Bipartisanship and Obama

It’s good to work together

Obama! Duck! To the left your left! Now over there! Jump!

It seems every genius with a blog can’t wait to throw a blow at Obama for how partisan the response to the stimulus package was.

One oh-so-witty blogger poked that bipartisanship was so last season.

Bloggers on www.BigBrassBlog.com suggest that the post-partisanship came and went with the stimulus.

Look, no one said that “bipartisan” means that Obama will show up, wave his wand and miraculously there will be roses and ponies on Capitol Hill.

Bipartisanship is not something that Obama can just pick up at 7-11 and bring to Capitol Hill on his way to work. It’s an ideal; it can’t be expected with every bill.

What Obama brought to Washington was the consciousness of that ideal, the awareness that legislators need to work together in order to produce legislation.

Obama realized that it is frustrating for everyone when good legislation doesn’t pass because politicians are holding onto party loyalties.

Of course, it is foolish to try to be bipartisan for the sole sake of being bipartisan, but it’s equally foolish to vote republican for the sole sake of voting republican.

Obama and his team are not a bunch of na’ve dreamers, they are politicians trying a new route; they are looking for new ways to get things done.

According to Peter Barker’s article in The New York Times last week, when Obama’s advisers were criticized for the less-than-bipartisan outcome on the stimulus votes, they responded that they are not giving up on bipartisan politics.

Instead, they are looking into forging bonds with republicans based on regional interests so that they can work together on cross-party issues.

They proved that without letting go of the ideal of bipartisanship, they can seek out issues that cross party lines.

Furthermore, the $787 billion stimulus package was not exactly your run-of-the-mill legislation. As I stated in my column last week, economists advised that if the stimulus package did not get out soon, it would be ineffective.

So Obama did not have time to win over more republicans on this particular bill. If you burn one pancake, you don’t throw out all the batter.

In Barker’s article, he speaks with Former White House Chief of Staff, John D. Podesta, who argues that Obama may be able to get some republican votes, but that he will not be able to change the opposition on the whole.

No one wants to change the entire opposition! Obama didn’t pledge to convert all republicans into democrats.

Our democracy is obviously founded on the principle of disagreement and compromise to produce the best legislation. We don’t want all of our politicians sitting around agreeing on everything, throwing out mediocre legislation.

They should be arguing over the details, they should be defending their constituents, but they also should vote with the opposing party if it makes sense, or if it is the best compromise. They should not let party loyalty stand in the way of good legislation.

– Max Harwood is a freshman English major at UVM. He has been writing for The Cynic since 2008.

Let them go duke it out

One of the trademarks of post-Obama politics was supposed to be that elusive beast: bipartisanship.

It says something about his ability to inspire hope, that, under his leadership, the prospect of America’s politicians working in unity brings images of grandeur instead of suspicions of corruption.

And that’s the problem. Bipartisanship is hardly as positive a concept as its cooperative overtones suggest. It subjugates the competitive spirit of democracy to a monopoly-like consensus.

Now, it’s been said that we need bipartisanship so we can have compromise. But lack of compromise isn’t a problem. We may just have too much.

In politics, compromise is the name of the game. It’s innate. It could be called the underlying mechanism of the entire legislative process.

The interests of constituents, politicians, parties and special interests collide and, out of the mess, legislation is born.

Calling compromise the answer misses the point. Not only does it already occur, it’s a common source of our legislative problems.

As we all know, compromise doesn’t always have positive connotations.

Like, say, compromising your values. And that’s precisely the behavior we associate with common political crookedness.

Some things just aren’t meant to be bargained with. And that includes the wishes of a representative’s electorate.

Democracy works best when politicians stick to their guns, and then let the system run its course.

Take the stimulus; it passed with notoriously low levels of bipartisanship simply because Americans voted for the Democratic Party.

Those who chastised the determined minority for their lack of cooperation were unwittingly criticizing democracy. Those politicians represent constituents and have a duty to take a stand for them.

If compromise toward the political center is preferable, then Bernie Sanders would certainly have to move right.

How would Vermonters feel about that?

But, for the most part, bipartisanship is just a convenient term to legitimize your platform in a time of crisis. It says “I’m not doing this for my ideology. I’m doing this because it’s practical and good for the American people.”

Well, if your ideology isn’t practical or good for the American people, then you may want to reevaluate its merits.

Now, if bipartisanship simply means being civil in our disagreements then, certainly, count me in.

If it’s about finding common ground, well, that’s good, too, but that’s hardly an issue.

Most of America’s politics takes place in a narrow segment of the political spectrum. Socialist and Libertarian parties are marginalized.

We all agree on constitutional and democratic principles, etc. So we’re already grounded on the bedrock of bipartisanship.

The remaining differences are just too important to be submerged beneath a bipartisan “consensus.”

True democracy cannot live without them.

– Justin Baldassare is a freshman English major at UVM. He has been writing for The Cynic since 2009.