Thursday, August 6, 2009

On Bipartisanship

"Bipartisanship is another name for date rape." - Grover Nordquist

Now, not so long ago, Democrats (like me) howled over that quote. I recall hearing Al Franken discuss that quote time and time again. And its a fairly bad quote from a guy who doesn't appear to have any qualms about being the bad guy. (*note* when I was in college I attended a seminar in D.C. about lobbying, wherein I saw Grover Nordquist act like a jerk to Ralph Neas, who had just gotten over a near fatal illness. From this experience, I will forever think of Mr. Nordquist as a jerk, because Neas struck me as one of the nicest human beings I had ever met).

In some respects, though, Nordquist wasn't too far off - at least when it comes to the most recent political games on Capitol Hill. The more Democrats try to be bipartisan, the more likely they capitulate on the important parts. So, for instance, instead of having all the stimulus money go in the form of spending (which directly infuses capital into the economy), roughly a third of the money went to the slower-acting tax cuts. In so doing the Democrats got a whopping three Republican votes (with one Republican becoming a Democrat shortly thereafter).

This capitulation is nuts because the GOP make up just over 40% of Congress - House and Senate combined. At no time during the past 20 years did the Democrats fall to that level. Bipartisanship makes sense when the split is 52/48 or even, to some degree 55/45. But we're at 59/41 here. The Democrats shouldn't be talking to the GOP, they should be steamrolling them.

To that end, I do wish Obama was more like Bush. When Dubya was President, he could get virtually anything he wanted from Congress, and he lost the popular vote. Obama, meanwhile, comes in with a huge mandate for change, gets a nearly 60 percent majority in both Houses of Congress, and he's struggling to get health insurance reform passed. Ugh.

Why is this happening? Well, I think the problem is that Republican lawmakers spend too much time listening to their base, and Democrats don't. Or put another way, regardless of party affiliation, politicians in D.C. pretend to be more liberal than they actually are. Bush portrayed himself as a moderate ("compassionate conservative"), while both Clinton and Obama are not nearly the liberals that everyone thought they would be.

Anyway, Democrats have decided that they need bipartisan cover for major reform, while Republicans realize that any major reform helps the Democrats win more seats. As a result, the Republicans slow everything down, and nothing gets done. Why this isn't obvious to everyone, I have no idea.

Now if you excuse me, I'm going to hit my head against a wall.

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