A friend sent an email: “I’ve been saying ‘parmesan’ wrong my whole life.”  Did you get it, too?  It included this link to the Cambridge Dictionaries Online and the instruction, “hit the speaker button.”  Which then intoned the following pronunciation for parmesan (as best I can render it): “penn-sil-VAYN-ya.”

I had so much fun with this and thought you might, too — but — oh, no! — it’s been fixed.  I tried gruyere and camembert, hoping for “bul-GAR-ee-ah” and “ka-lee-FORN-ya,” but no luck.  Roquefort, unaccountably, is not even in the Cambridge Dictionaries Online, so who knows how it would be pronounced.  It suggested I try “resort” or “henceforth” instead.

But enough of that.

However parmesan is pronounced, partisanship has become decidedly more pronounced.  Which is troubling, to say the least.

In “America’s New Cycle of Partisan Hatred,” the Washington Post reports a study showing “the level of partisan animus in the American public exceeds racial hostility.”

This is nuts, especially when, on the actual issues, except perhaps for abortion, people’s views tend not to be nearly so deeply or passionately divided.

(Kentucky Republicans like kynect but hate Obamacare.  Because the two are just different words for the same thing, you can see the contrast:  The policy they’re okay with.  But once it’s identified as a Democratic creation — which is ironic, of course, because it was born of Mitt Romney and a Republican think tank — they hate it.)

Nuts or not, it’s true:  The parties have become more and more polarized.

And the key point, as I’ve argued before, is that it’s not symmetrical.  Here’s why – in three parts:

Part One: Quite a few moderate Republicans have been voted out of office in primaries for being too moderate and willing to compromise. Replaced by people very far to the right. The equivalent is not true on the left. Democrats haven’t been kicking our moderates out for not being liberal enough.

Part Two: A great many Republican incumbents, while they have not yet been voted out in primaries, are afraid they will be, so THEY, too, have become far less likely to compromise. Again, the equivalent is simply not true on the Democratic side. Very few if any Democratic senators or representatives live in fear of being ‘primaried.’ That could change; but it may not — because:

Part Three: Billionaires on the right stand ready to fund these primary battles — which, win or lose, really get the attention of any remaining Republican moderates. The equivalent is simply not true on the Democratic side. Yes, we have our billionaires. But few if any are ‘far left’ in their policy positions — no billionaire Karl Marx Democrats to balance the billionaire Republican followers of Ayn Rand.

As I’ve also argued, the whole political landscape has shifted dramatically to the right:

Democrats these days govern from “the sensible center,” or maybe a click to the left.

(That’s why Obama put hundreds of billions of tax cuts into the stimulus bill and why he chose a Republican-designed model for health-care reform instead of the better, single-payer model he knew they would reject.  That’s why he was fine signing onto their bill for a bipartisan deficit commission — that, tellingly, once he did, they killed.  Their own bill.)

Republicans used to govern from about the same sensible center, just a click or two to the right.

(Remember moderate Republicans?  Dwight Eisenhower?  Richard Nixon?  Nelson Rockefeller?  Teddy Roosevelt?  Abe Lincoln?  Who represents moderate Republican voters now?  Republican candidates are practically all vying to show how conservative they are.)

Barney Frank, speaking of the partisan divide, says (sorry to repeat this, but it bears repeating), “we’re not perfect, but they’re nuts” . . . denying science, refusing compromise, shutting down the government, threatening default on debts that they themselves racked up — and this is not really where Republicans used to be.

President Obama clearly hoped to change the toxic atmosphere in Washington.  It was a central theme of his candidacy.

Mitch McConnell clearly hoped otherwise: he made clear from the get-go that his number-one priority was to see the President fail.  And at least as recently as last August, in prepared remarks, he declared victory. “By any standard,” he told an audience — ignoring virtually every standard — “Barack Obama has been a disaster for our country.”

(If you doubt these were their respective hopes, click those two links.)


I know you just came here because the paremsan cheese reference caught your eye (“penn-sil-VAYN-ya”).  But if, unaccountably, you’ve read this far and still have interest, I offer some — partisan — thoughts from our estimable Jim Burt.


“I want to encourage you to help shift the political vocabulary a bit when it comes to today’s right wing.  Specifically, they’re not ‘conservative.’  That’s a word they use to cover their pot pourri of radical, extremist, and reactionary policy proposals.

“Commentators like George Will, at least before he sold his birthright to Fox, used to pay homage to Edmund Burke’s brand of conservatism and to the idea that conservatism was actually intended to, you know, conserve stuff.  That is, conservatism traditionally promoted stability, order, and predictability of justice, among other attractive values.  The only thing modern movement ‘conservatism’ tries to ‘conserve’ is the fortunes of the 0.1% and, to the extent not inconsistent with doing that, the fantasies of some fringe religionists about the role of their preferred religion in American history and life.

“So, please, unless a given politician, pundit, or proposal actually promotes conservation of traditional values and societal benefits, describe them as ‘radical’ and/or ‘extremist’ and encourage other commentators to do likewise.

“Here in Texas, the legislature is in its semi-annual session, once again depriving towns and villages across the state of their drunks and idiots, as the late Molly Ivins was wont to say.  It has a super-majority of Republicans, and they’re busy with a lot of bills to prohibit medically necessary abortions, prohibit law enforcement officers from asking gun-toting persons if they have a license (no kidding!), force municipalities and even colleges to permit open carrying of firearms, and prevent voters from being able, by referendum, to stop fracking in their local communities, among other matters.  With respect to the last point, one of our local newspapers applied the term ‘big government Republicans’ to these ham-handed efforts in favor of the oil and gas folks to prevent local home rule.  So along with ‘radical’ and ‘extremist,’ ‘big government Republicans’ should be part of our lexicon for as long as that party wants to meddle in our bedrooms and towns.

The Republican idea of ‘small government’ appears to apply only to government’s regulation of Big Business. Republicans only oppose regulations that inhibit Big Business and only oppose taxes that affect the very richest Americans, while they only disfavor spending that helps poor and middle class people.  This last point is important:  The middle class has always been caught in the middle, but the Republicans of today, unlike the Republicans of, say, the 1950s, have been doing everything they can to pinch the middle for the benefit of the top 0.1%.  Their idea of ‘middle class values’ appears to be to put a low value on the middle class.

“The other thing I would call them is ‘deadbeat Republicans,’ because they run up big bills for wars and tax-cuts-for-the-rich without paying for them.”

I just tried the link again.  Sorry to report it’s still fixed.  But those of us who got the email in time will always remember: penn-sil-VAYN-ya.



Comments are closed.