Why Bipartisanship Can’t Work

The expert view, as told to James Fallows:

“GOP member: ‘I’d like this in the bill.’

“Dem member response: ‘If we put it in, will you vote for the bill?’

“GOP member: ‘You know I can’t vote for the bill.’

“Dem member: ‘Then why should we put it in the bill?’

“I witnessed this myself.”

Read on for more.

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  • DaGoat

    The article mentions the time the GOP acted as a minority bloc in this manner was 1994. What they don't mention is that a long period of prosperity followed.

    In recent history it continues to look like the most effective government involves a GOP House and/or Senate combined with a Democratic president. Maybe that's the best bipartisanship we can expect.

  • shannonlee

    I think you mean a period of deregulation that created a period of prosperity that was then followed by a great recession….that we still aren't out of…and still might double dip.

  • DaMav

    The article manages to ignore some glaringly obvious facts in deference to its theory that the Republican Party machinery has established “party discipline”.

    First, the Democrats managed to put together a health care “initiative” so radical, so far to the left, that it barely even passed in the House despite their overwhelming majority there. And one so far to the left that the Senate was only able to pass a markedly different version.

    Second, the idea that the Republican Party itself is able or willing to 'enforce party discipline' is absurd. The victory of Scott Brown in Massachusetts for example was not because of Republican votes, and the party itself was Johnny Come Lately to the game. The Democrats managed to alienate large numbers of independents; and the money and volunteer efforts fueling the win came from conservative independents and a lot of Republicans who are disgusted with the Party itself. The Republican Party is the same one which managed to lose the NY 23rd by giving almost a million dollars to a candidate who later turned on the conservative in the race — how's that for 'enforcing party discipline'?

    Rasmussen says that 75% of Republican voters say the Congressional leadership is 'out of touch' with the rank and file. Conservative Republicans and independents are joining forces to oust Party backed candidates like Charlie Crist in key states. This is not a Party that has the power or the credibility to 'enforce discipline' in the manner claimed by the article.

    The problem ObamaCare had and still has lies not with the Republican Party as formally constituted but with conservative voters at large. Those Tea Partiers that the national media constantly reassured you were just a bunch of lunatics that could be regarded as titter titter (insert sexual double entendre here). The ones that, you know, despite their disorganization and inherent contradictions managed to raise millions of dollars for Scott Brown and have emerged as far more popular than either party. The gaggle of more liberal Republicans who might be depended on to cross over and support the Democrats from time to time is not afraid of the Republican Party, but of the voters. The same ones that moderate Democrats fear.

    Scapegoating the wishy washy leadership and party apparatus of the Republican Party through anonymous quotes may make liberal Democrats feel better about their failure to pass ObamaCare last year, but it doesn't deal with the reality on the ground. A plurality of Americans reject the radical nature and duplicity of what the Democrats did with their mandate on health care, and are sufficiently motivated to do something about it.

  • JeffersonDavis

    “the most effective government involves a GOP House and/or Senate combined with a Democratic president.”

    I think you and I both put forth that assertion a month or two ago. It's correct.
    Upon further study on it, I found that GOP Senate and evenly divided House with a democrat President was the best balance. Of course, the same effect would be present if more parties were involved.

  • jchem

    I think much of the problem is that both parties want nothing but a pat on the back for the appearance of trying to do something. They want the credit for championing something, anything, just so they can show up in their home district to cut the ribbon on whatever it was they managed to get. They are just unwilling to give that to the other party. For me, the conversation seems to sound like this:

    Repub Member: “I'd like this in the bill”

    Dem member: “If we put it in, will you give us credit for passing it”

    Repub member: “You know I can't give credit to your party for anything”

    Dem member: “Then why should we give you credit for being the only one in your party to vote for the bill?”

  • DLS

    “the idea that the Republican Party itself is able or willing to 'enforce party discipline' is absurd”

    We see this nonsense and related stuff about them being monolithic, etc., and it all is absurd.

    More interestingly, I wonder if it is an indirect expression of a wish by these people for more Dem party discipline, by those who never learned the lesson this past year, and want the Blue Dogs and other “renegades” made to fall into lock-step with the lib Dem leaders, and have them all go farther left.

  • Schadenfreude_lives

    Bipartisanship cannot work as long as BOTH sides insist it is the other that will not cooperate. And that is the state we are in right now.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    Want our nation to be Bipartisan or at least not on the edge of perpetual verbal and legislative civil war? I will ask you the same question I ask myself everyday, what have you done to make it better? What have you done to stop it and foster dialogue? Some days I win and some days I lose but asking myself that question incessantly at least makes me reach for it on a daily basis and turn away as much as my passions will allow me from taking joy in the plight of others while I whine that they mock my plight. Just as with every revolution it starts inside YOU, and by you I mean every single one of us that wishes our nation to survive and prosper. So what have you done?

  • kathykattenburg

    Re your new avatar: Wow.

  • JeffersonDavis

    “Re your new avatar: Wow.”

    Yeah, I know. Everyone else was changing theirs, and I didn't want to seem antisocial.

    I was going to put Thomas Jefferson or Teddy Roosevelt in there, but then I ran across that one of Jefferson Davis. Since many have teased me about my name thinking I was making a “southern” statement of some sort; I went ahead and put the ol' rebel President in for a while.