People Disagree About the Ends of Life and Not Just the Means

This post against bi-partisanship by Jim Johnson, I agree with (via Crooked Timber):

[W]hy should we endorse bi-partisanship? That is a fundamentally anti-democratic response. Here I am persuaded by argument by political theorists who, following Joseph Schumpeter (whose conception of democracy is, despite common caricatures, neither a ‘realist’ nor ‘minimalist’), insist that robust competition is crucial to a healthy democracy. For instance, Ian Shapiro* suggests that competition has two salutary effects: (i) it allows voters to throw out incumbents (known more appropriately as ‘the bastards’) and (ii) it pressures the opposition to solicit as wide a range of constituencies as they are able. Given these effects, Shapiro suggests quite pointedly:

If competition for power is the lifeblood of democracy, then the search for bi-partisan consensus … is really anticompetitive collusion in restraint of democracy. Why is it that people do not challenge legislation that has bi-partisan backing, or other forms of bi-partisan agreement on these grounds? It is far from clear that there are fewer meritorious reasons to break up the Democratic and Republican parties than there are to break up AT&T and Microsoft.”

Now the final sentence does not follow; we need not break up any particular party and, insofar as they are essential mechanisms of political coordination, that might be self-defeating. What is wanted is vigilance against bi-partisanship and the sort of collusion it embodies.