When President Obama was still just a candidate one of his campaign themes was change. He was the guy who came from outside Washington, someone new to the beltway who would unite the country. (never mind he learned politics in Chicago—a place even more corrupt than DC) He was going to be the great uniter, he would bring us together as a country again and repair the damage done by that even George Bush. Obviously all this rhetoric worked, but why? Why are we so obsessed with being bipartisan? Every campaign cycle I hear it again and again–granted I hear it far less this cycle—but still what’s so great about being bipartisan.
Life is full of conflict. It’s the nature of politics. Am I wrong in assuming political parties were formed with the specific goal of advancing their agenda over the agenda of their opponents? Debate, discussion and disagreement are part of politics, that’s what makes America great right? At least that’s why we’re told. I don’t see why we think free speech is so important if in the end we all get together and sing? Disagreements happen, in fact I think that’s where many great policies come from.
So do we really want bipartisanship? Do we send our Senators and Congressmen to DC so they can move across the aisle and vote with Pelosi and Reid? I would argue we do not. I think that’s a big reason McCain did not do well in his campaign. Conservatives felt they had a choice between bad and horrendous, not that they had a candidate who would represent their interests. When we vote, we select someone who has our values and our interests in mind, if we wanted a Democrat we’d elect them. When I vote to send someone to Washington I want someone who is looking out for me, not seeking to compromise in the name of bipartisanship.
I understand compromise is often needed to pass legislation. I get that, but my point is why do we idealize bipartisanship? Why is it consistently discussed in campaigns as a good thing, like we’re going to vote for you simply so you can get to the hill and “work with the other side.” The goal should not be to create legislation the other side agrees with, it should be to pass legislation most resembling the values you were elected on. If you have to throw in a few bones to the other party, fine, but push and push as hard as you can to get your way. Politics are in the most basic sense a struggle, a disagreement.
Democrats are masters of this. They rarely move to the center and work as bipartisans. They expect us to come to their side. If Republicans and conservatives refuse they are labeled extremists, bigots, homophobes, anti-women etc. Take the healthcare legislation for example. Scott Brown was elected with a clear mandate to oppose Demcare, yet what do the liberals in Congress do? Do they move to the middle, work to adopt a more “bipartisan” bill? Absolutely not. They double-down. Obama gives more speeches, Pelosi tells us we’ll find out what’s in it after it’s passed. Could they have thrown in a few bones to get a single Republican vote? It would not have taken much to buy Olympia Snow’s vote, but instead Democrats forced through a bill without any Republican support–then they bragged about it. To them Obamacare was their crowning achievement and it had no support from the right.
When was the last time Republicans did something so drastic? They controlled Congress and the Presidency for 6 years. They spent most of that time trying to be “bipartisan.” Remember the amnesty program? What about No Child Left Behind–Kennedy helped write it. Even the Patriot Act and Iraq war had Democrat supporters.
And now, with Conservative Republicans poised to make significant gains in both houses they are already talking about Obama coming more center to work with them. What is his response? It’s going to be “hand to hand combat” if the Republicans take Congress. It’s not about bipartisanship on the left, it’s about winning and enforcing your legislation over the opposition of the other party. When will Republicans figure that out, when we will as Americans stop whining about bipartisanship? Sure, you have to work together to an extent, but I don’t want to elect someone who’s goal is to appease the left. I want to elect someone who’s goal is to work for me and those in my district who elected him. When my side loses I understand that means the left is going to work hard to impose their goals, similarly when my side wins I expect them to work as hard to pass our goals.
So, stop expecting cooperation. Stop electing people claiming to be bipartisan and stop expecting any politician to be a great uniter. Politics are divisive, that’s why we have two parties and not one. We will never “transcend politics as usual” because it’s nature is division and conflict. Elect someone who will toil to advance your interests, because you can be sure the left understands this concept and will elect someone to push their agenda.