Sunday, September 23, 2007

No, we all can't just get along...

Very interesting column in the LA Times by Jonathan Chait today.

Bipartisanship, per Chait, is dead... never to be resurrected.

First, bipartisanship was something of a historic fluke. The role of a political party is to distinguish differing ideas about how to govern a country. But for much of American history, our two major parties failed to do that. Like today, you had some liberals in the Democratic Party and some conservatives in the Republican Party. But white Southern conservatives were staunch Democrats (because the GOP had been the party of Abraham Lincoln) and many progressives were in the Republican Party. Bipartisanship was natural because you could find conservatives and liberals in both parties.

Second, especially in the 30 years or so after World War II, mainstream conservatives and liberals did not disagree all that much about the role of government in public life. Republican presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford accepted labor unions, social insurance and other aspects of the New Deal. To the extent the two sides disagreed, they disagreed over degrees of change. Republicans tended to be more worried about deficits and inflation, Democrats more worried about full employment and the poor.

This left ample room for compromise. Eisenhower was willing to expand Social Security. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. The generation that lived through this era believed that it was natural for the two parties to work together

My translation? In the 30 years or so after WWII, the conservatives spent a lot of time acquiescing to liberal social programs. In fact, just about every CIC and Congress since WWII, regardless of party affiliation, has been involved in expanding gov't social programs to some extent. In short, everyone "got along" because the conservatives caved in to the demand for larger and more liberal gov't programs time after time, decade after decade.

This is the very definition of bipartisanship in Congress today. Give in to the Pelosi/Reid mentality, or you're not being "bipartisan". Their way or the highway.

In the 60+ years since WWII, the liberal wing has barely moved to the right for reining in spending and keeping the feds from expanding too far into controlling our personal finances - taking from the "wealthy" to give to the "poor". They persisted in stripping funding from the true federal responsibilities, such as intelligence and military defense, to pour into welfare safety nets and feel good programs that do not work.

On the other side, the conservative wing has moved more to the left, doing little resistance for fear of being labeled hard hearted, cruel and uncaring. Oh wait... they are anyway.

Thus much of the big gov't inefficient programs (i.e. FEMA), lost money and poor management in the administration of these programs (i.e. Dept of Educ, etal), and other general pork, is the product of all this loving and peaceful "bipartisanship" from the past.

Humm.... with that said, I don't think I'll miss "bipartisanship" at all. Considering the growth of the feds since the New Deal, bipartisanship has proven not to work so well as a political experiment. Why else are we all craving "change" every election cycle?

Unfortunately, the voters and many Washington elites don't understand why bipartisanship died, so they keep insisting it must return. They demand that the two parties "work together" to "solve problems" -- which is great, except that they don't agree on what the problems are or what acceptable solutions might be.

The most commonly cited problems are the deficit, healthcare and global warming. I'd like to see those things addressed too. If the Republican Party of 40 years ago still existed, the two parties could solve those problems. But any bipartisan solution to those problems would have to involve at least some new taxes and regulation, and most Republicans find that unacceptable.

Yes, if the Republican Party of 40 years ago still existed, they would again quietly cave and "bipartisanship" would reign supreme. They'd kowtow to Pelosi/Reid extreme left wing, roll back the tax cuts, jump into universal healthcare, and assume responsibility for polluting the entire world because of our affluence, industry and advanced technology.

But now the issues promise repercussions too wide, economical and ideological, to merely gloss over in the name of "getting along" in the DC beltway.

And if the liberal answer to the above entails socialized medicine (aka "universal healthcare" ) and signing of the Kyoto Treaty, I would hope the conservative wing develops a backbone and stands it's ground for a change. Obviously, since we're in the pickle we are from all that bipartisanship in the past, it just might be time to stop all that dangerous acquiescing that got us here. The liberal efforts to increase federal control over every aspect of our lives have been appeased for far too long.

Mr. Chait is the model diplomat in his article... stating, sans venom, Republicans are not to blame for the demise of political negotiations. Rather, the divide of beliefs between the two party wings is just too wide a gap to leap now.

And ya know, I agree with him. Bipartisanship is dead... as well as civility in most political circles.

And that agreement between we two citizens is, strangely enough, is a semblance of bipartisanship after all.

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