and destroy the opposition.

It is not surprising that one candidate in the single vice-presidential debate this year brought down the house by breaking into one of the partisan'tis-'taint exchanges to observe that he felt he was an eyewitness to what is wrong with American government!

Substitute "church" for party, "doctrine" for party platform, and "leader" for candidate in the paragraphs above and you will think you have a pretty good feel for what is wrong with denominationalism and sectarian churches. What unholy shame! -Rubel Shelly

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