Artikel berikut keluar dalam International New York Times pada 16 Oktober 2013. Saya rasa artikel ini baik sekali dihadamkan oleh politikus kita.
Enemies vs. Adversaries
By Michael Ignatieff
TORONTO — For democracies to work, politicians need to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary.
An adversary is someone you want to defeat. An enemy is someone you have to destroy. With adversaries, compromise is honorable: Today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally. With enemies, on the other hand, compromise is appeasement.
Between adversaries, trust is possible. They will beat you if they can, but they will accept the verdict of a fair fight. This, and a willingness to play by the rules, is what good-faith democracy demands.
Between enemies, trust is impossible. They do not play by the rules (or if they do, only as a means to an end) and if they win, they will try to rewrite the rules, so that they can never be beaten again.
Adversaries can easily turn into enemies. If majority parties never let minority parties come away with half a loaf, the losers are bound to conclude they can only win through the utter destruction of the majority.
Once adversaries think of democracy as a zero-sum game, the next step is to conceive of politics as war: no quarter given, no prisoners taken, no mercy shown.
For a long time now, the language used by both sides in American politics has been inflamed by bellicose metaphors. Elected officials “tear into” their opponents, “take the fight” to their opponent and engage — as we see clearly now, in the third week of the federal government shutdown — in the tactical equivalent of trench warfare. Where language leads, conduct follows.
The problem is that politics is not war, but the only reliable alternative to it. Once we think of politics as war, battle cries drown out democratic persuasion. By slow degrees, belligerence and self-righteousness make cooperation impossible.
There cannot be much doubt that, in the impasse over the shutdown in Washington, and in the possibility of a default on the federal debt, we are seeing what happens when a politics of enemies supplants a politics of adversaries.
Anyone who has lived in a dysfunctional or struggling democracy knows that a politics of enmity can end in rule by presidential decree, or even in political violence. Americans consider such scenarios unthinkable. Yet even if the standoff over the debt ceiling ends in a deal, it will already have exacted a brutal price. Extremists will come away believing that hostage-taking might work next time. When blackmail becomes standard practice, democracy is pulled a step closer to permanent paralysis.
Some experts believe that the enmity mind-set simply reflects real divisions in the society at large. Inequalities in income, wealth and opportunity have soared, the argument goes, making it impossible for ordinary Americans to respect each other as adversaries.
Other thoughtful observers argue — I think convincingly — that while factions at either end of the political spectrum do see each other as enemies, most Americans are actually not as divided as their politics makes them seem. The real problem, in this account, is the political system: districts drawn so that incumbents never face the challenge of reaching out beyond their own base; primary systems that reward extremist activists over moderate pragmatists; campaign finance rules that allow big, opaque donations by wealthy interests.
From this perspective, the politicians aren’t so much reflecting the divisions in American society as they are exacerbating them, from the top down.
The tendency is to magnify differences of policy into differences of conviction. For example, Republican and Democrat voters alike are ever more dependent on government programs like Social Security and Medicare, but you would never know this from the way Tea Party Republicans describe Obamacare as an assault on freedom.
Politicians ratchet up manageable differences of policy into conflicts over identity and value. In this way, what Freud called the “narcissism of minor differences” drives party activists into closed worlds of discourse, while leaving the rest of Americans feeling that “the system” fails to serve them at all. They cease participating altogether, leaving the politicians to brawl in a deserted public square.
Besides magnifying differences, the politics of enmity makes competition viscerally personal. The object is not to rebut what people say, but to deny them the right to be heard at all. Attack ads that deny standing have been a feature of American politics from Lyndon B. Johnson’s depiction of Barry M. Goldwater as mentally unstable menace to the “swift boating” of John F. Kerry. The politics of personal destruction have come to seem normal, even acceptable.
More civility and gentility — being nicer — will not cure this. What needs to change are the institutions themselves, and they will only change when the political class in Washington realizes that, just as in American football, there are some hits that are killing the game.
Saving the game means changing the rules. Until quite recently Americans believed their democracy was so exceptional that they had nothing to learn from other countries. Now, real dysfunction may make them look more carefully at how other democracies avoid gridlock. Britain, France and Germany, as well as Canada and Australia, have impartial districting commissions that prevent gerrymandering and force incumbents to reach out rather than play solely to their base. They have campaign finance rules that prevent rich cranks from funding rabid partisanship. They have rules to prevent politicians from grandstanding abuse of process in their legislatures. They have open primaries that prevent electoral capture by fanatics. If Americans still feel that other countries’ democratic practices have nothing to teach them, they can learn from reform at the state and local level.
What’s indefensible is a political class that believes nothing better is possible — a class that benefits from enmity without realizing that the damage from it is corrosive, and possibly irreversible.
Michael Ignatieff, a former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, is the author, most recently, of “Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics."