Wednesday, February 13, 2008

(Shudder) Bipartisan

Perhaps the shared air they breathed during the debates infected them both. Front runners GOP John McCain and Dem Barack Obama both speak of bipartisanship and achieving meaningful goals through compromise if elected Prez.


Even my own podcast buddy, Ryan Adams, held forth on that in yesterday's sounding. He accurately notes the long-term Republican Presidential and Congressional scorched-earth policy of forcing what they want and demand on Democrats and the whole nation. This has worked when they out-represented Dems in Congress, used their filibuster powers and Bush vetoes to block majority votes, clogged the courts by refusing to confirm moderate judges, and successfully counted on timorous behavior by far too many Dems in Congress.

It is more than understandable that many leftists are not willing or eager to compromise. Certainly for the past seven years and arguably since the 1994 Contract with (on) America, Republicans have done whatever they could to manifest their hopes and fantasies. We live in crippling national debt, have buried many thousands of our soldiers and support troops, have seen the value of our output and currency flailing, and have lost the role of world leader in authority, morality, economics, industry, innovation, education and health. Scorched earth, indeed.

With the background of conservative behavior and leftist reaction, it is no surprise when either side screams, "No compromise!" However, it is a bit of a shock that the two current front runners do not shy away from bipartisan and compromise lingo when so many in their respective parties decry the concepts as weak, ineffective and even immoral.

When both were on the floor of the Senate this week, McCain strode across the chamber to greet Obama and clasp his arm. It was a reprise of their cordial greeting in a portion of the AP photo by Steve Senne above. That befits McCain's maverick image and reinforces that both of them think this holds more promise than adversarial legislating.

We know what GOP and Dem hardliners think of this. What would Ayn Rand say?

Well fortunately, we have some pith on the subject. Consider:

  1. The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles. — Ayn Rand in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

  2. From the beginning of our history the country has been afflicted with compromise. It is by compromise that human rights have been abandoned. I insist that this shall cease. The country needs repose after all its trials; it deserves repose. And repose can only be found in everlasting principles. — Sen. Charles Sumner

  3. All government -- indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act -- is founded on compromise and barter.Edmund Burke
Rand, of course, hated the term and concept of compromise. In his own way, staunch abolitionist Sumner was just as much an absolutist. In fact, he was so uncompromising that he was relieved of Senate roles, including constructing the 13th Amendment banning slavery. The moral certitude of each sounds familiar today.

I don't fear compromise or bipartisan deals on either political or moral bases. In fact, I argue that we may well be at one of those rare political moments that occurs only every few generations. Only when times and public attitudes are right can pacific and progressive visions stand a chance.

Compromise need not follow a drug pusher's sort of the-first-one's-free trap. Working together to extricate us from the Iraqi and Afghani disasters does not mean caving on social issues or piling more cash on the plutocrats.

One could quibble that bipartisanship and compromise differ. However, in this time, such distinctions ignore the far more important underlying concepts. For those who believe that the right wingers have so poisoned the well that none can drink from it, the ideas seem impossible. For many centrists, the memory of how accommodating the right seems to equal capitulating to destructive policies.

Certainly, many right-wing politicians and their puppeteers seem to know only brinksmanship, one-upmanship, and bullying. If a President comes in wanting to put the good of the nation over party ideology, those sorts will be at a loss. It has been far too long since they've been civil that they will soil the rugs and scare the children.

Undoubtedly, if a Barack Obama tries consensus and reason unsuccessfully upon taking office, he will not sit in a corner whimpering in defeat. Compromises can be catalyzed with other tools, such as political pressure and even threats, and the classic public shaming over indefensible positions.

Expect to hear ideologues and those bent on revenge reviling talk of bipartisan politics. They are stuck in the past, but are likely to remain firm in their views.

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Laurel said...

Let us see who is most sincere about compromise. Will it be a McCain/Obama ticket, or an Obama/McCain ticket? ;)

Obama has already compromised on full civil rights for LGBT people, and he's not even president yet. So has Clinton, for that matter. What are we to think when one fraction of the population is compromised in favor of another? Not all compromise is desirable. Some subjects should be off the table. I guess I'm channeling Wm Garrison today.

massmarrier said...

As a regular here, Laurel, you know that I don't find Obama or Hillary, or even Edwards anywhere near strong enough on rights -- GLBT, marriage equality, or any form of civil. All are cowardly and lacking in conviction, until you contrast them with the Republicans.

There's been a lot of talk about anti-compromise/anti-bipartisan behavior assuming a win in November. We have a lot of justification for paying back the Republicans, but I think Dems should be better than that and still get the good stuff done.

Laurel said...

the good stuff - one place i see great promise of bipartisanship is reducing the numbers of std infections and unwanted pregnancies. pro- and anti- choicers will never agree on abortion. but we all agree that finding ways of reducing unwanted pregnancies is a commonality. std infection rate is a related issue (although i rarely hear the pro-lifers bothering to mention it except to brand gays as the HIV Marys).

environmental issues may be another area of limited bipartisan cooperation. however, because industrial interests have a major stake in this issue (and investment in legislators' campaign chests on both sides of the isle), i think environmental issues will be much more difficult to untangle.

Ryan Adams said...

I merely think partisanship can be a valuable tool. If Republicans aren't going to come to the table and try to put their honest input in, and instead either try to block the process or otherwise muck things up, then yes, we need to go on and do things on our own and pass it in spite of them.

But we can't let them continue to be obstructionists. And we can't keep letting the Democratic DINOs turn bipartisanship into a bad word, using it to give into the Republican Party's every desire. They've been trained to think compromise means to "hand over all the loot and no one will get hurt" and I find that reprehensible.

Of course, as with all things, everything must come in moderation. Partisanship is just one tool we have available to employ - and hopefully we'll only need to use it once or twice, and that'll be enough to get Republicans to the bargaining table.

massmarrier said...

I admit I'm a bit fixated on this. On the other hand, assuming a McCain/Obama fight, if the GOP doesn't devolve into just sliming the Dem, there's an opening. If the debate includes pledges of laws and policies the two promise to pursue bipartisanly, we have meaningful measures. If it ends up Clinton/McCain or just a poo-flinging contest, that doesn't happen.

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