Johnson on bipartisanship, bastardry, and democratic theory

by Henry on January 9, 2008

My mate Jim Johnson has a very nice post on the problems with bipartisanship.

In terms of consequences, why should we endorse bi-partisanship? That is a fundamentally anti-democratic response. Here I am persuaded by argument by political theorists who, following Joseph Schumpeter (whose conception of democracy is, despite common caricatures, neither a ‘realist’ nor ‘minimalist’), insist that robust competition is crucial to a healthy democracy. For instance, Ian Shapiro* suggests that competition has two salutary effects: (i) it allows voters to throw out incumbents (known more appropriately as ‘the bastards’) and (ii) it pressures the opposition to solicit as wide a range of constituencies as they are able. Given these effects, Shapiro suggests quite pointedly:

If competition for power is the lifeblood of democracy, then the search for bi-partisan consensus … is really anticompetitive collusion in restraint of democracy. Why is it that people do not challenge legislation that has bi-partisan backing, or other forms of bi-partisan agreement on these grounds? …

… Among the crucial empirical observations about partisan polarization in the U.S. is that it reflects the economic bifurcation (in terms of wealth and income mal-distribution) among the population. Because the poor participate at relatively low levels, and because many recent immigrants remain unnaturalized (hence disenfranchised), the constituency for a real alternative to right-wing policies remains politically inchoate. The solution to political polarization is to attack economic inequality, to resist anti-immigration policies, and so forth. That might, in fact, require Democrats to stop their headlong rush to mimic Republicans and prompt them to seek to forge broader and deeper alliances between constituencies that do not now see one another as allies. But that would require the Dems to be political rather than play the bi-partisan game. What we need is more robust competition.

{ 60 comments }

1

Steve LaBonne 01.09.08 at 4:11 pm

I’m glad somebody has put so clearly into words what I’ve been sensing for a while. The cult of bipartisanship is a sign of the sickness of American democracy (one of many signs).

2

Steve Laniel 01.09.08 at 4:14 pm

Not only does that argument seem horribly reductive reductive (competition is good, bipartisanship is anti-competitive, ergo bipartisanship is bad); it also seems to make competition the end rather than the means. Competition is a means toward getting diverse viewpoints, the sum of which will hopefully be something that represents the views of more constituents. So isn’t competition a vehicle for broader representation in the political process? Isn’t anything which increases that representation good?

3

richard 01.09.08 at 4:32 pm

thanks, steve laniel. It seems possible that sometimes the parties might agree on an issue – especially if it’s not one they use for boundary-patrolling.

I think there is a deep sickness in US democracy, but I think bipartisanship is an epiphenomenon of it. Why are the endless, divisive debates in US politics concerned with issues that can go on unresolved forever: abortion, gun control and gay marriage? Why does actual economic policy take such a back seat? Why does it still not matter if a candidate knows nothing about the world beyond the US’ borders?

4

reason 01.09.08 at 4:40 pm

The demand for bi-partisanship comes from other peculiarities of the American system.
1. The division (and often conflict) between the executive and the legislature;
2. The politization of the people who should be the bi-partisan part of the system, the legislature and the burocracy;
3. Gerrimander in the lower house, which encourages partisan extremists to dominate the parties (read David Brin on this).

The American system can be charicatured as electing someone to do a job and electing someone else to stop him.

5

Rich B. 01.09.08 at 4:42 pm

Isn’t this just another version of the Communist view that if you fight for incremental gains for the workers, all you have done is delay the Revolution, so we should let the proletariat suffer?

Or, contrarily, the Ayn Rand/Atlas Shrugged view that the best way to achieve a Libertarian Utopia is to stop voting against the Lefties and let them screw things up for a few years while you camp out at your Capitalist Retreat in Colorado?

In reality, ruling from either poll is bound to backfire eventually. Bipartisanship is the only sustainable position. Now, that sucks if you happen to reside on either tail of the current American political bell curve, but I don’t see how constant swings between the Ayn Rand Administration and the Eugene Debs Administration every four years will lead to a better world.

6

Cranky Observer 01.09.08 at 4:45 pm

> Why are the endless, divisive debates in US
> politics concerned with issues that can go on
> unresolved forever: abortion, gun control and gay
> marriage?

Because there are fundamental and deep-seated differences among significant fractions of the US population on those issues. Modern marketing and manipulation techniques have been used to exploit some of those differences for personal ends (most notably and successfully by Rove and his ilk for the end of capturing incredible sums of cash), but that exploitation could not take place if the differences were not there at a deep level. I live in a state that moves between red and purple and I can tell you that there are many many people living here who deeply and personally believe that abortion and gay marriage are sins.

Cranky

7

SamChevre 01.09.08 at 5:02 pm

If bi-partisanship is “collusion in restraint of democracy”, wouldn’t bureaucracy/technocracy (the domination of government policy-making by expert bodies rather than elected ones) be even more a concern?

8

terence 01.09.08 at 5:10 pm

If you extend the Schumpeter/market based competition analogy a little further it becomes useful, I think.

Two firms, unable – for a variety of reasons – to really compete in the realm of ideas, indulge in marketing to strengthen their brand and tarnish the opposition’s.

And then there are the information asymmetries: you thought you were voting for compassionate conservatism in 2001? Wrong. You think you’re voting for real health care reform in 2008? Let’s see…

9

Cranky Observer 01.09.08 at 5:13 pm

> And then there are the information asymmetries:
> you thought you were voting for compassionate
> conservatism in 2001? Wrong. You think you’re
> voting for real health care reform in 2008? Let’s
> see…

Sooner or later however a business firm gets feedback that it cannot ignore in the form of sales, market share, and profitability. Humans making political decisions can ignore or apply biases to feedback on their political choices for their entire lives without wavering no matter how counterproductive the outcomes are.

Cranky

10

Barry 01.09.08 at 5:28 pm

Cranky, actually they do, but:

1) They can ignore it until things get really f*cked up.

2) They can misblame it quite well.

3) The political leadership can maneuver around reality for a long time.

Remember that GM spent decades ignoring lack of competitiveness, and the upper management prospered. Microsoft has played nasty games for many years, and has prospered.

11

Stuart 01.09.08 at 5:46 pm

Bastardry? Did you mean bastardy? Or is this non-UK spelling thing?

12

Sebastian Holsclaw 01.09.08 at 6:03 pm

The key to a good competitive structure is co-opting your competitors’ good ideas while keeping your own good ideas and getting rid of the bad ideas that your competitors correctly identify.

Bi-partisanship can be wimpy, or it can involve realizing that your competition isn’t always wrong about every thing that comes our of their mouth and that working with them on the things they are right about isn’t a horrible betryal of anything important.

The key problem with partisanship as often exercised is that it is tribal–it acts as if the existance of a belief in your in-group was logical support for the independent correctness of that belief.

13

Grand Moff Texan 01.09.08 at 6:11 pm

You might take the time to see who uses this word and to what things they apply it. Last time I checked, “partisanship” was a really, really, very serious problem to vanishingly few of both Republican and Democratic voters (low single digits each), way below pocketbook and security issues.

Bipartisanship has no constituency. The only reason you’re hearing about it in the US is because it’s being pushed by a particular subset of elites.

In American political discourse, “bipartisanship” actually refers to a consensus among the two parties’ political establishments. The call for bipartisanship, most recently in Oklahoma, is the establishment politicians’ own alarm at how angry both their bases are. Consider this. They just want their voters to shut up. It has never occurred to them to wonder why we’re mad.

Conversely, the Republican and Democratic bases are reaching a sort of bipartisan consensus harmonic convergence of their own, not that the establishment press gives a shit. The plight of the American middle class is making politicians’ usual decoy issues look just as stupid as they always did to those of us who think for a living. “Values Voters,” for example, left the GOP holding its collective dick in 2006. Democrats are mad as hell at their own Congress. The two bases just aren’t buying it anymore. Even Southern Republicans (who used to be Southern Democrats) want security and economic help, which is why FOX News has had to disappear Ron Paul.

But that bipartisanship doesn’t matter to the elites, so it’s not called “bipartisanship.” We’re left with a bunch of irrelevant milquetoasts wondering which mob is going to lynch them. Increasingly, I’m not particular. I’ll help anybody tie a noose these days.
.

14

Seth Edenbaum 01.09.08 at 6:11 pm

The logic of bipartisanship is akin to that of reason, responsibility and “objectivity” in the press; and calls for a more intellectually serious journalism do more harm than good. We need an aggressive amoral press defending its [formal/structural] prerogatives just as we need a legislative branch defending itself against the claims of the executive. Also adversarialism is not the same as market-based logic. Adversarialism says that the market needs an adversary.
The courtroom is the model not the market or the science lab. Collaboration is problematic.

A Government of National Unity is a last ditch effort not an ideal.

15

Grand Moff Texan 01.09.08 at 6:16 pm

I live in a state that moves between red and purple and I can tell you that there are many many people living here who deeply and personally believe that abortion and gay marriage are sins.

And even if I didn’t live in a congenitally red state, I could tell you that that doesn’t stop them from having abortions or blowing some random stranger in a public restroom. Real progress will have to wait until these people realize that politicians don’t actually care about these issues. They are merely decoy issues, used to distract people while you rip them off.
.

16

perianwyr 01.09.08 at 6:17 pm

Bastardry sounds way cooler.

Sebastian, aren’t you basically describing what a winning ruling party does? The structure you describe seems to me to be one long-term ruling group with a disorganized crowd of bombthrowers hanging around on the fringes. Not that this is bad, but “bipartisanship” as it is being described here doesn’t appear to be what we are talking about. I’ve always figured that successful politics was all about coming up with a couple good ideas and stealing absolutely everything else from your enemies.

Are we talking about agreements between contentious equals? If that’s the case, then the alignment of the public into warring camps makes the negative bipartisanship we’re talking about an effect, not a cause, and nothing we can really chase very far.

17

Jim S. 01.09.08 at 6:32 pm

I am sorry but pro-immigration as a leftist principle is a little simplistic. Great numbers of new people really do cause such things as depression of wages, etc. One is not called for wholesale deportation, just some acknowledgement of this fact, and of people’s concerns about it.

18

Grand Moff Texan 01.09.08 at 6:37 pm

I am sorry but pro-immigration as a leftist principle is a little simplistic.

It’s also irrelevant here in the US. It isn’t the American left that’s been keeping our borders open for so long, and it wasn’t a Democrat who last issued an amnesty to illegal immigrants.

Too many politically well-connected industries in the US rely on cheap, disposable labor for their profitability, which is why nothing is going to change, no matter what the left does, no matter what people’s concerns are.
.

19

Slocum 01.09.08 at 6:44 pm

The American system can be charicatured as electing someone to do a job and electing someone else to stop him.

That’s one of my favorite features, actually. If you’re going to have a big government, better to have it restrained by internal conflicts.

This is clearly not the ideal system if you want the government to do lots of stuff, but it’s pretty good if you want the government not to do stuff — at least not until there is broad consensus across the political spectrum that something should be done.

This arrangement is, of course, enabled by the structure of the U.S. government, but it actually happens because of voter preference — if a president comes in with solid majorities in both houses of congress, that probably will not last long, as the party in power tends to lose seats in off-year elections.

20

Barry 01.09.08 at 7:20 pm

I second #13 and #14, and add (on top, because it’s the most important issue, IMHO):

The pundit scum who are calling for ‘bipartisanship’ were, for the most part (meaning 99%) *not* doing so while the right went after Clinton in the 1990’s. They didn’t do so under Bush in the 2000’s, either. They started doing so only in 2007, when it was clear that the GOP was in trouble. The cries for ‘bipartisanship’ will reach a fever pitch if a Democratic president takes office in 2009.

In the exact same fashion, I saw some in the press in 2001 say that perhaps they were too hard on ‘the president’, and they’d be nicer now. Convenient.

F*ck ’em.

21

Henry 01.09.08 at 7:35 pm

stuart – I was probably magimixing bastardy with barratry (one of my favourite obscure words).

22

Steve LaBonne 01.09.08 at 7:43 pm

I was probably magimixing bastardy with barratry (one of my favourite obscure words).

Always makes me think of those hilarious devils tormenting the barrators in Dante’s fifth bolgia.

23

AC 01.09.08 at 7:52 pm

I’m not sure that this argument remains coherent under a close analysis. Presumably parties play the “bipartisan game” precisely because it is politically smart; I do not understand the distinction between political competition and the “bipartisan game.” The latter follows from the former. “Bipartisanship” likely indicates to consumers/voters that you have worked with the opposition, who are largely necessary to the achievement of anything of practical in Washington, and have emerged with an actual product that will enhance actual lives. That signals to voters/consumers that you will attempt to win their votes/patronage with real products, and not simply attractive rhetoric.

24

Watson Aname 01.09.08 at 8:41 pm

That’s one of my favorite features, actually. If you’re going to have a big government, better to have it restrained by internal conflicts.

In theory this works well… lately not so much.

25

wood turtle 01.09.08 at 8:45 pm

In politics, as in math, isn’t there eventually going to be one correct set of answers?

26

Sebastian Holsclaw 01.09.08 at 9:02 pm

“Sebastian, aren’t you basically describing what a winning ruling party does?”

Sure, but for the most part (at least in the US) the ruling party gets arrogant and within a few years stops doing that.

27

Bloix 01.09.08 at 10:26 pm

> Why are the endless, divisive debates in US
> politics concerned with issues that can go on
> unresolved forever: abortion, gun control and gay> marriage?

1) Gay marriage is not an endless debate. It wasn’t even an issue at all before the 1990’s. The progress of gay rights as a whole in the US appears to be one of the fastest transformations of social attitudes that has ever taken place. Certainly much faster than the progress of civil rights for African Americans.

2) Social issues are difficult to resolve for two reasons: (i) the federal nature of American government, so that the same issue can be debated fifty times (fifty-one if you include DC); and (ii) the constitutionalization of political an social issues. Both reasons are at play in all three examples you’ve given. They have nothing to do with the nature of the political parties.

To take an example that should resonate with English readers: suppose laws relating to hunting (fox-hunting to us) were enacted and enforced by fifty separate governing bodies, and also that the courts could intervene. Do you think you’d have resolved the issue by now?

28

Dan 01.09.08 at 11:28 pm

In politics, as in math, isn’t there eventually going to be one correct set of answers?

Well, no, because different people want different stuff.

29

engels 01.09.08 at 11:59 pm

Still No Specifics From AWWMNUUBM

[O]ver the last five years, Democrats in Congress have only blocked the following pieces of legislation:

* Three conservative judges (out of several dozen)
* Privatization of Social Security
* Retroactive immunity for telecom companies in the warrantless spying program.
* Legislation to deport millions of illegal aliens

… one must assume that a “government of national unity” means a government that will confirmation 100% of all conservative judges, the destruction of social security, retroactive immunity of telecom companies, and the mass deportation of twelve million people. … Those four things are the sum total of what Democrats in Congress have prevented Republicans from passing, and thus are the entirety of what Democrats have contributed to “gridlock in Washington.” Every other reform has been blocked by Republicans.

It would be nice, for once, if the constant drumbeat from Aging Wealthy White Men for National Unity Under Billionaire Media Moguls (AWWMNUUBM for short) decrying polarization, the lack of bi-partisanship and gridlock in Washington would actually provide specifics on what legislation their hated polarization, partisanship and gridlock is blocking. Of course, they won’t actually do that, because blaming national problems on vague, undefined concepts like “polarization” and “gridlock” is much easier than actually analyzing the contemporary political scene in America.

30

Sortition 01.10.08 at 2:41 am

Schumpeter’s theory of competition for power is the most convincing description of the workings of elections-based, Western-style government. However, it should be immediately obvious that that government system is not a democracy in its intuitive (and original) sense – i.e., a system of government in which all citizens have equal political power. Schumpeter’s conception is not realist or minimalist, but it is elitist.

In the same way that economic competition does not foster economic equality, political competition does not foster political equality, and while concentrated power with competition is better than concentrated power without competition, neither of those is what democratic-minded people should be after.

Rather than using elections, the Athenian system relied on a completely different method for appointing people into positions of power – random selection. It is that method (known as sortition or allotment) that assured widespread distribution of political power.

31

Jim Johnson 01.10.08 at 5:44 am

Henry, Thanks for linking to my post. I’ve red through the forst 30 comments and have top-of-the-head replies to some that struck my eye.

(#30) Yoram, Schumpeter may have been an elitist, but the notion that competition for power is central to democratic arrangements surely need not be. Unless, that is, you think democracy can operate without political leaders. Competition is a tool, useful for keeping leaders accountable and for monitoring the quite stringent conditions of freedom and equality necessary (even on Schumpeter’s account) for democracy to function properly.

(#25) W.T. “In politics, as in math, isn’t there eventually going to be one correct set of answers?
The short answer is NO. The longer answer has to do with the value of institutional experimentalism that is parallel to the value of political competition.

(#17) Jim S, Come on. You are right that resisting anti-immigrant policies seems “simplistic” insofar as I mentioned it in passing in a blog post. But, even in the context of my post it is not so hairbrained as you make out; if a large portion of the labor pool is disenfranchised (because either illegal or non-naturalized) then the constituency for real redistributive policies is unnecessarily minimized. So, reducing barriers to immigration and naturalization is at least a first step in the right direction. And we can then go on to talk about unionization rates …

(#13) gmt, I am less concerned with whether there is a large constituency out there demanding bi-partisanship (but the antipathy to gridlock and partisanship in Washington, and especially the current vogue for “change” to remedy it, makes me wonder if you are right) than with the elites who constantly repeat the mantra. I think it important to call their program for what it is – an anti-democratic ideology.

(#7) Sam – Who said anything about policy making by expert bodies? That sort of technocratic practice may work under certain conditions. But those conditions need to be monitored and democratic arrangements provide the best way of performing that task.

(#2) Steve, Representation and pluralism are good things. Indeed the first is unavoidable. The second is an essential condition for well-functioning democratic arrangements. But competition is an instrument (here we agree) for keeping representatives accountable and for allowing plural views, interests, attachments etc. a route into political institutions. That said in democracies there are necessarily are losers. And the losers are the ones who ought to value robust competition most – for he reasons I just noted.

32

Jim Johnson 01.10.08 at 5:44 am

… that would be read through ….

33

russell 01.10.08 at 7:14 am

This analysis ignores the point that much of the malign effect of polarization is the balkanization of politics that it seems to engender. The theoretic critique of polarization isn’t born from any great sympathy for bipartisanship, so much as from romantic desire for a more cohesive body politic. On this view, the ideal is not a civic culture free of political competition, but rather one in which the various constituencies (and their advocates) begin their political reasoning from a more robust foundation of common identification and interest.

34

Brett Bellmore 01.10.08 at 12:06 pm

“It isn’t the American left that’s been keeping our borders open for so long, and it wasn’t a Democrat who last issued an amnesty to illegal immigrants.”

No, it’s a bipartisan consensus on the part of the political elite, to open the floodgates to immigrants who compete with the masses, (But who being here illegally, have no recourse to the law if abused by their employers.) while keeping them shut to immigrants who compete for jobs with… the children of the political elite. And it’s a bipartisan consensus that is right in the teeth of a contrary bipartisan consensus by the public. Every poll that’s not rigged to the max shows the public, right AND left, wants border enforcement.

Speaking as somebody routinely tarred as “anti-immigrant”, because I’m opposed to illegal immigration, my ideal immigration policy would be to have essentially unlimited immigration for English literate college graduates and proven entrepreneurs who lack criminal records. You can’t exactly label that self-serving when I’m an engineer advocating unlimited immigration of people who’d compete for my exact job. But it would serve the nation well to turn the “brain drain” into an all consuming brain suction, lowering the cost of knowledge workers relative to unskilled labor, while NOT importing more unskilled labor to drive down the pay of the already impoverished.

In this country, “bipartisanship” generally rears it’s ugly head on issues where the interests of the political class conflict with the interests of the general society to the point where the politicians don’t think it’s worth competing with each other over who gets the chance to worsen their own class’s condition the most.

35

superdestroyer 01.10.08 at 1:07 pm

The question is not two parties or bipartisanship. The real question is how will the U.S. function as a one party state after the collapse of the Republican Party is complete.

Given that over 100 Democratic Congressmen are running unopposed for re-election, it is hard to believe that the two party system is about voting incumbents out of office. Given that only one Democratic seat in the Senate is in play in 2008, it is hard to see that the Republicans are really a national party. Given that the Republican Party has almost ceased to exist in New England, the mid-Atlantic, or the west coast, it is hard to get excited about the power of the Republicans.

In the future, the changing demographics of the U.S. ensure that the Republicans will be irrelevant to politics. The real question is what will the U.S. be like when national politics resembles the current states of politics in NYC, DC, Maryland, Mass., etc?

36

Don Quijote 01.10.08 at 1:44 pm

The real question is what will the U.S. be like when national politics resembles the current states of politics in NYC, DC, Maryland, Mass., etc?

A whole lot wealthier, healthier and far better educated.

37

Don Quijote 01.10.08 at 1:50 pm

The key to a good competitive structure is co-opting your competitors’ good ideas while keeping your own good ideas and getting rid of the bad ideas that your competitors correctly identify.

That assumes that your competitor have any good ideas. Unless one thinks that never ending wars, torture, endless greed, worker abuse, environmental degradation, gay bashing and second rate political & economic status for all non-straight-white males are good ideas.

PS. isn’t there a war in the Middle East that you should be fighting in?

38

Barry 01.10.08 at 1:56 pm

superdestroyer, how many GOP reps are running unopposed?

39

richard 01.10.08 at 2:05 pm

re 33: it would serve the nation well to turn the “brain drain” into an all consuming brain suction, lowering the cost of knowledge workers relative to unskilled labor

great idea! That way we could outsource expensive university education and close the colleges here, relying on nation states that subsidize their universities to make up the gap.

40

superdestroyer 01.10.08 at 2:10 pm

Barry,

The number I read was about 30 (about 1/4th as compared to the Democrats). when you look at the 3-d state maps results from 2000 and 2004, what stands out the most is that where Democrats dominate, there is not really a functional Republican Party (see the 90% vote for Democrats in DC)or that John Kerry received almost one million more votes than Bush in the Chicago area.

http://www.esri.com/industries/elections/graphics/results2004_lg.jpg

When you look at how formerly Republican areas like Fairfax Virginia has become very Democratic, it should be apparent to most people that the Republicans will not be around much longer.

41

superdestroyer 01.10.08 at 2:14 pm

Don Quijote,

Look at how the Democratic Party has given up on pushing for more gun control. Look at how the Democratic party has given up on the idea of forced busing in public schools. The Democrats stole welfare reform (remember President Clinton). Look at how the Democratic Party has to ease off of racial quotas at universities. Look at how even during the primaries, the Democratic candidates have to distance themselves from the Congressional Black Caucus.

42

c.l. ball 01.10.08 at 2:27 pm

Let’s distinguish the uses of bi-partisanship. I think there are three.

The first use is an epithet against successful partisans. When a majority party succeeds in legislating policies that a minority party opposes, the minority calls for “bi-partisanship.” It is essentially saying “You’ve won according to the rules of the game, we don’t like that, stop it.” Democrats and Republicans have done this at various points. This is an anti-democratic appeal by the minority party.

The second use is as a genuine call for consensus when parties can gridlock the legislative process but still have mutually recognized common aims. This is not anti-democratic. We more often see this on foreign policy matters than on domestic matters or in times of crisis on domestic matters(e.g., federal funding for Minnesota after the I-35 bridge collapse). I would distinguish this from log-rolling — the parties are pursuing legislation or funding that they both agree on, not trading off policies that one dislikes and one supports.

The third use would appear to be what Johnson means. Party elites might disagree with their constituents wishes, and so collude to limit legislative changes under the theme of “bi-partisanship.” Or they might find elite-level compromise easier to achieve than hard-ball politicking, which I think is more in line with Johnson’s point. They engage in log-rolling or temper policies that they don’t need to temper.

I would part with Johnson on his analysis here:
Because the poor participate at relatively low levels, and because many recent immigrants remain unnaturalized (hence disenfranchised), the constituency for a real alternative to right-wing policies remains politically inchoate.

The poor have good reason to oppose freer immigration, not support it, because most immigration would be in low-skilled labor areas, depressing wages, and because poorer immigrants would divide income redistribution benefits further. Increased participation by the poor would likely weaken support to grant immigrants citizenship and possible enfranchisement. Immigration is intractable because it has vehement opposition and support within Democratic and Republican constituencies for economic, political, and racist reasons (and those reasons often intertwine ideologically).

43

Jim S. 01.10.08 at 4:20 pm

The comments on #14 and #41 are very good. I am glad that some people have understood the nature of my comments, which is basically “radical/moderate.”

44

moondancer 01.10.08 at 4:39 pm

Bi-partisanship as its defined currently is: slow down on the deconstruction of the neocon/Friedman nightmare you’re about to inherit. Oh and leave as many incompetent lackeys we’ve seeded the govt with in place as you can. That definition of bipartisanship sucks.
Bi-partisanship of: if we take this line out will you not filibuster? is ok.

45

CJ 01.10.08 at 4:43 pm

The American system can be charicatured as electing someone to do a job and electing someone else to stop him.

True (although it’s caricatured) and you can see what happens when the someone elses don’t do their job. The founding fathers never imagined that one group would cede their power so fabulously as the Congress has done.

46

trippin 01.10.08 at 4:46 pm

The illusion that Democratic leadership is too inept to get anything done has been proven false with the overt approval of an Attorney General who wouldn’t call waterboarding “torture” because he’d then have to prosecute the criminals, the overt selection of a FISA bill that grants immunity to telecoms for illegal wiretapping, the overt Democratic approval of at least two trade bills accelerating our race to third-world status, and a host of other evidence that “bi-partisanship” works — for the corporate owners of both political parties.

When Democrats gained a small majority in 2006, we expected checks and balances, but got capitulation. The majority is too thin, we’re told. We need sixty Senate votes, we’re told. Never mind that the now minority is holding sway where Democrats in the minority never could. Now in the majority, that majority is not enough, and they demand more power to act.

And now, the Democrats may get what they seek. We’re on the cusp of a Democratic landslide in both houses of Congress and the Executive. But now that the excuse of an all-powerful Republican minority holding up reform is about to vanish, now we’re being spoon-fed this call for bi-partisanship.

We’re expected to offer a seat at the table for a party who has shred our Constitution, facilitated crony taxpayer ripoffs, gutted regulatory oversight, shielded criminals, persecuted people for being different, conducted an illegal and immoral occupation of a nation that was no threat to us based on a pack of lies — a party who when in the majority disrupted Democratic-sponsored meetings, or relegated them to be held in basement closets.

The media is trumpeting this bi-partisanship as the will of a weary electorate tired of partisan wrangling. But I see it as the excuse-du-jour for a Democratic party beholden to the same corporate bosses that have traditionally owned the Republicans, thanks to the Clinton / McAuliffe / Emanuel / Shrum / Hoyer / Carville “Third Way” DLC Democrats that have taken over the party to benefit the wealthy benefactors they court for donations.

When we endured a Republican political monoculture, there was no media cry for bi-partisanship. We were told that elections have consequences, and indeed they did.

Now I say: no more excuses. Once we have the ship of state headed in the right direction, then and only then, and only maybe, should we share power, and then only selectively. That makes Democrats accountable, and we should hold them so.

But sharing power prematurely is a sure sign that the two parties are indeed working together to undermine the interests of the working stiff in America.

47

Sebastian Holsclaw 01.10.08 at 4:50 pm

“That assumes that your competitor have any good ideas.”

Hey, if you’re already perfect, great.

But human experience suggests that most people who think they are perfect are in fact just arrogant.

48

David Quintana 01.10.08 at 5:03 pm

I say, let’s just beat the the evil republican bastards in November…

I think bi-partisanship won’t work, we need to work to have a veto-proof and filibuster-proof majority in both houses for a progressive agenda to take shape..!

49

Watson Aname 01.10.08 at 5:15 pm

‘Hey, if you’re already perfect, great.’

Your broader point is certainly true, but a more narrow reading of his comment is probably accurate, and less problematic. You don’t have to think your ideas are perfect to recognize that someone elses are lousy. This particular set of opponents hasn’t really had much in the way of good ideas, and has put most of its effort into strenuously implementing bad ones.

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werenotgonnatakeit 01.10.08 at 5:25 pm

We are talking about fascism and fascism must be opposed, not appeased. This is the worst American political movement in modern times, if not ever. Bushism MUST be actively opposed. They will not bargain, they will not come to the table. Any movement toward the middle will not be accompanied by an equal response. They simply do not bargain in good faith and anyone advocating working with these people are utter tools.

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Grand Moff Texan 01.10.08 at 5:36 pm

In this country, “bipartisanship” generally rears it’s ugly head on issues where the interests of the political class conflict with the interests of the general society to the point where the politicians don’t think it’s worth competing with each other over who gets the chance to worsen their own class’s condition the most.

Then it would appear that we agree. I would, however, amend your “border enforcement” to “immigration enforcement,” since most illegal aliens merely overstay their visas after entering the country legally.

As it is, illegal immigrants are being used to screw American labor, which is the oldest story in American labor history. It wasn’t too long ago that my ancestors were used to keep wages flat here.
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52

Sortition 01.10.08 at 5:46 pm

Jim Johnson:

Schumpeter may have been an elitist, but the notion that competition for power is central to democratic arrangements surely need not be. Unless, that is, you think democracy can operate without political leaders.

As the analogy with economic competition indicates, political competition is in fact anti-democratic – if by democracy you mean political equality. (For Schumpeter, democracy was defined as political competition by means of elections.)

Certainly, the notion of leadership is by definition anti-democratic: leadership means some few people are leaders – wielding significant political power – and most people are followers – having very little power. Thus, democracy (if it is at all possible) not only can operate without leaders, but it must operate without leaders.

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Grand Moff Texan 01.10.08 at 5:48 pm

Look at how the Democratic Party has given up on pushing for more gun control.

Really?

Look at how the Democratic party has given up on the idea of forced busing in public schools.

Yes, now the battle is in drawing district lines.

The Democrats stole welfare reform (remember President Clinton).

Yes, Democrats had no interest in welfare before Clinton.

Look at how the Democratic Party has to ease off of racial quotas at universities.

Yes, states like Texas use the “10% rule” to achieve the same results without the stigma of quotas. Elsewhere, race is still a factor in admissions.

Look at how even during the primaries, the Democratic candidates have to distance themselves from the Congressional Black Caucus.

How?
.

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Batocchio 01.10.08 at 6:01 pm

Hear, hear.

“Bipartisanship” is often code for “Don’t change the status quo, awful though it is.”

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werenotgonnatakeit 01.10.08 at 7:01 pm

Lefty at Leftopia examines the 90’s partisanship. We’re in for a whole lot more of this kind of stuff.

http://www.leftopia.blogspot.com/

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Bretton Jones 01.10.08 at 9:41 pm

Agreed. Partisanship and Ideology are the poison of our politics.

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Jacksonian 01.11.08 at 9:35 am

Following September 11th, George W Bush operated alongside the most bipartisan Congress in modern history. What did it get us? A disastrous foreign policy, a pathetic domestic agenda, and an administration which believes it is above the law.

Since 2001 in the U.S., bipartisanship has been the problem, not the solution.

Let’s make 2008 the year of good old-fashioned partisan politics. Democrats seemed poised to take back the white house and to expand their power in both the house and senate.

Furthermore, trends seem to be point toward an overall decline in republican influence and conservative doctrine.

Wouldn’t it be fitting if the party which “stole” into power at the beginning of the century were to become broken, abandoned, irrelevant, obselete, and resigned to the history books by 2100?

These bums richly deserve our contempt– and complete marginalization.

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Brett Bellmore 01.12.08 at 3:47 pm

“I would, however, amend your “border enforcement” to “immigration enforcement,” since most illegal aliens merely overstay their visas after entering the country legally.”

Fair enough. Especially considering the recent evidence that even moderate internal enforcement efforts, meant only for appearances’ sake, were enough to cause significant “self-deportation”.

Anyway, yesterday marks a bipartisan moment which will cheer many Democrats, and outrage many Republicans, to the point where Democratic prospects in the coming election may have improved: The Bush ‘Justice’ department filed it’s brief in the Heller 2nd amendment case: In favor of the District.

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Dick Mulliken 01.13.08 at 10:57 pm

What Obama (and I) are after here is not in any sense a surrender of personal or party agenda. Bipartisanship consists of the belief that (a) the other side is not composed of depraved monsters, and (b) the assumption that finding a middle ground is often in the interest of the nation. This was the kind of outlook that prevailed in the times of Vandenburg and even the Johnson of the Senate. It’s what is the norm in most European Countries. It was the norm here until The post Goldwater sillies went after their personal Conservative purity. Let us fight. let us be partisan. let us also find again some baseline of civility. Let us also recognize that striking deals is necessary to get things done. The kind of ‘partisanship’ that prevails today is nursery school silliness

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dave heasman 01.15.08 at 12:02 am

“Bastardry? Did you mean bastardy? Or is this non-UK spelling thing?”

Uh oh. “Bastardry” is what bastards do. “Bastardy” is where bastards are.

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