On Non-Partisanship

Last week, CAP was called out on social media by both the right (for not condemning Jacqueline Fischer’s now-infamous facebook post) and the left (for having endorsed Brenda Thiam for City Council).

To be very clear, we condemn all calls for harm to other human beings, implicit or explicit. Having never endorsed or, as an organization, otherwise supported Ms. Fischer, it seems unnecessary for us to specifically condemn her wholly unacceptable post, but let the record show that we do. Beyond that, we condemn the toxic barrage that goes on every day on social media, ranging from offensive stereotypes to overt threats of violence. We condemn these things not because they are partisan but because they dehumanize fellow citizens and do further damage to our already fragile democracy.

Furthermore, we remain proud to have endorsed Dr. Thiam, who we are confident will do great things in Annapolis. Our endorsement of her, as of all our endorsees, in no way implies that she herself is expected to be non-partisan. Our name, Citizens Above Partisanship, means that we believe citizenship should be held above partisanship, and that elected officials should cooperate across party lines for the common good. But we are not against partisanship, which is an inevitable feature of our political system and is not, in and of itself, bad. Dr. Thiam has given us every reason to believe that she is willing and able to govern cooperatively, and we continue to support her as she endeavors to do so.

More interesting than either of these attacks themselves is that they illustrate an important fact: non-partisanship is hard. Non-partisanship is not centrism. When only middle-of-the-road views are tolerated, all we really have is a new type of partisanship. Centrists are welcome, of course, but so are those further out on the ends of the political spectrum. Non-partisanship seeks common ground, yes, but it doesn’t require that everyone spend all their time there. It seeks to bridge differences, not to minimize or ignore them.

There is no political litmus test for non-partisanship, but perhaps there is a sort of “openness” test. No one is asked to check their convictions at the door, but they are, maybe, asked to leave their prejudices and preconceptions there, and to trust that other people have done the same.

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