Opposition for opposition’s sake is a no-win balancing act


imageAs most parents will tell you, every child goes through a stage where they seem to suffer from oppositional disorder, fervently opposing even the slightest difference of opinion as if the future of the world depended on it.

Although I can’t confirm it, I’m pretty sure humanity will survive no matter who sang “Shameless” first.

(Billy Joel, by the way.)

Whether it’s the “terrible twos” or teens (or both, Lord help you) it’s part of a necessary step toward independence and establishing personal perspective on the road to maturity.

However, opposition itself isn’t a sign of maturity.

Opposition for sake the of opposition only limits our opportunities, our perspectives and the kind of understanding that helps us grow as

Maturity happens with the recognition of this fundamental truth. 

Over the last several days I’ve heard a growing rhetoric from democratic leaders in Congress about the need to “oppose everything” the Trump administration proposes. This includes our own Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, who told Politico (Jan. 30) that he would automatically “filibuster any and all Supreme Court Justice nominees Trump puts forward.”

It was only a year ago that Republican leadership in our nation’s capitol did something similar by refusing to consider then-President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, for the very same appointment.

And the beat goes on.

While I agree that any nominee seeking Congressional approval should be scrutinized for their qualifications, to enter into that process with a
preconceived conclusion and public promise to automatically deny approval merely continues the kind of partisan politics that have turned the wheels of government into the rusted grind of rickety gears that Americans have lost faith in.

Perhaps more importantly, this kind of “obstructionist” mentality also runs the risk of delegitimizing future challenges within our system of checks and balances when they could matter most.

This isn’t the time to overreach or grandstand simply for the sake of being in opposition or playing it safe with party politics. Americans are divided because their representatives in Congress have allowed themselves to become divided simply on the merits of which side of the aisle they happen to sit on.

One of the most basic techniques of winning a war is to divide and conquer. Without question, we are already a nation divided. Our representatives in Congress must put aside their need to conquer each other and remember that the true casualties of this kind of political war are those who they are supposed to be representing.

Do I agree with or even support all of the decisions, Executive Orders and nominees the current administration has put into play since taking office?

Absolutely not.

Truth be told, I haven’t found myself in support of most decisions made so far. But for every Neil Gorsuch that members of Congress fervently oppose purely for the sake of opposition, a Betsy DeVos is confirmed to a post without any real qualifications thanks to divisiveness and the mindset of settling old scores.

A little more than 200 years ago, our nation opposed tyranny in order to pursue the dream of being free. It was part of a necessary step toward independence. Our forefathers were mature enough to recognize that opposition itself wasn’t enough to secure our nation, but that it would take perspective and understanding to help us grow as individuals and a people united.

As we enter the early part of our nation’s own “terrible twos,” we need to remember that fundamental truth.

Because unlike that stage we must deal with as parents, in this case we
really do need to act as if the future of the world depended on it…



imageNed Hickson is a syndicated columnist wth News Media Corporation and editor-in-chief at Siuslaw News. Write to him at nedhickson@icloud.com

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I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

21 thoughts on “Opposition for opposition’s sake is a no-win balancing act”

  1. “This isn’t the time to grandstand and overreach” – but wait a minute, we’re not in a recession, or a major war, or any other existential crisis, so if there’s ever a good time to grandstand and overreach, now would be a good time. Besides, we’ve got a president who does grandstanding and overreaching better than anyone.

    1. That’s true, but our grandstanding only makes him appear to be the “calm” voice in the face of radicals when we all know that couldn’t be further from the truth. We have to be smart about this. The truth of the matter is that we have to sway the support of others — Republicans in particular. That won’t happen if it means aligning with the “radicals.” Had there not been so much open opposition to Gorsuch’s nomination, we may have had a better chance of convincing the 1 Republican vote we needed to keep Betsy DeVos out of the Department of Education — her confirmation was an absolute tragedy.

  2. I know it. Makes me want to give them all a whack, but a time-out is supposed to work better. Hopefully, the voters will do that when the opportunity comes again .

  3. Resistance is futile. Communion and community is where I’d like to see our future. Great piece.

    I learned early on with my kid that saying no, laying down the law, and pushing against him didn’t work well. But taking him by the hand and leading him where I wanted him, and telling him, not now (instead of no), seemed to work better. No one wants to hear no.

  4. Sometimes it is better to pick your battles so that you can ultimately win the war……. I do not agree with opposing just for the sake of opposing. That is why this country is so divided right now. I’m afraid we are in for a long 4 years 😦

  5. Off topic, but, since this post was written when you were “wearing your editor’s hat,” I wonder: Have you ever seen “Elmer Gantry,” with Burt Lancaster? It was on the other day, and the star reporter/feature writer was working, exactly as I’m sure you get to, ha ha. He was pacing back and forth in the newsroom, “writing” his column out loud, while a typist wrote down his every (eloquent) word. When she’d finish one page, he’d walk over, whip it (the page) out of the typewriter, walk over to (I suppose it was) the editor and hand it to him, then start yappin’ some more as soon as the steno put more paper in her typewriter. He popped out a cigarette, another steno lit it for him, of course, then he took one drag and stubbed it out and went on, while every single person within earshot quit what they were doing and hung on his every word. I imagine that’s how it is for you, except maybe, it being Oregon, there’s another kind of cigarette involved. Can’t remember the actor’s name, but of course, he and Burt and all the other actors really chew up the scenery. Sorry for the long comment; I merely wanted to tell you about this movie scene because I’m sure you and your colleagues would look at that and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s exactly how it is in every newsroom.”

  6. They’re shooting themselves in the foot when they decide to “oppose everything” too, because no one knows what the future will bring, and maybe the other side will have a good idea (gasp!) I know that can’t be possible, they’re the other side after all, but when a politician says they’ll oppose something, and then decide not to, they’ve shot themselves in the foot and “betrayed” their supporters. “Read my lips…” ring a bell?

    They’re better off just saying they don’t agree, but will look into it, and taking notes on what would be better. But if Beelzebub’s running for a position and needs shooting down, then dammit, do it. No pouting in the corner–we already got someone who likes doing that too much. Don’t make us into a nation of entitled children to the rest of the world…we’ve had enough of that.

    1. I completely agree with you that opposing everything isn’t the answer, and only perpetuates partisanship. And yes, pouty politics is just as bad 😉

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