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Tilting at Windmills

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January 9, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

BICKERING....Via Taegan Goddard, the New York Observer delivers some good news:

Even at the bipartisanship forum — a meeting of a 17-member group of Democratic, Republican and independent elected officials unhappy with the current state of politics — there was precisely zero detectable enthusiasm for a Bloomberg bid in 2008.

I'm glad to hear it. I don't think the CEOs of Coke and Pepsi should get together and try to figure out a common formula that everyone will like, and I don't think anyone else does either. So why does anyone think there's some magical common ground between liberals and conservatives?

I think the error most people make on this subject is being confused about what voters are really tired of. They aren't tired of partisanship, they're tired of bickering. And who isn't? But when push comes to shove, most of those folks who say they're tired of bickering would rather bicker than cave in on the issues that are important to them. Bipartisanship goes down the drain pretty quickly when abortion or trade or immigration or any other hot button issue actually gets put on the table.

Barack Obama, of course, has based practically his entire campaign around the idea not that he can end partisanship, but that he can end the bickering. That's a powerful message, even among staunch partisans. But can he?

Kevin Drum 12:23 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (68)

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I think the error most people make on this subject is being confused about what voters are really tired of.

The people pushing Unity08, a Bloomberg run, etc. aren't confused at all. They're Republicans who know damned well that this packaging is the only way the disgraced GOP might retain a little power. That they have gotten a few gullible right-leaning Dems on board is due only to the persistence of Charlie Brown syndrome among said Dems.

Posted by: shortstop on January 9, 2008 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

NO! And your little dog too...

Posted by: Trypticon on January 9, 2008 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Some of these people seem like they've been in a coma since 1994.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on January 9, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

I like that he wants to TRY...last night was a great night BECAUSE this should NOT be decided by Iowa or NH but by all people (interested) in all states across this land...I'm sick and tired of the MSM manipulating this campaign...they're accountable for us having the CHIMP in CHIEF we now have...and did far too little actual REPORTING to help folks put off this damn war (that they can't even say the name of these days)...and now they want to SCOOP the world by picking the candidates...ENOUGH ALREADY!

Posted by: Dancer on January 9, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Can Obama end all the partisan bickering? Sure, just as I can block all the rays of the sun by wearing a hat.

Posted by: steve duncan on January 9, 2008 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

wankstock (as digby has so perfectly annointed this silly idea) is nothing more than the minions of the big boyz -- who are shitting their pants with these 'populist' messages that are overtaking the campaigns -- getting together under a big old bipartisan umbrella desperate to derail that particular talking point.

see, if you can sing the praises of 'bipartisanship' endlessly, then you have no reason for embrace populism. it's all about crushing the slightest hint of the public's activism.

Posted by: linda on January 9, 2008 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Barack Obama, of course, has based practically his entire campaign around the idea not that he can end partisanship, but that he can end the bickering. That's a powerful message, even among staunch partisans. But can he?

Doesn't the fact that the Bloomberg bid have no traction prove Obama's message is getting through and would succeed if he was elected? People see Obama as the symbol of bipartisanship and therefore they see no need for Bloomberg. If Obama wins, then Congress would know they would have to be bipartisan or else risk the wrath of the American people through Obama. But if Hillary wins, the support for Bloomberg will come back with a vengeance as voters see another partisan Clintonista running for public office.

Posted by: Al on January 9, 2008 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

There may not be magical common ground between liberals and conservatives, but there are a lot of independants out there, and a lot of them want centerist solutions. The easiest way to get there is for the right wing of the Democratic party to get together with the left wing of the Republican party, and work out compromises - something that people like John McCain try to do.

Posted by: TomFromMD on January 9, 2008 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

You can't be bipartisan when one side cheats, all the time.

That would be the Republicans, BTW.

Here's an example: The US Civil Rights panel is designed to be bipartisan. Sounds simple, eh? Well, the Repukeliscum have figgered out a way to cheat, which they always do. They got two of the commissioners to change their registration to INDEPENDENT, and then they said "We don't have enough Republicans" and appointed 2 more.

So, now the commission (8 members total) has 6 Republicans (2 pretending to be independent) and 2 Democrats.

Repukliscum cheat. you can't trust them .

Posted by: POed Lib on January 9, 2008 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

No.

Another in a series of simple answers to simple questions.

Posted by: Marlowe on January 9, 2008 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Kind of inchoate thoughts about Obama at this point--my feelings about him keep changing--but I'm not sure how deep this really cuts for him. I think it's more of a strategic positioning thing to draw independents. Lotta "centrist" or even center-right people who dislike Bush and what he's done to the GOP as well as the country seem to be interested in him, judging by Iowa. I can see why this message would appeal to former Bush-voting independents who want to break away from the GOP. They were wrong, but they don't want to be I-told-you-soed about it. And it has the advantage of being something fairly abstract and subjective--not an actual policy or program he's ever going to be held accountable for carrying out really. I mean W was "a uniter not a divider" too, in his campaign messaging.

Posted by: DrBB on January 9, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Can you clarify the distinction between "partisanship" and "bickering?" Or rather, I understand there's a difference, but I would assume the latter is an inevitable outcome of the former.

Isn't partisanship essentially the tendency to stick with your group of allies, and defend them, whether or not they're right, because over the long term, you feel the health of the coalition is the best chance of achieving your objectives?

And the bickering... well, that's when people blame each other for things not getting done, e.g. a bill not getting passed. But often the reason why a bill didn't get passed is... people were sticking up for their allies.

Maybe the "bickering" part is the small-minded excuses that nobody believes that attend these gridlock sessions? Like "well, they put that clause in there that hurts working families" or whatever.

So is "bickering" the act of devising dishonest rationales for the disappointing outcome of a partisan process? Or is it something different?

Posted by: mk on January 9, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is an empty suit who is running Georgie Bush Jr redux. Bush used words like unity, integrity, bipartisanhip etc...to convince people that he was the man to end bickering in DC. but we already know the story, dont' we?

People vote on emotion, not issues. They believe in negative campaigning then denied it when asked. Americans are just as bad as pols so we get them pols.


Posted by: bob on January 9, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not tired of bickering, I'm tired of cronyism and corruption.

The only reason I would be support an independent/Bloomberg for president is because hopefully the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate could unite in holding his (her) feet to the fire.

I can always dream.

Posted by: DR on January 9, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

The only reason any conservatives are suddenly discovering bipartisanship is because the Republicans are going down in flames.

Genghis Khan had an effective way of dealing with folks of that ilk - he executed them. That might be a bit harsh, so lets just politically exile them.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 9, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently Obama's notion of bipartisanship involves a) agreeing there are problems with social security when most economists disagree and b) agreeing not to attack the health insurance companies.

We used to call that triangulation.

Posted by: jerry on January 9, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

RSBG is correct. Not to execute the Repukeliscum, but to emasculate and fatally weaken them.

Prior to Gingrich, the Congress got things done. The permanent Democratic majority kept the 'Scum in line, and was effective. Gingrich taught the Repukeliscum to be uppity, and now the congress is totally screwed up.

Neuter the 'Pukes.

Posted by: POed Lib on January 9, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

We used to call that triangulation.

Still do when the person committing the sin isn't the so-called messiah.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 9, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Barack Obama, of course, has based practically his entire campaign around the idea not that he can end partisanship, but that he can end the bickering. That's a powerful message, even among staunch partisans. But can he?

As Krugman basically argued the other day, the whole Obama concept of "stopping the bickering" is fundamentally misconceived.

The problem is that it isn't bickering that's taking place, its a fight between parties over things that are essential to their most basic interests. Those fights don't go away. There simply are winners and losers in the battle. In certain cases, the fights are over existential threats to their being -- for example, health care insurers. You can't induce a starving lion to lie down with the lambs.

No amount of charm or appeals to reasonableness or anything else will moderate such fights. An effective progressive politician must simply join the battle and win it.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 9, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Obama isn't going to end bickering between the two parties. No one is, and that's not a bad thing.

But, if Obama wins the Presidency, all the old, white guys, who dominate the Senate and House, will feel their obsolescence.

They will either attempt to see our country with fresh eyes, or they will be voted out.

Most of people in charge gained access to Congress PRIOR to the wide use of the Internet -- before people could read news and blogs from other countries and feel a true connection to others in distant places.

It's not that Obama will end bickering; it's that he will put a multi-cultural face on America which will influence bills, laws and policy.

I like Edwards, but I'm rooting for Obama. It's not the 'hope' or 'change' message that reaches me; it's the 'promise'and 'possibilities' that an Obama Presidency would bring, even to those reluctant to embrace it.

Posted by: Rainy Day on January 9, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Boren looked like a ttoal bad joke. he was a mediocrity as Senator. Bloomberg is not going to buy his way into the Presidency. Why do people think huge money and being mayor of an unrepresentative city makes him a good candidate to be president. He is not...not by a long shot.

Posted by: allie on January 9, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Yay, partisanship! I pray for a Dem who is a fierce partisan or at least a fire-breathing progressive who won't cede anything and who calls Republican BS for what it is, when appropriate. There is very little common ground these days --
I regularly yearn for partitioning the country.
Even less common ground among the population than among political leaders. (e.g. I can imagine Limbaugh listeners calling for nukeing the Middle East but even Cheney-Bush has not done this.)

Obama's positivity and charm are obviously appealing but make me nervous. I'd like to see him take a liberal stand on some issues and build a mandate for something other than his own winning the Dem. nomination on charisma.

RE: a Bloomberg candidacy, I don't have any strong feelings over either way, although maybe if Huckabee wins the nomination, a non-theocrat centrist might split a bit of the rightwing vote off -- but that could backfire as well.

To be tired of bickering, and I agree with Kevin here quite a bit that bickering is what people are tired of, is to be tired of the uncivil tone promoted by FOX/CNN he-said-she-said idiocy on TELEVISION and the vicious savagery of rightwing RADIO and the constant quibbling over minutiae or the slavering nastiness bred by the anonymity of the INTERNETS. In other words, the raunchiness of the discourse promoted by most of the MEDIA, not earnest empassioned debate over the issues.

Posted by: Norbert on January 9, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm glad to hear it. I don't think the CEOs of Coke and Pepsi should get together and try to figure out a common formula that everyone will like, and I don't think anyone else does either. So why does anyone think there's some magical common ground between liberals and conservatives?"

Bad analogy. Coke and Pepsi can compete freely in the marketplace because their potential customers can each make their own decisions without constraining anyone else's decision. In politics, sooner or later you have to come to an agreement on a *single* policy. That usually involves [ahem!] compromising. Perhaps you can finesse the problem of having to compromise by sweeping the table in a huge landslide, but I wouldn't lay bets on it; short of that, the American system pretty much requires reaching out--and I'd argue that actual accomplishment pretty much requires reaching across the aisle. Yes, I know that it's those damn Republicans' fault--but I'd also argue that what we're seeing now is the abject failure of the Republican scorched-earth model to do anything that the public wants done. And if that's going to change, it won't happen if Democrats slavishly imitate their model.

Another thing--several days ago you were arguing that American politics should be like European politics, and become more unabashedly partisan. As it happens, I was in Europe last week, and during a layover at Heathrow picked up the *Guardian*, which had a column by Martin Kettle comparing the current polarization of American politics *unfavorably* with what he argues is in fact an extensive amount of cross-partisan cooperation in British politics. To at least one observer abroad, American-style partisanship looks really dysfunctional, and very much the wrong way to go.

Posted by: David on January 9, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0, I think what Kevin is trying to say that voters won't mind some partisan throat-slitting, it's that they probably don't want all this crap of dueling talking points on pundit shows over who made what comment and who loves the troops more.

Posted by: Tyro on January 9, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Regardless of which of the top Democratic candidates wins the nomination and presidency, the bickering between liberals and moderates will increase.

When it becomes apparent under the new Democratic administration, Clinton's, Obama's or Edwards', the US will not be leaving Iraq anytime soon and that financial firms are more important than families, I hope liberals and leftists will adopt Nancy Sheehan's advice and begin to oppose Democrats directly.

Moderates will continue to support the status quo and liberals and leftists will have to fight with them in order to fulfill any goals that they thought electing a Democrat would accomplish. I think and hope liberals and leftists will turn their disappointment into combative action against the moderate Democrats who will rule, otherwise the US will continue to dissipate its democracy and economic success.

Posted by: Brojo on January 9, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

I keep thinking about where the phrase, "I'm a uniter not a divider" got us.

And now, thanks to Jerry & Blue Girl, I'll be thinking about triangulation and where THAT got us.

If there was ever a time for fighting, it's the primaries. I'm glad there are so many good campaigners in the race. (Go Edwards!)

Posted by: katiebird on January 9, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

"To at least one observer abroad, American-style partisanship looks really dysfunctional, and very much the wrong way to go."

It is entirely dysfunctional, and it is entirely republican right now.

Take the Iraq war. Democrats want to fund the troops, but want to have input, and want a timetable of withdrawal. No give AT ALL by the 'Pukes.

All that we can do is try LIKE HELL to get them out of office so that they can no longer do any harm.

Posted by: POed Lib on January 9, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

PS -- WHY do I keep putting my URL in the textbox? I've done it with every comment for YEARS (even this time), even though I know perfectly well that it's not displayed.

So keep THAT fact in mind when you read my comments.

I guess I'm a dreamer....

Posted by: katiebird on January 9, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

David, the problem is that this mean that the other party can prevent anything from getting done by refusing to meet with anyone who wants to reach across the aisle.

Politics is very simple: you get things done by theatening the political future of people who oppose you. Because they want to keep their jobs, they will work with you. If you can't strike that fear of opposing voters into them, they have no incentive to acknowledge your attempt to "reach across the aisle."

Posted by: Tyro on January 9, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

As long as the 'publicans are such sorry pieces of feces who want to do nothing but rob the country and impose their simple minded attitudes about social issues there will continue to be partisanship.

Posted by: capitalistpig on January 9, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: ... voters ... aren't tired of partisanship, they're tired of bickering.

Hell, don't they understand that bickering and leaks made this country what it is today?

Posted by: Econobuzz on January 9, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Wow...witness the hope to end the bickering all through this thread. What a joke. Looking forward to eight more years of this nonsense. There's about three posters making decent to good points in this thread and the rest hoping to gain some imaginary upperhand on the percieved source of all their woes. A lot of people on our side have just become the corrupted flip side of the Rovian coin.

Posted by: drosz on January 9, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

drosz, why the heck should their not be partisanship? If we want to stop partisanship, the only way that's going to happen is if all politicians get together and agree to support all of the Democrats' legislation.

Since that isn't going to happen, and since Republicans are elected to enact republican policies and Democrats are elected to enact Democratic policies, we're going to have to accept a lot of partisan maneuvering to get stuff done.

Senators Cornyn and Inhofe aren't going away anytime soon. "Reaching across the aisle" to get their support on addressing climate change issues is going to cause the opposite result of what you want.

If you think your ideas are better for fixing the country, the way to get that to happen is make sure that people who support your ideas win office and the people who oppose them lose. Pretty simple.

Posted by: Tyro on January 9, 2008 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

"A lot of people on our side have just become the corrupted flip side of the Rovian coin."

Did you read my bit about the Civil Rights Commission? Any reactions about the "bipartisan" commission, which has been perverted into a Republican board?

Posted by: POed Lib on January 9, 2008 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the thing: we can't win playing chicken because the Republicans won't flinch. If a bill doesn't pass because it's not the Republican version that's fine with them. Even on something as basic as the federal budget. The fact that the Republicans didn't pass a budget for 2007 should have utterly destroyed them, but it didn't. The Democrats, meanwhile, are still trying to have a functioning government so they are willing to pass crappy bills rather than have the whole thing crash and burn.

I know not passing a budget seems like a strange thing to get worked up over compared to everything else that's happened since 2000, but it means that the Republicans have given up on trying to do business at all.

Posted by: ArkPanda on January 9, 2008 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

The only reason to really have an independent candidate running would be to run on a platform to break the strangehold of the two-party monopoly, especially since the Democratic party seems incapable of championing progressive electoral reforms like IRV that would open up the political market and allow more American citizens to be served in the voting process (we know the Republicans will never do it, at least the Democrats make noises about it once in awhile because of the progressive base).

There are some clear and compelling progressive goals to accomplish that would clean up our political system a bit, ensuring that it is more accountable and responsive to the people while also protecting our values and liberties.

Along with the electoral reform stuff, you have a full commitment to transparency and accountability in government, probably an amendment to the constitution, as well as much stronger privacy laws, if not an amendment to the constitution there as well.

Finally, we do some reaffirmation of basic liberties like habeas corpus as well as to honor our treaty and free world obligations like minding the Geneva Conventions, along with campaign finance and political lobbyist reform that largely removes the inordinate influence of multinational corporations on political activity by our elected leaders, if not remove it nearly altogether and repeal the legal notion of the "corporate person", and suddenly Americans own their country again and Democrats are historical and here-and-now heroes (and still the largest governing coalition, even in IRV).

Once you clear out the detritus, all these obstacles that are basically the system of organized bribery and patronage which is our government, so that we actually govern for the people again and are in tune with what they want and need, then we can smartly and sensibly tackle the challenges of health care, the environment, climate change, poverty, and global transnational crime, including terrorists.

Posted by: Jimm on January 9, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Yes! He can!

He can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew
Cover it with choc'late and a miracle or two
The Candy Man, oh the Obama Man can
The Obama Man can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good

He can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh
Soak it in the sun and make a groovy lemon pie
The Candy Man, the Candy Man can
The Candy Man can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good

The Candy Man makes everything he bakes satisfying and delicious
Now you talk about your childhood wishes, you can even eat the dishes

Oh, he can take tomorrow, dip it in a dream
Separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream
The Candy Man, oh the Candy Man can
The Candy Man can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good

The Obama Man makes everything he bakes satisfying and delicious
Talk about your childhood wishes, you can even eat the dishes

Yeah, yeah, yeah

Believe in Change!

Posted by: Chrissy on January 9, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Having said all that, I don't see Bloomberg being that independent candidate, so what's the point?

It's the Democrats who should be doing this stuff, and seizing the progressive mantle and proving themselves the champions of the people, and committed to ending corruption, bribery, torture, and abuse of authority.

There needs to be some Big Media reform too, in terms of some return to the fairness doctrine as well as strict limits on ownership as far as production, distribution, and so on.

Posted by: Jimm on January 9, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Still do when the person committing the sin isn't the so-called messiah.

According to those Paul Kidz chasing a freaked-out Sean Hannity down the street the other night (which really was hilarious), Ron Paul is the messiah--"America's savior." Kid wasn't even embarrassed to say it.

Look, I understand why people are getting fed up with the Obama-as-The-One stuff. It's a bit much. But there are lots of people with whom Obama's message is strongly resonating who don't view him as a messiah, don't kid themselves that he can successfully turn the tide of corruption and corporatism (although there are possibilities for any Democratic president to slow it down), don't think he's got a lot of special executive gifts the other candidates lack, but nonetheless admire his power to inspire and impassion. And SecularAnimist is right--except for junkies and micro-focused people like us, there aren't a lot of serious policy differences between what Obama and Clinton are offering. Some, but not a lot, and certainly not enough to justify the vitriol going back and forth between the Clinton and Obama camps.

After Bush's smoking ruin of a presidency, people are looking to feel strongly positive emotions this year about a candidate and the possibility for stepping away from the status quo. That's HRC's misfortune and Obama's good luck. But just as many are overestimating Obama's ability to do magic, many others are underselling the significance of this guy's talent for making people feel like they're coming together for something bigger.

Going to either extreme is, I think, misreading the situation.

Posted by: shortstop on January 9, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

I think this is why the current Congress has such low approval ratings. People see them as a bunch of useless bickerers.

Obviously, being a conservative, my opinion about what Democrats wanted may be off base, but I think in 2006 people sent Democrats to Congress to do something. What they got instead were a bunch of politically motivated investigations into stuff that only enthused the pundits and beltway crowd. Many of the so-called "scandals" seemed to be no more than bickering about bickering and trying to prove malicious political motivation, with malicious politically motivated inquisitions. If there really was a candidate who wanted to work in bipartisan ways, you would think he would be popular. But this is how GWB started out and he got hammered by the very Democrats he wanted to work with.

Posted by: John Hansen on January 9, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Part of the problem IMHO is that many Congressional districts have been gerrymandered to be overwhelmingly Democrat or Republican. Then, the primary election is more important than the general election.

The result is that House contains lots of far-right Republicans and far-left Democrats. If we could end the gerrymandering, we would elect more centrists.

BTW, sad to say, there's one area where bipartisanship does work: earmarks. Both parties support the disgusting practice of Congressmen and Senators giving goodies to their friends, relatives and financial backers.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 9, 2008 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think the CEOs of Coke and Pepsi should get together and try to figure out a common formula that everyone will like, and I don't think anyone else does either.

I do. Think of how many billions of dollars are wasted on marketing one brand of sugar-water versus another. Like it makes any difference! And why should I be drinking sugar-water at all?

Posted by: Grumpy on January 9, 2008 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think it's even bickering that people are tired of. I think people are tired of the lack of good faith between the parties. The Republicans have staked out their scorched earth ground and the Democrats haven't realized that the other party isn't having a reasonable disagreement over policy, they are at war.

Posted by: maurinsky on January 9, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Really, the new century Bill of Rights I see us needing to pass includes amendments regarding the Freedom of Information (ensuring transparency and acccountability) and Privacy, so that these are enshrined in the constitution at the highest places (not reliant on transitory congressional mood or judicial interpretation), and probably some reaffirmation of stuff already there that has been abused, like habeas corpus, war powers, and torture (cruel and unusual punishment), and perhaps even bundle in the IRV mandate in there as well for the electoral reform aspect.

Posted by: Jimm on January 9, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

We can't forget the campaign finance and lobbying restriction either, in removing the appearance of corruption and the reality of bribery from our political system, and also take a very hard look at just repealing the "corporate person" status, which is not essential to our democracy or to the operation of corporations in the business markets.

Posted by: Jimm on January 9, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen proves my point. His belief is that "putting an end to partisanship" and "doing something" means "working with the republicans do do everything that Bush and the Republican party want."

Seriously, John, the Democrats can't talk about torture in puiblic without a bunch of taxpayer-paid congre4ssmen wasting their time flooding the talk shows screaming about how Democrats hate the troops. THAT'S actually the problem, and maybe you should think about voting against those clowns instead of supporting them. YOU are in part responsible for the "buckering" because YOU give your aid and support to Republican congressmen who are wasting America's time.

Posted by: Tyro on January 9, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Campaign finance and lobbying reform are prime examples of what's wrong with "bipartisanship." "Bipartisan solutions" invariably are about politicians giving mutual-backrubs to create the appearance of doing something while in fact preserving the systems that they themselves benefit from.

Posted by: Tyro on January 9, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Without the right to migrate, people have become worth less than capital and commodites. There is a lot to fight about.

Posted by: Brojo on January 9, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

... the House contains lots of far-right Republicans and far-left Democrats...

1 out of 2 isn't so bad for you, but, as usual, you're stymied by a crippling ignorance about right & left. Regrettably, the only place you'll find far-left congressional Democrats is in the fevered imaginings of talk radio & folks like you. Just for the sake of our amusement, though, go ahead & tell us who those seething lefties are and what it is that puts them out there on the fringe. This should be good.

Posted by: junebug on January 9, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Obviously, being a conservative, "

Well, when anyone starts a sentence like that, I know immediately that a fascist is there.

Look chucklehead, you're an idiot.

Posted by: POed Lib on January 9, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

hansen has never - never - made a substantive contribution to any thread, nor, presumably, to the gene pool.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 9, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Did you read my bit about the Civil Rights Commission?"

Yes, I definitely did. Who controls Congress now?

"drosz, why the heck should their not be partisanship? If we want to stop partisanship, the only way that's going to happen is if all politicians get together and agree to support all of the Democrats' legislation.

Since that isn't going to happen, and since Republicans are elected to enact republican policies and Democrats are elected to enact Democratic policies, we're going to have to accept a lot of partisan maneuvering to get stuff done.

Senators Cornyn and Inhofe aren't going away anytime soon. "Reaching across the aisle" to get their support on addressing climate change issues is going to cause the opposite result of what you want.

If you think your ideas are better for fixing the country, the way to get that to happen is make sure that people who support your ideas win office and the people who oppose them lose. Pretty simple."

I don't care about partisanship. That's fine with me and a perfectly acceptable way to have people who espouse similar views to build coalitions to get things done. But partisan manuevering has nothing to do with the hate we see nowadays.

Ideas to fix the country are out there, but government is much more complicated than passing the "fix-all" bill. Gaining power through party will only take you so far as I'm sure you know the Republicans have a fairly large bit of support in America. The way policy making is approached is as important as the policy itself. The bickering corrupts this process IMO.

Are the Republicans always acting in good faith? Absolutely not. Do we always act in good faith? Absolutely not. There are ways to get progressive policies passed that are far more effective than bashing the teeth in of your opponents. It's my opinion that policy makers are operating in an environment that favors the former and partisans support this, so why should it stop when one or more of the candidates running for office obviously uses this tactic to the hilt and it works for them to get elected. But after you win using those tactics, it's very difficult to get much done without further strongarm tactics that do more harm than good. It's cycle we've seen playing out for years now and it shows no sign of abating...does it? I'm not beyond convincing, I promise.

Posted by: drosz on January 9, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK
.... 2006 people sent Democrats to Congress to do something. What they got instead were a bunch of politically motivated investigations ... John Hansen at 1:25 PM
Strange, but I recall no such complaints about the hundreds of Republican 'investigations' of Clinton that came to naught and certainly involved no violations of FISA, The Hatch Act, or destruction of CIA videos to name a few Or you could check out the Republican filibusters

Bush only worked with those who supported him. He never wanted to take the viewpoint of others into consideration, so your revisionist history isn't accurate.

.... Who controls Congress now?... drosz at 1:53 PM

That is being blocked by a Republican filibuster. When their side pays no price for obstructionism and isn't held to account, they have no incentive to compromise. Check your facts: When the Democrats did some judicial filibusters, the Republicans wanted to institute a 'nuclear' option and the media castigated the Democrats. When the Republican are playing their games, there is so little media attention paid that most people aren't even aware of it.

Posted by: Mike on January 9, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

drosz, I dispute that "strongarm" tactics do more harm than good. "strongarm" tactics are what elections are all about: "Do What I Say Or You're Fired!"

Partisan maneuvering are politicians saying to each other, "If you don't go along with this, you're going to get fired by the voters." Nothing wrong with that. That's democracy.

Posted by: Tyro on January 9, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

"That is being blocked by a Republican filibuster. When their side pays no price for obstructionism and isn't held to account, they have no incentive to compromise. Check your facts: When the Democrats did some judicial filibusters, the Republicans wanted to institute a 'nuclear' option and the media castigated the Democrats. When the Republican are playing their games, there is so little media attention paid that most people aren't even aware of it."

I am aware, believe me. So how does calling Republicans "Republiscum" fix the problem? How does calling them "fascists" solve the problem? How does inviting similar "commie" themed insults from their side help solve the problem? So since we don't have the votes to overcome a filibuster and it doesn't look like we'll get it through the next election it takes something, now what was it?? That strange word everyone seems to hate...oh yeah, bipartisanship, it takes some bipartisanship to get it done. You can beat the hell out of a stubborn donkey to try and make it move, but unless you approach it right, it ain't going nowhere.

Posted by: drosz on January 9, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

What makes Obama a compelling candidate to me is not that I think he can magically unify Washington and pull people like John Cornyn into the 21st century. I'm one of those people who has been looking at issue poll numbers for a long time and thinking, "We've got a majority on issue after issue. How the hell has the Democratic Party failed to take advantage of that? Why are we always playing defense against crazy right-wing policies that most Americans don't believe in?" And I think the answer is simple. There are lots of people who don't want to have to get down into the details of different policy proposals. They want to trust their leaders to do that. They once trusted Republicans because Republicans had lots of passion and a few simple, understandable, and plausible talking points. These included talking points that grossly mischaracterized Democratic positions, but which Democrats incomprehensibly allowed to define public perception of those positions. But the Republicans squandered that trust, and now those people's votes are up for grabs.

Obama moves these people. It's not because of policies: lots of the same people like McCain too. The key factor is an independent and inspiring vision that seems to be sincerely held. Obama makes people feel good about their country again. And if he can move enough people with an inspiring message, the votes of folks like Cornyn won't matter at all. People criticize Obama as style over substance, and suggest that you have to have everyone's pecker in your pocket a la LBJ (to choose the recently discussed example of the 1964 civil rights act) to get anything done in Washington. But LBJ couldn't have moved the politicians unless others had previously moved the people: Martin Luther King and the Kennedys, among others.

What Democrats have needed for a long time is not a new set of policies, but a new face and a new voice. That's what Obama offers, I think.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on January 9, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

drosz, what do you do when the donkey wants to kick your head in? Because that's what we're dealing with here. The Republicans think you're a traitor who wants to hand the country over to Islamic fundamentalists. Now, tell me, what are you going to do about it?

Posted by: Tyro on January 9, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Tyro,

I agree, perhaps "strongarm" was the wrong term to use. After all, strongarm tactics denotes the use of power and that really is what politics is, when you boil it down it's the use of power. I'm talking about the slimy politics of the "gotcha" game. It's the game you can't win, the game that gives you a short term advantage until your opponents find a way to sock it back to ya. That's what I see happening after the divide, conquer and consolidate tactics I see being used.

Creating and executing a media blitz in support of a policy or putting pressure on political opponents for policy reasons is one thing. But I think you'd agree impeaching a man for lying about a blowjob is just stupid, slimy politics and it was carried out for no other reason than to gain a short term advantage. The policy advantage the Republicans gained from that is long gone, but it still taints our political discourse today.

Posted by: drosz on January 9, 2008 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

"drosz, what do you do when the donkey wants to kick your head in? Because that's what we're dealing with here. The Republicans think you're a traitor who wants to hand the country over to Islamic fundamentalists. Now, tell me, what are you going to do about it?"

LOL...Shoot the rabid bastard!

I do see where you're coming from, don't get me wrong, I bitch about the shady things Republicans have been doing, the idiot commentary about antiwar protestors being traitors, and Republicans mischaracterizing every Democratic policy you can think of. But there are ways to deal with it and fighting fire with fire is not always effective. I think progressive policies are usually in line with helping people, but there are downsides...not a lot, but there are always downsides. If you explain that to voters and make the case without bullshittin' 'em, you'd be surprised how well you'll be recieved.

Suddenly the silly argument that terrorists will rape your poodle if you vote Democratic becomes that much more silly and you start gaining trust you didn't have before. I'm not saying it's easy and someone like Obama will instantly achieve that, it's a long arduous and boring process, but we've got to start somewhere and just let the scoreboard of who got the best of who go to the wayside.

Posted by: drosz on January 9, 2008 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Is there any evidence to support the contention that citizens are tired of political partisanship, bickering, or anything else you want to call it? Or is this just something politicians spout about when they want to protect their own interests? In fact, I'd like to see more partisanship and grandstanding and less of this outdated DC etiquette - anything that will end the war in Iraq, help stabilize the economy, improve public education, and provide basic health care (not insurance) to Americans. Oh, and stand up to GWB's mendacity and lawlessness.

Posted by: Lisa on January 9, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

I hope the 17 were actually doing something quite different and much more useful than promoting some weird kind of bipartisanship. I hope they were plotting the end of the Republican party. This country needs a true conservative party comprised of grown-ups. I think we're getting very close to sending the GOP down the Whig path. With Bloomberg's dollars maybe it could be this year.

Posted by: dennisS on January 9, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

It would be better, and more honest, if the Democratic and Republcan parties merged and a real liberal party was created in opposition to it. What we have now is a one party system that has virtually no differences between them in regards to foreign and national security policy. And probably economic policy, too. Both the Dems and Reps think financial institutions should be bailed out by taxpayers. W. Bush has been bailing out the banks for their subprime incompetence and W. Clinton bailed out Long Term Capital Management. Both used corporate welfare to ostensibly save the financial system, but without any changes or regulations to prevent the next reason for another bailout. I want to belong to a liberal social democracy party, not the Democratic Party of Robert Rubin.

Posted by: Brojo on January 9, 2008 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

What I hear Obama saying -- pretty explicitly in the debate Saturday -- is not that he wants to stop bickering just to be nice, but that he is trying to forge a governing real majority from the center-left. Now this is probably what Hillary would say also, but Obama notes that the Clintons (hey, two for one, right?) were not able to do that in the '90s. In 1992, Clinton got 43 percent of the vote and even in 1996, running against tired old Bob Dole and prior to Monica, Bill polled but 49.2 percent. Gore got 48.3 percent of the popular vote in 2000.

So, you could argue that the nation is irredeemably polarized and no one will break this supposed stalemate, not Clinton, not Obama. Or, you could argue that the Clintons have already shown the limits of their appeal and now is the time for a generational change, a change in tone, a change in emphasis and, of course, the change in the racial make-up of a president that could -- could -- force some sort of political realignment.

Obama is not talking about ending bickering by caving in to conservative positions, but by offering independents and moderate Republicans (whatever is left of them up in Maine and Rhode Island) a message and a leader that they can be drawn to. His belief, and mine, too, is that Mrs. Clinton, because of her history and baggage, isn't that person, but he is.

Posted by: Scott on January 9, 2008 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Barack Obama, of course, has based practically his entire campaign around the idea not that he can end partisanship, but that he can end the bickering. That's a powerful message, even among staunch partisans. But can he?

Of course not.

What he can do is give moderate Republicans the perception that they have been given a fair shake. The key here is to incorporate the better and telling arguments from both sides into your plan.

Awkwardly, there aren't many moderate Republican legislators left in Washington. But there are Republican voters who consider themselves, "Really not that conservative."

Posted by: Measure for Measure on January 9, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

RE: a Bloomberg candidacy, I don't have any strong feelings over either way, although maybe if Huckabee wins the nomination, a non-theocrat centrist might split a bit of the rightwing vote off -- but that could backfire as well. - Norbert


The Bloomberg crowd is basically the old fiscal conservative GOP who is fed up with The Christian Brotherhood™, and with the NeoImperialist warhawks, because they both waste too much money. The Christian Brotherhood™ spends like there is no tomorrow because there isn't going to be a tomorrow, and the NeoImperialists spend like there is no tomorrow because they've convinced they will get their money back.

The Bloomberg bunch knows these two factions are full of shit and they don't want them winning any more elections because they are afraid they will harm the economy so badly that it would actually effect the rich adversely. They basically are the US Neoliberal party and they represent a huge chunk of the Democratic party already. Their aim IMO is to make sure the theocon/neocon bunch in the GOP loses BIG because they see them as a greater financial and economic threat to the country than the Democrats. Most of the Democratic party is already pretty much neoliberal like them already.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 9, 2008 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK
[Kevin:] They aren't tired of partisanship, they're tired of bickering.

(True Indie here...)

C'mon, Kevin. The Dems have only been pointing out that the judgment of the Bush administration has been nearly 100% wrong (I typo-ed 1000% at first - it may be more correct). ONLY the GOP hacks have been spinning the truth - Bush HAS been wrong almost universally - and the purpose has been to deflect accountability and divert attention to someone else, and who better than flaming liberals on the other side of the aisle? They can ALWAYS point at liberals and say SOMETHING that their side of the aisle will be glad is on the table instead of Bush's record. And when the do, their side's bobble heads (sorry, the GOP is hard to respect these days...) start a bobbin', and enough non-righties (enter Lieberman!) fall for it that someone on the right can point and say, "See? Even the lefties agree!"

Calling a spade a spade and a screw-up a screw-up is not bickering. Defending screw-ups by the squeakings of nattering nabobs? THAT is the only bickering, and it is dishonest cowardice of those who don't have a leg to stand on, and their fear of actually addressing the facts. Because the facts are wall-to-wall indictment of Bush, et al.

Don't accept the right's characterization of the Dems' pointing out of Bush's failings. If a Dem says there were no WMDs, the GOP would call that nitpicking and bickering. One I work with keeps saying we shouldn't live in the past, which is a way of saying "When our guy screws up, forget it and forgive him like we do." But they certainly don't forgive or forget Bill Clinton for getting a hummer.

When they deflect like that, you aught not fall for their deflections. Shame on you. You are so level-headed most of the time. Be a tougher audience for them. There ain't no bickering going on.

Posted by: SteveGinIL on January 10, 2008 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

"Obama is not talking about ending bickering by caving in to conservative positions, but by offering independents and moderate Republicans (whatever is left of them up in Maine and Rhode Island) a message and a leader that they can be drawn to. His belief, and mine, too, is that Mrs. Clinton, because of her history and baggage, isn't that person, but he is.
Posted by: Scott on January 9, 2008 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK"

I think this gets it right on. There is a difference between shifting to the center and shifting the center towards you. Obama is the first Democrat I've seen since Bobby Kennedy who could possibly make the Democrats the default party of the majority of Americans again like during Roosevelt. Remember, from 1932-1968, the only time a Republican took office, he was a war hero and a moderate that the Democrats tried to get to run as a Democrat and spoke about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. One of the best tools that Republicans have used and the media has followed has been that opposing Republicans is being partisan and on the fringe. Before Katrina, criticizing Bush was portrayed as being anti-American. We have a chance to flip that paradigm here and, unlike the Republicans, to actually do things to help the American people and to govern well.

Posted by: Reality Man on January 10, 2008 at 3:09 AM | PERMALINK

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backgammon - http://www.nacr.net/ Posted by: backgammon on February 5, 2008 at 3:41 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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