Saturday, February 14, 2009

Doctrinaire Bipartisanship

If anything recommends bipartisanship to us (and frankly I think the entire approach is a pile of shit) it would presumably be its expressed commitment to engaging problems as they come without asking first whether or not a proposal advances or compromises party interests. The goal would be to de-calcify political thinking by focusing on solutions.

But wouldn’t it be a deep irony of the moment if President O’s governing philosophy turns out to be a doctrinaire bipartisanship that deems worthy only those solutions that enjoy the backing of both parties? I’m not talking here about compromising to get the votes needed to pass a piece of legislation. I’m talking about elevating bipartisanship to a guiding principle so that even when you have a majority of votes on your side of the aisle in favor of, say, healthcare legislation, you choose not to put forward a bill unless you believe it has some chance of gaining support from the other side of the aisle.

That’s what happened with the stimulus package, although the Prez was unable to get a single Republican vote in the House and only three in the Senate. So, in essence, a lowball stimulus package, designed to gain Republican support, was pitched even lower at the request of “centrist” Republicans and still failed to gain any Republican support.

The Democratic leadership will tell you, though, that they face a practical political problem in that it doesn’t make sense to go forward with legislation in the Senate unless you have the 60 votes necessary for cloture, but is it only me, or does this sound assbackwards? You need cloture to end or avoid a filibuster from the other side, so why not, on truly important measures where it would be refreshing to draw clear political lines, put forward the bill you really want and force the Republicans to filibuster it? It’s not clear to me that they will filibuster every piece of legislation that the Dems put forward, so why not put the heat on them and force them to be openly obstructionist? (After I'd drafted this, I was alerted to a superb post on Common Dreams making just this argument--thanks for the tip brokenwindows!)

No matter. In this case, before the bill went forward the Democrats made “a procedural deal [which meant] the bill needed 60 votes to pass.”

Well, this does begin to look on Obama’s side like bipartisanship uber alles and on the Republican’s side like a “well, thank you very much.”

So, with apologies to poetry lovers everywhere, and most of all, to Archibald MacLeish, here is

The End of the World

Quite unexpectedly as Barack O
That doctrinaire bipartisan
Back-stabbed healthcare and gave the go
To an invasion of Pakistan
Saying Asif Ali Zardari was about to prove no better than Musharraf,
Quite unexpectedly the top blew off

And there overhead, there there hung over
Those millions of unemployed white faces, those Obama-manic eyes
There in the bankrupt dark and mortgaged skies
The pall
Of nothing nothing nothing—nothing at all