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DeLay’s Defense of Partisanship

Friday, June 9, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Tom DeLay exits with a flourish, and a sophisticated defense of partisanship. Key graphs:

The point is, we disagree. On first principles, Mr. Speaker, we disagree. And so we debate, often loudly, and often in vain, to convince our opponents and the American people of our point of view.

We debate here on the House floor, we debate in committees, we debate on television and on radio and on the Internet and in the newspapers and then every two years, we have a huge debate. And then in November, we see who won. That is not rancor, that is democracy.

You show me a nation without partisanship, and I’ll show you a tyranny. For all its faults, it is partisanship, based on core principles, that clarifies our debates, that prevents one party from straying too far from the mainstream, and that constantly refreshes our politics with new ideas and new leaders.

Indeed, whatever role partisanship may have played in my own retirement today or in the unfriendliness heaped upon other leaders in other times, Republican or Democrat, however unjust, all we can say is that partisanship is the worst means of settling fundamental political differences — except for all the others.

Now, politics demands compromise. And Mr. Speaker, and even the most partisan among us have to understand that, but we must never forget that compromise and bipartisanship are means, not ends, and are properly employed only in the service of higher principles.

DELAY: It is not the principled partisan, however obnoxious he may seem to his opponents, who degrades our public debate, but the preening, self-styled statesman who elevates compromise to a first principle .

For the true statesman, Mr. Speaker, we are not defined by what they compromise, but by what they don’t.

The concluding chapters of Painting the Map Red draw heavily on Disraeli’s spirited defense of party and partisanship as among the handful of reasons behind the great success of Great Britain in the 19th century. Tom DeLay understands the role of party as few do, and hopefully the leadership and the rank-and-file of the GOP will keep in mind that their majority is what allows the agenda to move forward, though slowly and in fits and starts. Majorities are tremendously difficult to build and easy to throw away. Partisanship means appreciating that central truth and conducting politics with an eye on the prize of governing, and not just governing, but governing rightly over time.

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