by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I want to put in a good word for partisanship.
This might sound strange to some readers. I’ve written a lot about our problem with tribalism, including hyper-partisanship and political polarization. It was a major theme of my cheerily titled book Suicide of the West. So I’m happy to concede that too much partisanship — or partisanship of the wrong kind — can be very bad.
But unity can be bad too. Excessive unity cultivates groupthink and breeds contempt for dissent. It tends to ride roughshod over minorities, and not just in the sense of racial, religious, or sexual groups. Ideological minorities — including the smallest minority, the individual — can get trampled by the unity stampede (as my friend Kevin Williamson masterfully elucidates in his new book, The Smallest Minority).
Self-described nationalists insist the country needs more unity — around their ideas. Self-described socialists also crave unity, but only around their agenda. At various times and places, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and Hindus have all strived for unity, but only on their terms. In any large society, the demand for unity is usually the demand for power in a winner-take-all contest between different groups.
Our Constitution is set up around the idea that unity is scarier than disunity. The Founders designed a system that prevented any one group, or “faction,” from imposing its one-size-fits-all unity on everybody.