Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bipartisanship and Opposition Parties

As you already know, I'm a bit cynical on the subject of bipartisanship. So I have to roll my eyes bit when I read something like this:
And if [passing the stimulus bill] was this hard for Mr. Obama to lure Republican votes to spend money, how will he manage to entice Republican support to deal with even more contentious issues, such as climate change or health care?
What about the passage of the stimulus bill suggests that it was "hard" for Obama? Point to the precedent - any similar bill passed by a President, let alone during his first three weeks in office - and explain why this was "harder"? It was "hard" because the Republican Party decided to be "the Party of 'No'", and the legislation passed with the support of only a few Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House?

I find it fascinating that, not too long ago, factions like the "Gang of 14" were deemed to reflect bipartisanship - get seven Democratic senators on board with the Republican agenda, and bipartisanship lives! Get three Republican senators to support of a massive stimulus plan and it's some sort of failure to "entice Republican support". Somehow I doubt that Broder and the Washington post will excitedly hail as bipartisan every Democratic initiative that passes with the support of only small numbers of Republicans. No, I don't believe for a second that McCain's promise to reach across the aisle would have been treated in the same manner as Obama's - McCain's bipartisanship is reflected in his participation in that gang, and few of the beltway pundits would have demanded that he demonstrate any greater level of bipartisanship than that necessary to advance his legislative agenda.

I have no sympathy for the notion that it's Obama's failure if the Republican Party decides to remain "the Party of 'No'" in relation to every major bill he advances, or even to every bill that comes before the House and Senate. They're the opposition party, they owe Obama no loyalty, and if they believe they will gain politically by saying "no" to every bill that comes along that's their right. The questions left unasked: What motivates the opposition, and is the opposition reasonable? If there's a failure, it's in the analysis that suggests that Obama only succeeds if a significant number of Republicans sign on to his legislation, rather than looking at the reasons why that hasn't happened and may not happen.

As this editorial indicates, the Washington Post's editorial team is already anticipating the problem, even as they acknowledge Obama's outreach to the Republicans, so what will it take to inspire them to start editorializing about how the Republican Party has reduced itself to obstructionism, even of reasonable legislation, and won't participate in bipartisan efforts to create legislation on even the most important issues facing the nation?

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