Sunday, July 03, 2005

Partisan politics in LA?

John Hill’s column on Saturday was interesting. It condemned what he sees as the new partisanship in the Louisiana state legislature. It blamed the democratic governor’s recent difficulties on obstructionist tactics practiced by the opposing party. But here’s the thing: Partisanship is more than just disagreeing about what’s best for the state. It’s about using state issues and elevating the party’s interest above the state’s. It’s also about being disingenuous in the justification of that behavior and finding ways to blame the opposing party for political failures. I’m no fan of the extreme partisanship poisoning Washington and the country’s politics. It’s painfully clear partisanship does more harm than good. If that’s what’s happening in Louisiana it’s no darn good. But let’s be clear on our definition of terms: Policy disagreement does not equal partisanship. And yet, Hill’s first example of “partisanship” was Senator Dardenne’s complaint about state spending. Hill wrote, “The debate turned decidedly partisan after Sen. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge complained the Blanco administration was allowing spending to grow unabated.” Is it just me? That really sounds more like a policy of good government than it does a philosophy of partisanship or obstructionism. Later Hill writes, “At session's end, Blanco said the cigarette tax issue was not 100 percent partisan. ‘I had some Republicans.’ But the partisan rifts ‘did take me by surprise,’ Blanco said. ‘In the past, personal relationships mattered more than party politics.’” Let’s have a moment of silence for the decline of personal relationships in Louisiana politics. They’ve done to so much to help the state on indicators like economic development, population growth, poverty reduction, educational attainment, high school graduation rates, adult incarceration rates and quality-of-life. I would lament the passing of the good old days except, with the benefit of hindsight, it turns out they weren’t so good. What’s interesting is who’s shedding the tears.