Friday, October 12, 2012

Working With The Other Party is Only "Bipartisanship" When You Have a Choice

Jamelle Bouie takes a look at one of the themes of the Romney campaign, that he has "proved" himself capable of working in a bipartisan manner because he was a Republican governor working with a Democratically controlled legislature. While Bouie explores the fundamental dishonesty of using this theme to attack President Obama, there's something else that we should note:

It's not "bipartisan" to work with the other party when you have no choice. When a Democratic legislative majority passes a bill, the Republican governor who signs it cannot claim that in doing so he is "reaching across the aisle". The compromise of the governor's agenda is inevitable. The same is true when party control is flipped - Jennifer Granholm doesn't have a proud history of bipartisan accomplishment, but instead struggled for eight years to push back against a Republican-controlled legislature. It's what the people voted for, but I would not argue that the result was good for the state, nor would I accept a Romney-type argument that Granholm proved her ability to reach across the aisle merely by showing up for work and signing bills that were invariably passed by Republican majorities, no matter how many state Democrats also signed on.

It's difficult to address these issues without inviting a glib response, "You're right, I had to work with the other party, and I did, successfully, time and time again." But when you cannot pass a single piece of legislation without the support of a large number of legislatures from the other party, that is simply not evidence of how you would work in a polarized environment, where your party shares or holds control of the legislature.

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