R.I.P. Bipartisanship

I think most people see bipartisanship as the ideal way to get things done in our lawmaking branch of government known as Congress.  We’d all like to think that both Democrats and Republicans are acting in the best interest of the people of this nation and that they are taking their oaths to the Constitution seriously.  After all, we elected them and we pay their salaries, benefits and perks from our hard-earned money!  I, for one, have long felt that moderation and bipartisanship, working across the aisle, meeting halfway in the spirit of compromise was the best way to ensure that we are all served well by our elected officials.  Today, however, I honestly believe that bipartisanship is a mirage, that true cooperation between the two parties is dead, a relic of the past.  Whether or not it will ever be resurrected remains to be seen at some point in the future, but today, there is not a single Republican in either chamber of Congress who even understands the meaning of the word “compromise”.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow recently published an OpEd that addresses this and his thoughts parallel my own.  Sadly, this is the state of affairs in the United States Congress today.


Stop Hoping the G.O.P. Will Play Ball

June 20, 2021

By Charles M. Blow

Opinion Columnist

I am truly baffled as to why Democrats continue to search for bipartisan support that has not only been illusory, but nonexistent — with the exception of a predictable few and only on a few issues with them.

Democrats: Republicans don’t want you to win. It’s that simple. They want no successes on your watch, and they certainly don’t want to participate in said victories.

And yet the reports keep pouring in of Democrats bending over backward and gutting their bills in a desperate effort to win Republican support.

It seems to me that this has all been a performance, a going through the motions, a checking of the boxes, so that Democrats could say that they tried, that they extended a hand but were rebuffed. Democrats always seem to want to win the moral advantage, to say that they played the game with honor.

But that is meaningless when Republicans no longer care about that form of morality, when they no longer want to play the game by the established rules at all. Democrats are playing an honor game; Republicans are playing an endgame.

Republicans are in win-at-all-costs mode. They don’t really care how they sound today or will be judged by history. The only thing that matters is winning and retaining power, defending the narrative of America that white people created and protecting the power and wealth they accrued because of it.

As The Washington Post reported Sunday, “the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes of the 1964 Civil Rights Act alongside race, color, religion and national origin,” has stalled because of “sharpening Republican rhetoric, one key Democrat’s insistence on bipartisanship, and the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule.”

Last week, Senator Joe Manchin offered some changes and reductions to the voter rights bill called the For the People Act, changes that he could support and that he hoped would win some Republican support. His compromised stance was quickly rebuffed by Republicans. Manchin had also offered alterations to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which seeks to restore parts of the Voting Rights Act.

But, as Talking Points Memo wrote, Manchin’s changes would basically gut the bill. As T.P.M. put it, “One of those proposed changes would decrease the attorney general’s ability to deem a voting practice discriminatory without a judicial finding.”

Politico reported on Friday that the White House will lean more on the bully pulpit as its voting rights bills grind to a halt. This includes engaging the public more, partnering with corporations and leaning on the Justice Department to challenge some state laws.

Politico is also reporting that Democrats are preemptively scaling back gun control legislation — pre-emptively taking the compromise position — to avoid a Republican roadblock that will most likely still remain. According to Politico:

“Democrats are preparing to vote on a scaled-down guns bill — most likely a curtailed plan to boost background checks for firearm buyers. The goal is to unite the party and pick up a limited number of Republican votes, even as their effort appears headed towards the same doomed fate as previous proposals to curb gun violence.”

Rather than continuing to peddle a false optimism that bipartisanship on most major legislation is truly possible with this Republican Party, Democrats need to tell their voters some uncomfortable truths.

First, the obvious: Even though Democrats have control of the House and Senate, not everyone in this caucus is fully committed to a liberal policy agenda. That means that the moderates, like Manchin, are the de facto leaders of the Democratic majority. Nothing passes without their approval.

It is these very same moderates who stand in the way of eliminating the filibuster.

And it is precisely for those reasons that very little is likely to get passed through this Senate that liberals will find satisfying. Democrats must brace for massive disappointment.

Furthermore, we are barreling toward midterm elections in which Republicans are optimistic about winning back the House and possibly the Senate.

I say dispense with the phony, wish-driven narrative Democrats are selling. Go down screaming and fighting. Much of the Democratic agenda may be stalled, but never stop reminding voters why it is: not because Democrats haven’t compromised enough, but because they could never compromise enough.

The current status quo is an unwinnable negotiation, because it isn’t a negotiation. This is a war. And in it, all is fair. Republicans have embraced a liar and racist in Donald Trump because their voters embraced him. They have excused and multiplied, in fantastical ways, the insurrection at the Capitol. They are rushing to write voter restrictions that also give them more say over how results are verified.

In the face of all this, Democrats need to stop talking about reaching across the aisle, compromise and common ground.

They need to go on the record and speak plainly: The Republican Party has given up on the idea of a true and full democracy. They are attempting to tear it down and erect in its place a system that reduces voter rolls and skews the will of the American people.

For the Republican Party, the success of democracy — that growing numbers of people could participate — is its failure.

41 thoughts on “R.I.P. Bipartisanship

  1. Pingback: RIP Bipartisanship | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

    • Sigh. Why do there have to be either knives or buns, why can’t they all just adhere to their oaths to the Constitution and act in the best interests of the people of this country … and the world. I’m sick of it all, my friend. We have no respectable legislative branch, only a barroom brawl that we are paying millions of dollars a year to fund. Frankly, I think I might applaud if the Capitol suddenly exploded with them all in it and we had the opportunity to start over. But, when you get to the heart of the issue, it is We the People who created this mess, and some seem to be enjoying it. Sigh.

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      • This is what it has come to Jill. They fight like hell to keep their jobs no matter what. Time after time they fail to do what’s right by the American people. And the Dems say, “will you please, please, please, work with us? F that. End or reform the damn filibuster and worry about the consequences later. Do any of us believe Mitch McConnell wouldn’t do the same?

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        • After today’s predictable, yet enraging fiasco over the For the People Act, I’m just done. This nation is on a speeding train down a narrow path to hell. I want off the train! How can we end it, when two Democrats are too damn blind to do the right thing? Sigh. Shoot me now, somebody!

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          • Funny thing, though, I have a feeling that it’s more than just Manchin and Synema who oppose either abolishing or reforming the filibuster amongst the Dems. They’re simply taking the heat for some of others. I hear you Jill. I’m so damn pissed!

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            • You may be right … others may feel the same but sit back being content in knowing that they don’t have to stick their necks out. I imagine they are envisioning a time when there is a Republican majority in the Senate and the Democrats can use the filibuster to their advantage. Sigh. I, too, am pissed. I wish I had the wherewithal to start a tax revolution on a grand scale … after all, we’re paying taxes to pay their salaries and support their policies … and for WHAT? They take our money and laugh at us!!!

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              • Yes, I do believe some of them legitimately believe what you say, that when they’re back in charge, they’ll simply reverse everything Dems did if they abolish filibuster. My take is, so be it. Let them get in and start outlawing abortion, abolishing health care/Social Security etc.. and God knows what-using a simple majority vote. I’d like to think the American people would revolt en masse, take to the streets, and throw their asses out of office. The thing is, there are far too many important issues we now face to let some ridiculous and arcane Senate rule that isn’t anywhere in the Constitution, paralyze D.C to the point where nothing gets done. Enough, Jill. Enough.

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                • You’re right, there are too many important, nay critical issues right now that we cannot afford the political positioning and game-playing! Our voting rights are on the chopping block! Civil rights and women’s rights are being stabbed almost daily. And climate change is going to bring about the end of life as we know it if we don’t make some really tough decisions today, not tomorrow or in two years! Yes, enough is enough and I’ve had more than enough. Sigh.

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  2. One solution, as I have written before, is to turn your political situation into at least a three-party system, if not a multi-party system. Not like Italy or France where there are too many parties, but enough to give voters a real choice. Your two-party system is obviously no longer working, if it ever did. Make it so parties must compromise in order to lead. The Republicans would never again manage to hold power, unless one of those parties was even more right-wing than they already are. If that were to actually happen, where ultra-conservatives could tip the scales, then America is not the nation it professes itself to be, because not everyone will be free.

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    • And I fully agree that we need at least three viable parties. Trouble is, the way the FEC rules are, it is nearly impossible for a third party candidate to even get on the ballot in so many states, that no third-party candidate has ever even come close. Ross Perot back in 1992 came the closest, but not really even close. The two-party system can only work if both parties have the best interests of the country at heart. Today, the Republican Party has only the interests of wealthy corporations, and following that, their own wealth and power. I would love to see a complete revision of election rules, but right now, it is about as likely as me sprouting wings and flying. If there is hope for this nation, it lies in getting rid of the likes of the former guy, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, and a host of other Republican jerks. Why do you think they’re so intent on taking away our right to vote? Because if we all vote, as so many did in 2020, they are doomed. They’re not about to let that happen, even if they have to burn the Constitution.

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        • Baby steps, my friend. It’s unfair to say nobody does anything, but what we the people can do is very limited. We do what we can, and hope to make a difference.

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              • You have been writing your congresspeople letters, and that is a step I don’t think you did much of a few years ago. You are moving up the ladder. Maybe some day you will run for Congress, and you can answer your constituents. That would be a big step.

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                • I actually started communicating much more with members of Congress around 2011, Obama’s 2nd year in office, when Congress began trying to obstruct anything the President was trying to do, and the atmosphere of hate became enraging. But yeah, during the reign of the former guy I really got into it. I doubt I’ll be around long enough to run for Congress, nor would I be very good at it, but thanks for your vote of confidence!

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  3. Jill, there is an old saying – collaboration is hard work, that is why it is not done very well. It is easier to go alone, but do you accomplish your task? There are two sides to any communication issue, yet I recognize it is not 50/50. I put the lion’s share of this on the shoulders of Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, but Democrats need to find a way. McConnell represents the worst of politicians. The way to get him to collaborate is to show him it is worse for him not to. Right now, the fervent base of his adrift party is telling him not to and the moderates cannot drown out that crowd. Keith

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    • McCarthy (already an infamous name in American politics. Are they related, I wonder?) and McConnell are not politicians. They are political bullies, a la their orange leader you-know-who Trumpelstiltskin. As Mr. Blow said, running America is now a war, and the Repuglycans and winning, even when they are losing. A funeral is now being planned for the Dis-United States of America. I, for one, think it is overdue.

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      • Rawgod, to support your point, each time McCarthy or McConnell have been presented with true opportunities to lead, they have whiffed. And, when I mean lead, I am referencing doing something for a greater good, not what is politically beneficial for their party. That is not leadership, that is tribalism. If McCarthy had stood up and said “cut the crap” when MAGA supporters threatened Liz Cheney or others who had the temerity to tell the truth against the former president, he would have been a leader. Keith

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    • I agree completely, Keith. I usually try to see both sides of the picture, but in this case, like you, I blame the bulk of the problem on the Republican Party who seems ready to kowtow to the former guy, not to mention corporate interests. We do not have a majority in the Senate under the current circumstances, and there is absolutely ZERO cooperation or willingness to cooperate from the GOP. Now, my question for you … where do you see this all going in, say, the next two years?

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      • Jill, unless politicians are held accountable for their inactions, nothing will change. The worst that that happened in the election last fall is the former president, while losing, still got 74 million votes. I better understand why he won in the first election in 2016, but for 74 million Americans to vote for someone who has routinely exhibited deceitful, bullying and corrupt behavior adding to that seditious behavior after the election, is beyond me. And, layer on what conservative pundit David Brooks called the previous White House – equal parts chaos and incompetence – and it staggers me that people cannot see this.

        As an independent and former member of both parties, mostly Republican, it matters not what party someone is in – they need to get something done to help people and our country, not just the folks in the highest tax bracket. Keith

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        • That has been a puzzle to me, also. Like you, I somewhat understood how he got enough votes to win the electoral vote (he still lost the vote by 2.8 million!), but after four years of his failures, his brutality, and his refusal to help us during the pandemic, thus costing us well over 600,000 lives, I don’t understand how anyone in their right mind could have voted for him last year! I blame the lies and rhetoric told by Fox News to some extent, though, for some in this nation are ignorant enough to believe every word they hear on Fox.

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  4. At the moment it looks like the Democrats are just as responsible for the failure of their own bills. The idea of compromise is good but the Republicans showed there was no room for compromise when they decided to walk back the idea of an insurrection in January because it left them tainted. Mitch McConnell has been quite open in showing that the spirit of bipartisanship is dead, no Democrat bills must succeed and the voters wishes are not. paramount. Since you know in advance that there will be nothing approaching compromise from the other side, it’s time to stop looking for it and concentrate on getting the bills through. Scrap the filibuster and ensure that the majority vote is eough. It probably wont get a majority vote in some bills like anything gun control related, but of paramount importance is the For the People bill that will allow the Federal Government to ensure the States elections are fairly run and everyone has the chance to vote without fear of their names being stripped from the voters roll, or that further gerrymandering will place them in a district ensuring they are the the minority. It’s time to play hard ball before the mid-term elections where the Republicans hop they’ll have done enough to ensure they can win back the House and the Senate through cheating and ignoring the wishes of their own voters.
    Cwtch

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    • Well said, David. Are you willing to put your name on a ballot, and run on a platform that promotes your views? Someone has to step up and start to turn the tide. Why not you?

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    • I think that two political parties are no different than two people … both have to WANT to come to a meeting of the minds, to reach a compromise they can both live with. At this point in the U.S., there is one of the two parties, the Republican Party, who have made it very clear that the Democrats could bend over backward and stand on their head, and the Republicans would still naysay. I don’t blame the Democrats, for they (with the obvious and glaring exceptions of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) have been trying and willing to compromise, at least to an extent. But still, that isn’t good enough for Moscow Mitch and his band of merry men. Methinks the time has come for the Democrats to get down and dirty, do whatever it takes short of murder, to get our voting rights back, to begin repairing our infrastructure that is only a disaster waiting to happen, to enact strict gun control, to shore up ACA, to overhaul our education system and yes, to include the teaching of all parts of our past, not just the bright ones but the dark ones as well, and in general to help the PEOPLE of this nation instead of the wealthy corporate barons. You’re right … it’s time to play hardball … I’m just not sure how they can do it without even the support of their own party! The Democrats do NOT have a majority in the Senate as long as two Democrats prefer to be Republicans and … AND … as long as the artifice known as the filibuster remains in place. Sigh.
      Cwtch

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  5. We are lured, by the belief of having the right ti vote for either party A or party B, believing, that in this exercising our rights to choose which party will be leading the nation is best for us, and, if the incumbent didn’t do as we hoped, we simplt, don’t vote for her/his party the next time election time roll around, and we trap ourselves, in, that cycle of voting for the kesser of two evils…

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    • And that gets nothing done. What’s needed is someone people want to vote for, someone with actual leadership ability and voter appeal. But it seems, unfortunately, those days are gone. True leadership has become a four-letter word.
      Is there no one out there willing to show their mettle? Not in present day American pseudo-democracy!

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    • A cynical views, but sadly spot on. I’m not sure, without a major overhaul that seems unlikely, that we will ever break out of this vicious circle short of a civil war, which some believe may be coming.

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