Monday, May 21, 2007


According to conventional wisdom, “bipartisanship” is in short supply in Washington. Perhaps it is in the sense that Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate get along less well with one another than they once did. But, contrary to what we are repeatedly told on NPR and in the corporate media, unfriendliness is not the same thing as “polarization.” If anything, the parties are less polarized than they used to be. Between 1992 and 2006, the time of the Clinton Ascendancy, the Democrats, never much of an opposition to start with, turned themselves into full-fledged, kinder and gentler, or at least less incompetent, Republicans. Evidence mounts day by day that, even after the 2006 elections, this remains the case.

The conventional wisdom also has it that bipartisanship is a good thing. Is it? Lets look at the record. There was, according to the usual account, a bipartisan foreign policy during the Cold War. That consensus recklessly endangered life on earth and turned the United States into a national security state. Was that a good thing? Was the consensus on the so-called War on Terror and the Iraq War? Or what about the two most touted examples of bipartisanship in domestic politics – the dreadful “No Child Left Behind” assault on the remnants of public education; and the tentative agreement announced last week by Ted Kennedy on immigration policy? Kennedy conceded that the bill was not “perfect,” and leading Democrats have outdone themselves these past few days proclaiming that the perfect must not become the enemy of the good. But just what is good about balancing nativist racism with the labor requirements of American capitalism -- at great human cost to the least well-off among us? This is “compassionate conservatism” run amok, George Bush style, with liberal Democrats in the lead!

No, dear pundits, bipartisanship is not such a great thing. But if you really think it is, why not just come out in favor of a one party state? We’re already most of the way there.

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