Several seemingly innocuous words in our society’s political language are actually doing great harm. Sometime soon, we will all have to decide whether to continue using them.
I discussed the most damaging of these fallacies – the word centrist – in a previous post. But not far behind is the term non-partisan: it also wreaks large levels of havoc within our collective discourse.
Those who self-label as non-partisan typically sort into two broad categories: the insincere and the sincere. One influences the political narrative intentionally …… and with selfish motives. The other influences it unintentionally.
The sincere folks use this term because they’ve fallen into a trap. In their defense, though, they can hardly be blamed for the predicament because almost everyone suffers from a similar limitation: partisanship has been defined as a one-dimensional concept.
These sincere non-partisans look at the liberals on the left and think, “I’m not one of them.” They also look to the other end of today’s spectrum and have the same reaction. Then, when their attention turns to the so-called center, they decide to avoid the folks who reside there as well. This leaves them no political faction to identify with. They say, “I’m not a part of that paradigm.” ……. “I’m non-partisan“.
At its core, the problem is spatial. We rely on a false concept: the horizontal line segment. This linear model – despite its current dominance over political thought – is so limited that it grants the sincere non-partisans no real estate on which to locate their political position ……
In contrast, the insincere non-partisans function more like a Trojan horse. They pretend to have no political leanings, but in reality they’re pushing either a left-centralizing viewpoint or a right-centralizing viewpoint …… with its language cleverly disguised.
Regardless of the intent behind its usage, a logical fallacy is at work beneath this term. We believe that partisanship can only function in one direction, when, in fact, there are two dimensions to partisanship. The first orients toward left and right. The second orients up and down …… along the Power Axis.
So, a distinction can be drawn the next time you hear this term being used: the sincere non-partisan will typically favor citizen-based power, while the less sincere is often seeking greater control over centralized power structures. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule: occasionally someone who resides near the circle’s top will use the term with good intentions. But the diagram below can still serve as a general guide for understanding the motives of the non-partisan self-labelers ……
Whether sincere or insincere, the term nonpartisan has created a monster. It is a fictional concept that foists a false impression upon the listener. It relies on the deeply flawed assumption that partisanship can only be defined as left versus right. Meanwhile, few thinkers address the crucial Power Question head-on …… while its misuse increases.
As one of the trickster terms of our political vocabulary, non-partisan must be recognized for its true nature. The stakes are too high for concepts like this to be ignored.
Image: copyright Neydtstock