Politics Is War by Other Means

In war, it tends to be best to worry more about defeating the enemy more than it is to worry about being nice to the enemy in order to make him like you.

In politics, therefore, “If they go low, we go high” is not always the best policy. What is the best policy depends on the particulars of the situation. What exactly do “going low” and “going high” mean? What are the chances of victory with each strategy? Are there any principles which must be compromised to follow either? If so, how important are those principles? And so on.

What made me think of this is the case against gerrymandering that is currently in the Supreme Court. The chance of an anti-gerrymandering verdict has been increased because it’s not just Republicans doing dirt to Democrats; in Maryland, the Democrats are quite reasonably being accused of doing the converse.

Nobody much likes to admit it, but the show that Supreme Court justices put on about adhering to higher principles rather than just going for what their gut wants is quite often just a show. Witness how often conservative justices forget about states’ rights the minute they are asked to rule against a state doing something they consider unacceptably too far to the left.

If it were just red states doing gerrymandering to the disadvantage of Democrats, it would be much more likely that the conservative justices would find some pretext for ruling in favor of a state’s right to gerrymander. Instead, Maryland has helped to give them motive to find some pretext for ruling the opposite way.

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