of Grief weeping over History."
The concept of "bipartisanship" used for real progress has been dead for a long, long time. The "spirit of bipartisanship" that drifts through the halls of Congress and into politicians' talking points is just that—a hollow spirit, devoid of any weight or substance.
Occasionally, the actual carcass of the much-beloved congressional kumbaya twitches now and again just long enough to name a post office, or raise congressional pay or do one of another handful of small, benign, milquetoast acts of mutual benefit. But by and large, it's the ghost of bipartisanship that overshadows every vote, every press release and every action on Capitol Hill.
It's not surprising that so many are still so enamored with the idea of a successful bipartisan process long after it's been clear that no such process can exist in our modern politics. The picture of two sides coming together to work for the common good is comforting and inviting and reassures us that the people we elect are as reasonable as ourselves. But modern politics are anything but reasonable, which is why clinging to the notion that anything meaningful can be accomplished through bipartisan process is like chasing ghosts.
Back in February of 2009, I wrote about the need to abandon our obsession with a bipartisan process and the need to instead focus on impementing bipartisan (or nonpartisan) solutions:
I take no issue with the type of bipartisan process the president emphasized during the campaign. It’s the myth that a bipartisan solution calls for a bipartisan process that I think should be damned into the ninth circle of political hell (which, incidentally, is right below the D.C. cocktail circuit).
That conclusion is the result of a deeply held belief I have that Democratic policies are, by their nature, bipartisan, and Republican ones are not.
Fixing our broken health care system, ending the war in Iraq, increasing funding for education, improving our infrastructure and preserving the Constitution are all universally applicable policies. Every citizen, red or blue, rich or poor, young or old, swing voter or not, benefits from such policies aimed at the greater and common good. Nancy Pelosi has used the word "nonpartisan," and that likely is the more accurate descriptor. But at their core, these policies benefit Republican and Democrat alike.
On the Republican side, Republican policies cannot give rise to bipartisan solutions. When the core philosophy of a party is that government cannot work and should do as little as possible, that philosophy benefits only those who have the resources necessary to sustain themselves regardless of whether the government is massive or whether it's so small you can drown it in a bathtub. From the chant of tax cuts at any cost to the fanatical focus on depriving the neediest of resources under the banner of "entitlement reform," Republican governance is aimed simply at helping those who need help the least.
The fundamental flaw in clamoring for a bipartisan process in light of the above is the erroneous belief that the fruit of any open-handed endeavor is necessarily a bipartisan (and universally acceptable) solution. One need only look in the rear view mirror to disprove such a naive notion. It has been the most bipartisan of processes that have sprung forth the most odious and partisan results.
Despite the track record of "bipartisanship" over the last decade, many naively thought the super committee would actually fulfill its mandate and produce a viable solution. But how can a committee work for the common good when half of the committee is singularly committed to the good of its own party?
The Republican Party has fought viciously against jobs for teachers and firefighters, much-needed prison reform, child marriage prevention, well-qualified judicial nominees, taxes on job exporters, foreclosure prevention, extended unemployment benefits, even energy-saving compact florescent light bulbs and healthier school lunches (yes, for Republicans, pizza is a vegetable).
If the Republican allegiance to obstruction is so great that it encompasses light bulbs and pizza sauce, who would be foolish enough to believe that it wouldn't include issues of deficit reduction and tax revenue?
Yet, foolish was the word of the day when the super committee was announced. All of D.C. was gullible and aflutter with the hope that the congressional celebrities chosen to sit at the cool kids table would magically forge gold out of the ashes of compromise.
Of course, they couldn't forge such a solution. That didn't stop them from trying. For months, committee members went through the theatrics of hearings and press conferences. All that was missing was candles at the séance.
Perhaps now, with the pre-destined failure of the super committee, we can finally declare the idea of bipartisan process for our big problems dead and buried. At the very least, perhaps the Democratic Party can finally mourn the purple-tinged spirit of ethereal compromise and alter its strategy to produce real results rather than process spectacles.
Rest in peace, bipartisanship. Rest in peace.