Saturday, July 02, 2011

Bonanza Column 242 - Politics vs. Ideology

As the state’s new fiscal year begins, I guess you’d have to say we’re in better shape than Minnesota – at least our state government is open for business. At the same time, with Washoe and Clark Counties demanding the return of a total of $123 million from the State to County coffers, it’s clear that Governor Sandoval has a tough row to hoe in managing the state’s economy.
I’ve been an outspoken critic of the past two governors, both Republicans, and the long-time reader of this column (and I’m sure there is one, even if it’s only my brother) might expect me to continue that course of criticism with Governor Sandoval, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you for now. My disagreement with Governor Guinn was largely ideological – he was farther right than I like to see in the State House. My antipathy for Governor Gibbons, while also ideology-based was also based in my distaste for his arrogance and his ethics.
Despite his being a Republican, I’ve liked Brian Sandoval since he was Attorney General, and as I’ve said in earlier columns, his giving up a lifetime appointment to the Federal Bench to re-enter electoral politics and run for Governor bespeaks for me an authentic commitment to public service and to serving where he can make the most difference. We do not always agree on the means for making that difference, but we differ very little about the ends. I supported Rory Reid in last Fall’s election because I thought (and still think) his plan for rescuing our suffering educational system was the better one, but I’m willing to give Sandoval’s approach a chance now that he’s in office.
And I think he’s off to a good start. Because of the timing of the governor’s taking office and the budget’s taking effect (January and July, respectively), most first-term governors go with the budget they inherit from their predecessor. To Sandoval’s credit, he built his first budget from the ground up and, again, while I don’t agree with significant parts of it, it reflects his commitment to resolving the state’s economic ills, and I can respect that and give it a chance to work rather than condemning it out of hand as some of my fellow Progressives might expect me to do.
The point, for me, is this. There is politics and there is ideology. Both involve belief systems, and no one can say that a given belief system is totally wrong or without merit except maybe at the extremes of the political spectrum. But politics goes beyond belief and into persuasion and, as Machiavelli said, into the “art of the possible” – where can we find common ground despite our different beliefs and move forward? At its best, politics is about finding the values that, at the root of it all, we have in common and resolving our differences in favor of those values. Ideology, on the othe r hand is too often about dogma and beliefs that we are certain are right. Concomitantly, any beliefs other than ours must be wrong, and we focus on differences rather than common ground. Too often, ideologues use either force or isolation to deal with those of differing beliefs, and both of those are impediments to progress.
So Progressives can differ from Governor Sandoval politically and not turn it into an ideological battle of who’s right and who’s wrong, but rather have our differences be the heat that forges new ideas and real progress. In an era where national politics has become almost essentially ideological, perhaps Nevadans can demonstrate that real political progress is possible. Let’s hope so, anyhow.

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