Partisanship is Good, #2

Over the last year I’ve argued in many places (notably Kevin Drum, Crooked Timber, Matt Yglesias, and Brad DeLong — though DeLong himself is fine) that political partisanship not only excusable, but actually a good thing, and in fact an obligation at times. Along with this I have argued that you should not be quick to call fouls on your own team, and that rather than do so you should let your opponents do their own work. Furthermore, whenever one of the chickenshit little issues that political campaigns generate pops up, the wisest thing to do is to treat it ruthlessly as a partisan distraction, rather than agonizing about truth and Gandhi and shit. These discussions usually end up with some ignoramus (often a life-long Democrat) calling me a Stalinist hack and blaming me for the massacre of the kullaks.

It would be nice if all Democrats could be trusted to distinguish between the party spirit of Harry Truman and the party spirit of Josef Stalin, but they can’t.

Most of the people who come to STF are partisan Democrats who will wonder why I’m posting this. It’s because many of the genteel Democrats who are driving me nuts are academics who think that they are too good for partisanship. Many of them have read Weber’s “Science as Vocation”, but not his essay “Politics as Vocation”. It would do them good to read it, except that none of them ever come over here because they boycott all Stalinists. But I’ll post it anyway.

Below are some excerpts from Max Weber’s “Politics as Vocation”, plus a link. This piece was written in 1918 at the end of Weber’s life, and he was thinking specifically about the prospects of the doomed (as we know, and as he feared) liberal democratic Weimar Republic which he had helped found.

“In order to be a useful apparatus, a machine in the

American sense–undisturbed either by the vanity of notables or pretensions to

independent views–the following of such a leader must obey him blindly.

Lincoln’s election was possible only through this character of party


But even herewith the problem is not yet exhausted. No

ethics in the world can dodge the fact that in numerous instances the attainment

of ‘good’ ends is bound to the fact that one must be willing to pay the price of

using morally dubious means or at least dangerous ones –and facing the

possibility or even the probability of evil ramifications. From no ethics in the

world can it be concluded when and to what extent the ethically good purpose

‘justifies’ the ethically dangerous means and ramifications….One cannot

prescribe to anyone whether he should follow an ethic of absolute ends or an

ethic of responsibility, or when the one and when the


Now then, ladies and gentlemen, let us debate this matter

once more ten years from now. Unfortunately, for a whole series of reasons, I

fear that by then the period of reaction will have long since broken over us. It

is very probable that little of what many of you, and (I candidly confess) I

too, have wished and hoped for will be fulfilled; little-perhaps not exactly

nothing, but what to us at least seems little.”

Weber: Politics as Vocation

P.S. Not all genteel Democrats are prissy academics. Some have battered-wife syndrome and do submissive wetting in hopes that Rove won’t hurt them. (These are probably the ones most responsible for the Dems’ McCain infatuation of awhile back, as if McCain could even protect himself). Others are clean and clever lads who know which side their bread is buttered on. Battered and buttered, that’s us!