Word of the Day: Bipartisanship

This blog is a little different from most liberal/progressive blogs, in that it’s not about complaining about things. It’s far better to change things. If there is something about this country we don’t like, we owe everyone a duty to change it. As I note quite often, the root of the word “progressive” is “progress.” We have done nothing, really, if we don’t make progress on issues and fix problems.

As I have pointed out repeatedly, our country used to be far better than it is when neocon Republicans took over. Over the course of the last 34 years, neocons have used their takeover of an entire major political party to attempt to transform the most powerful and potentially benevolent nation in the history of the world into a big, scary world-class bully and a nation that is more inclined to declare it can’t do the right thing than to find a way to do the right thing. While we haven’t gone over the cliff quite yet, it’s time we took the reins and returned this country to what it was always meant intended to be.

In the 1960s, when I was but a small child, the United States was becoming awesome. We had an economy that was the envy of the world. We didn’t just manufacture a lot of stuff, we manufactured a lot of the best stuff. We went to the moon with technology the kids of today would laugh about. We sat in front of the television 45 years ago last Sunday and marveled at grainy black and white video of men walking around on the moon. By the early 1970s, it was clear that we had won the Cold War, and while our economy was stumbling a bit, we were on the verge of opening up the Chinese market to our goods.

Not everything was great, of course. Our record on civil rights as shameful, and we were still discovering new ways to discriminate. But things were changing, and even that problem was in the process of being solved.  On  January 20, 1981, we became engulfed by right wing “can’t do” politics took over, and our country has been weighed down by a false pragmatism and an entitlement mentality that has no place in a progressive society.

It’s 2014 now, people, and it’s time progressives took the country back and resumed our quest to build the “more perfect union” talked about in that little document called the U.S. Constitution; that document the current incarnation of the Republican Party treats like the Bible; they worship it irrationally, but they’ve never actually read it and don’t understand it.

The first step to taking the country back comes with redefining the debate, which means being very clear about the debate terms. Chief among these terms is the concept of “bipartisanship,” a word that has been bastardized by neocons over the years, and which many people no longer understand. The concept of “bipartisanship” should be quite easy to understand, because it has a specific definition. It actually refers to policy and legislation that reflects the intent and will of the membership of both major parties. It refers to the compromise that is part and parcel of any successful political endeavor. Unfortunately, only one political party wants to be successful, and it’s not the GOP.

Legislators are supposed to engage in horse trading, to a degree. Your Congresscritter represents everyone in your district, not just members of his own party, and his or her job is to make sure Congress does as much as possible for those folks. Sometimes, in order to get a vote on one thing, you have to promise a vote on something else.

The current incarnation of the Republican Party, however, isn’t at all interested in helping anyone other than their “investors.” They don’t really even care about the people in their districts, except their financiers. And those of you on the far right, who serve as their “base,” well… they don’t care about you, either. The GOP has positioned itself as a national party that is only interested in the one percent richest Americans, and everything they do is geared toward one thing gaining and keeping political power.

“The system” isn’t broken. The problem is, we have a political system that depends on horse trading and compromise to get things done, and half of the participants in that political system simply don’t care whether or not they actually do anything for the people who put them there, or anyone else except the very rich.

Most Democrats appreciate the concept of bipartisanship, and they appreciate that the American people, by and large, love the idea. In fact, one major complaint against President Obama is that he’s too conciliatory. I don’t disagree; he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to do; he’s being bipartisan  The idea behind bipartisanship is that all laws should reflect the will of all parties, not just the side that screams the loudest.  Voters expect (or at least they should) that partisan bickering should be part of a campaign, but once elected, they should be geared toward compromise. Most Democrats get this, but the current Republican Party doesn’t. Their concept of “bipartisanship” has nothing to do with cooperation of any kind, in part because their “base” considers cooperation a sign of weakness, and they claim to despise weakness, despite the fact that almost everything the neocons have done over the past 34 years has made the country weaker.

The modern Republican concept of “bipartisanship” says that, when Republicans are in the majority, Democrats may only be pro-Republican during a debate, and they must give in 100 percent to Republican will, or they’re not really “bipartisan.” Anything short of absolute acquiescence is tagged “partisanship.” When Democrats are in the majority, Democrats are supposed to do everything Republicans want, and anything short of absolute acquiescence is “partisan,” and Republicans whine and whimper about how put-upon they are.

Current Republicans propose something, and in order to be “bipartisan,” Democrats have to put aside their own positions on the issue and agree fully with the GOP. There is no more horse trading and there is no more compromise. What’s bothersome, however, is that so many in the press and the professional punditry employ the “both parties” meme when it comes to talking about the issue of bipartisanship. They talk about the two parties being “polarized,” when the reality is, Democrats want to compromise, while Republicans refuse to compromise when it comes to anything at all. Yet, whenever a journalist or pundit talks about this issue, the assumption is made that those Democratic politicians who attempt to be “bipartisan” are courting political disaster, when it actually should be the Republicans who reject bipartisanship who should be suffering political disaster.

Politics is the art of compromise, and governing actually requires very adept politics. Compromise is required for getting anything done, and bipartisanship should be an absolute requirement for any politician or political party. When a major political party rejects 375 bills during one Congress, they are not interested in compromise. When a major political party sits on major job creation bills, and won’t even bring them up for discussion, during a time when job creation is lagging, we have a serious problem.

Partisanship during an election campaign is understandable. But once they start governing, bipartisanship is an absolute necessity. And one party rejecting compromise of any kind should be grounds for replacement, not pats on the back and praise.

The Republican Party used to embrace the concept of the “loyal opposition,” which means they wanted the best for the country, but differed with the Democratic Party on how to get things done. Now, however,  the current version of the GOP is only loyal to the richest one percent, and they now oppose everything these days.

Bipartisanship is how we got civil rights, voting rights and other nice things. In the current atmosphere, in which one major party absolutely rejects compromise, we get nothing done. If we’re not going to get cooperation from Republicans, we need to defeat them until they learn to play nice with others. And that is why we need to return to considering “bipartisanship” a good thing.

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