Middle-of-the-roaders and people who don’t pay a lot of attention to politics have made such a fetish out of bipartisanship that the most partisan political hacks in D.C. will go on and on about “unity” and “working with the other side” even as they lustily plant toe kicks to the other side’s groins at every opportunity. To the moderates, this makes little sense. Why can’t both sides get together, buy the world a Coke, teach them to sing in perfect harmony, and keep it company….la, la, la, la!
In theory, that seems to make sense, but in practice, it generally works about as well as Obama’s efforts at stopping the oil spill in the Gulf. Why is that? Let me explain.
1) Trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea. There was a time, perhaps 50 years ago, when the ideological gulf between the Democrats and Republicans wasn’t very large. That’s no longer the case. The far-Left took over the Democratic Party in the late sixties and Reagan’s tremendous success in the eighties moved the GOP to the right. So today, we have one party that primarily represents people who are ideologically committed to low taxes, small government, deregulation, traditional values, and capitalism while the other party is controlled by people who believe in high taxes, big government, ever-increasing regulation, hedonism, and socialism. It’s like one side has brought the ingredients for a chicken pot pie and the other side is back from the supermarket ready to make a chocolate cake. Then people say, “Gee, why don’t both of you get together and make one dish out of all that?” How can that work? Not only does each side disagree with their opponents, they believe their “solutions” will damage the country.
2) If you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made! “Bipartisanship” in D.C. primarily consists of saying you want bipartisanship while trying to cut the other side’s throat, inviting the other side to vote for your proposal after making superficial changes to it or trying to get one or two people from the other side to go along with you for show. None of those approaches constitutes “bipartisanship” in any meaningful sense. In fact, the difference between what’s considered to be hamfisted partisanship and “bipartisanship” is so small in D.C. these days that it’s basically a distinction without a difference.
3) All warfare is based on deception. How many times have we heard the phrase, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” in the last two years? What that really means is, “Use the current crisis as an excuse to push agenda items that have nothing to do with fixing the problem at hand.” This is a recurring theme in Washington where legislation is often designed to solve a political problem for one party or the other even as it’s sold to the American people as a solution to a problem. So, what happens when these bills, at best, don’t fix the problem and at worst, aggravate the situation? Well then, politicians try to weasel their way out of responsibility for the bills they supported. That’s why partisan bills are actually helpful: Because the public knows exactly who to blame when things go wrong. Ideally, every bill would be as clearly identified with either party as the Bush tax cuts or Obamacare, because then the public could hold the parties accountable at the ballot box for their policies.
4) Distracting a politician from governing is like distracting a bear from eating your baby. If you believe, as many conservatives do, that government is a slow, stupid, white elephant that costs too much and causes more problems than it solves, gridlock is not exactly a terrifying prospect. Quite frankly, if we hadn’t passed a single new law since the start of Bush’s second term, we’d probably be considerably better off as a nation. When most new legislation passed in Washington makes the American people less free, centralizes authority in D.C., and moves us closer to bankruptcy, there’s very little good to be said about cooperating with the other side to get more bills passed.
5) Be careful what you wish for: You just might get it. There are three instances in which politicians in D.C. tend to come together in a genuinely bipartisan way. That’s in order to engage in more deficit spending, to rush through poorly-thought-out legislation after a crisis of some sort, and to put off reforms we desperately need as a country because they’re politically unpopular. In other words, if there’s genuine bipartisanship going on in D.C., you should probably be deeply suspicious, put your hand on your wallet, and say an extra prayer to God to safeguard the future of your children.