Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

November 13, 2010

WHEN (AND WHY) BIPARTISANSHIP IS IMPOSSIBLE.... Fox News personality Dana Perino, best known for her work as the Bush White House's final press secretary, complained this week that Democrats refused to "reach out" to Republicans during the debate over health care reform. GOP officials, she said, offered good "ideas," but the Democratic majority wouldn't listen.

As a substantive matter, Perino is deeply confused, and seems to have forgotten about months of outreach to the GOP and the incorporation of all kinds of GOP ideas into the final policy.

But more important that Perino's lack of familiarity with current events is the larger point about bipartisan policymaking. It doesn't fit well into the Fox News narrative, but Ezra Klein noted yesterday that over the last century, Democrats consistently moved to the right to try and garner more support, and "Republicans moved further right every time Democrats tried."

When Truman tried to pass what was, in effect, Medicare for all, Republicans balked and said they preferred a more market-based pay-or-play system. When Clinton endorsed the market-based pay-or-play system, Republicans balked again, saying that they preferred a mandate/subsidies kind of system. When Obama endorsed the mandate/subsidies system crafted by Republicans in the '90s and adopted by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, Republicans balked again, this time saying they don't want to address the problem at all.

As Ezra concluded:

So over the last 80 years or so, Democrats have responded to Republican opposition by moving to the right, and Republicans have responded by moving even further to the right. In other words, Democrats have been willing to adopt Republican ideas if doing so meant covering everybody (or nearly everybody), while Republicans were willing to abandon Republican ideas if sticking by them meant compromising with the Democrats.

But because Democrats were insistent on getting something that would help the uninsured, they've ended up looking like the partisans, as they keep pushing bills Republicans refuse to sign onto.

It's quite a racket.

It's also, by the way, a model with broader applicability. As we've seen repeatedly with a wide variety of policy efforts, Democrats are interesting in solving a policy problem and are willing to negotiate to get something done. Republicans are interesting in preserving ideological purity and ignoring policy problems that can't be solved through tax cuts for millionaires.

The political world need not ponder why bipartisanship seems so impossible. The answer is fairly obvious.

Steve Benen 9:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

Bookmark and Share

The reason why bipartisanship seems so impossible is because our political system rewards the most ideological legislators. If you haven't first paid fealty to the base, then even the most talented lawmaker never gets their chance before the American people.

Posted by: Jon Karak on November 13, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

What you are really explaining is that Republicans are more motivated by the power of office, than the public interest of governing. In contrast, Democrats believe governing is more important. That is why Democratic negotiators forever appear meek and flip-floppy while the Republicans look strong and bold.

Posted by: Jon Karak on November 13, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Let's face some facts, Perino wasn't chosen to be Press Secretary because of her intellectual chops, she was put there to appeal to male reporters loins.
I certainly don't expect FOX to try to show examples of Democratic outreach, or even to know about it. What pisses me off is when every other TV moron reporter does the same thing. They nod their heads, don't ask a follow-up, and go right on ahead to the next lie the Republican is about to unleash. Rinse and repeat...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on November 13, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Get this,

Later, Scalia returned to the issue of flogging, saying it's "stupid" but "not unconstitutional, which is stupid. There's a lot of stuff that stupid that's not constitutional."

Scalia said he has no interest in what legislators intended when making a particular law.'


Well, so much for 'original intent' or 'strict constructivism'!

Who is 'legislating from the bench'?

Who is 'fitting it into their pre-conceived ideology regardless of the facts or merits of the case'?

Posted by: cld on November 13, 2010 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

"I don't at all look to what I think the legislature thought," Scalia said. "I frankly don't care what the legislature thought."


He is a man among midgets.

Posted by: cld on November 13, 2010 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Now that I think of it,

doesn't that make Scalia impeachable?

Hasn't he just admitted he ideologically refuses to perform due diligence?

That his ideology demands incompetence as if it were virtue?

Posted by: cld on November 13, 2010 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Has anyone discovered why Dana was offered the "Bay of Pigs" Seat in the History Department of the University of South Florida?

Posted by: berttheclock on November 13, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

I've come to the conclusion that repubs are unwilling, or unable to work.
Pick an issue. Any issue Dems are generally willing to work toward a compromise, while repubs universally line up to fight it - whatever it is.

As for Perino, what planet was she on during HCR process? Screaming SOCIALIST! MARXIST! NAZI! is not engaging in a political debate. It's more like the guy with the shopping cart, earflaps down in August, who shakes his fist at passing busses. Or is that what passes for policy with the modern GOP?

Posted by: JoeW on November 13, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

In the sphere of war making the dems have moved to the right, have been bipartisan in support of the war and the war machine, solely for the sake of maintaining their political power. Witness
Viet Nam, Iraq, etc. Witness LBJ, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, etc. Bipartisanship by dems to counter the Republican hold on national defense (or at least the perception of that power) has been very costly to the US. The dems play this bipartisan thing very badly in both domestic and foreign policy. And the people suffer.

Posted by: lou on November 13, 2010 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Perino's not confused, she's a paid liar. Just say it, and screw the rhetorical flourishes.

Posted by: dr. bloor on November 13, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

berttheclock - SWEET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on November 13, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I think Senator Bird put it best:


Things are so bad now that even the left will now "radicalize". That's Change I really can believe in.

Posted by: Trollop on November 13, 2010 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

There's an easy test. If you sponsor legislation then distance from it and even deny you sponsored it when a Dem supports the legislation, that means you have no interest in either governing seriously or bipartisanship.


Posted by: Pete on November 13, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

My name is Hortensia
and my Mama's name is Hypocritia
We live Half Truthia
and sell Banana oil

Posted by: FRP on November 13, 2010 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

You don't reach out to a mad dog. You grab a stick and hit it upside the head. Contrast how Obama and the D's struggled to pass bills with how Bush and Delay rammed things through with a razor thin (12 seats) majority in the house. Sure we can negotiate with the conservatives, but only from a position of strength. Anything else is folly.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on November 13, 2010 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

deeply confused, and seems to have forgotten

It's called lying. I'm so tired of circumlocution.

Posted by: Fleas correct the era on November 13, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

To be more thorough, the right wing moves further right even when they aren't interested in compromise.

Iraq war anyone?

We'll leave when Iraq poses no threat (WMD). DONE. Move further right.
We'll leave when we have Saddam Hussein in custody. DONE. Move further right.
We'll leave when Iraq holds Democratic elections. DONE. Move further right.
We'll leave when violence subsides. DONE. Move further right.
We'll leave when Iraq is ready to stand up so we can stand down. DONE. (SOFA) Move further right.

Obama wins.
We leave.
Cut n' run surrendercrats.

They move the goalposts even when they work alone.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on November 13, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone should also remember that these lies are being enabled by the MSM failing to do first-year journalism. No follow-up questions? Socializing with the subjects of your reporting? No background information on politicians' positions, current and/or previous? I've never even studied journalism and these are things that occur to me to apply to ANY reporting about ANY politician.
It's a given that Republicans aren't worried about legislation since they'll pass whatever the lobbyists provide, thus leaving them with all that free time to spend in front of cameras.
Democrats, political nerds if you will, are busy doing their homework, aka committee work, and finishing their assigned reading, aka legislation. They don't have TIME to spend hangin' with the kool kids, aka the Fourth Estate.
The only way I can think of to to counteract this is for the DNC, SCC, and DCCC to serve as the public voice of the Democratic politicians. Let these organizations ensure that accurate accounts of what's in legislation are pushed out to the media. Let those organizations coordinate with those staffers representing both House and Senate members and caususes. Uniting the publicity organizations in this manner should, I would think, provide a much more truthful and coherent picture of the Democratic Party; which certainly couldn't hurt.
If a Democratic Representative or Senator objects to some piece of legislation, they can run AGAINST what the party's position was/is on that legislation during their nect re-election campaign.
If they really want to, seeing how well that worked out two weeks ago...

Posted by: Doug on November 13, 2010 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

Is Bi-Partisanship possible in modern political America? Watch documentary SPLIT: A DIVDED AMERICA http://bit.ly/SPliT

Posted by: Anna on November 15, 2010 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly