19 July 2011

Matlow: Rebel Without a Cause

Councillor Josh Matlow, king of compromise, continues his disavowal of all things partisan. “Some of my colleagues,” he complains on Twitter, “seem to be deliberately targeted by politically-partisan activists.” He speaks of politically-aligned people the way that American politicians speak of al-Qaeda. Over and over again, Matlow’s vendetta against partisanship is made clear. In fact, trumpeting compromise and demonizing partisanship seems to comprise most of what publicly comes out of his mouth, a defender of neutrality above all else. His votes often reflect this, in that he pleases neither the right nor the left, but is likewise inoffensive to all.

There is an extreme individualism to Matlow’s neutrality. “I am loyal to no side” amounts to “I am loyal only to myself.” What matters is only what Matlow surmises independently; no matter how ignorant he is about the given issue, he refuses to be guided by either side. I get the feeling that he not only avoids being guided by political alignment, but he is ultimately guided by eschewing political alignment. It seems that he would sooner dull his position than be associated with a larger group of councillors who share a common political compass. If his opinions are disproportionately to one side of the spectrum, he must be wrong.

History is also irrelevant in Matlow’s political approach, as learning from what happens would eventually develop one’s allegiance to one side more than the other. Matlow’s only consistency is his hatred of consistency. Nonpartisan theory prescribes being engaged in politics while somehow refusing to recognise patterns. No matter how many times, for instance, one finds right-wing politicians to be deplorable and left-wing ones to be favourable, to be nonpartisan is to never remember this. Always approach politics as an infant, with a tabula rasa as to what will occur and what is worth supporting. But what if the principles that Matlow professes to value are consistently upheld by one side more than the other? For instance, he wrote, “[W]inning isn’t always about ‘beating the other side.’ Rather, it’s about finding solutions.” What if this sincere desire for solutions, time after time, guides the left and the not the right? Should one not, then, eventually identify with the left?

As Matt Elliott said, “In some cases councillors must fight, not compromise, for that which they believe.” The easiest thing someone can do is take no side and always coast down the middle. When I hear what he says, I want to like Matlow because he seems to sincerely care about being a good politician, but the way he approaches this – through the middle – really bothers me. I wish he would step out of the safety of the middle for once and do something that requires vulnerability.

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