In his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama will likely call for increased bipartisanship in Congress. He obviously needs to reach out to the other side, given the GOP’s majority in the House, but his message will likely serve as a complement to a larger narrative against partisanship altogether. While Americans have questioned the country’s system of political parties since the country’s founding, it seems that recent months have seen an increase in calls for nonparisanship by groups like No Labels. Unfortunately, these calls are misguided, albeit well intentioned.
Those calling for “no labels” seem ignorant to the amount of information that voters have on candidates when casting their ballots: often little more than party affiliation. That said, party affiliation is a remarkable indicator of policy positions and serves as a reliable heuristic for the low-information voter. Like it or not, only a tiny fraction of the electorate is well-informed and our system is designed to allow most people to worry about activities other than politics (such as earning money, as John Locke would argue). American parties also lack the power and cohesion seen elsewhere in the world; parties in parliamentary systems, such as in the United Kingdom, could not imagine the lack of party discipline in the American system.
So, cheers for partisanship (and even bipartisanship as long as the Democrats need GOP votes to pass legislation). And clap for the Democrats during the State of the Union tonight.