Americans have a soft spot for certain narratives – the Horatio Alger luck-pluck-diligence success stories, small children with terminal illnesses, and, in politics, bipartisanship. Isn't it great when everyone joins hands and gets along? Aren't there some issues on which we are all united in the national interest, the usual partisan bickering and dilatory points-of-order temporarily cast aside?

Certain politicians attempt to use the public's soft spot for reaching across the aisle to their electoral advantage. Two such politicians ran for president in 2008. One of them lost. The other won and is well on his way to proving exactly why I refused to get even momentarily excited about him as a candidate. One of the big reasons I declined to vote in the very competitive primary was a nagging feeling that both paths led to four or eight years of "centrist" New Democrat horseshit. The President-elect gives every indication of assuming the post-Civil Rights era Democratic Party's accustomed role as the battered wife of American politics, assiduously sucking up to their abusive partner in the vain hope that someday the kindness will be repaid. Woefully premature FDR comparisons and messianic zeal among Obama's faithful will quickly turn to disillusionment as the figure they elected starts to look a lot more like Harry Reid than FDR.

As a governing strategy, bipartisanship is for stupids. Post-Gingrich Republicans in Congress have only one goal upon waking each morning: find out what the majority Democrats want to do and say no.
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Say no procedurally, publicly, and with their votes. Delay, obstruct, distract. Obama's presidency will be no different than Clinton's, which is to say it will be one phony "scandal" after another cooked up by the minority party and dutifully dispersed via the talk radio airwaves. And yet time and time again the Democrats allow themselves to be victimized, and in fact encourage it, by "reaching out" in a show of solidarity to keep the GOP in the loop.

As the minority, the Democrats rolled over for every single major decision of the Bush administration (Authorization for the use of force in Iraq, the Patriot Act, Telecom immunity, Alito, Roberts) while offering nothing beyond token opposition. Think the minority Republicans in Congress will be returning the favor in the next few years, supplicating themselves and getting in line behind President Obama? Yeah, me neither. Think the baffling decision to leave the Department of Defense to a Bush stay-behind soldier and the State Department to Hillary "Remember how my husband's schizophrenic foreign policy of interventionism with zero resolve was a recipe for disaster" Clinton will pay off? Yeah, me neither. Think he's going to win over the lunatic Christian fringe by reaching out to Rick Warren and his kind? Yeah, me neither. Think the Cheney-endorsed national security team is going to produce meaningful Change? Yeah, me neither.

Touched by the let's-all-get-along attitude from the incoming President, Congressional Republicans are reminding the backbenchers that "the duty of the opposition party is to oppose." Translation: sharpen the talons.
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Get ready to block appointments and scuttle the ship. Run the government even further into the ground so that the GOP may arise in 2010 and 2012 to say "See? Look how much worse things are…"

In the end Obama, like the party he represents, will attempt bipartisan governing for the same reasons as always: because it's the "right thing to do" and to "change the tone in Washington." It is the right thing to do, of course. But like so many other examples from our lives, in politics doing the right thing correlates strongly with getting torn apart by the amoral throat-cutters on the lookout for honest people of whom to take advantage.


  • And the Dems wonder why they have trouble getting people to vote for them. If they had the balls to stand up for something or even a sign of a spine maybe people would be more inclined to support them. I still say the first thing to do is to make the Repugnicans the Whigs of the 21st Century and then fix or get rid of the Dems. In the end what we need is a party that will work for the good of the people, not the Moneyed Interests.

  • Couldn't agree more. There's a reason we should 'reach across the aisle' in that the other side of the aisle has nothing to offer THIS side. They can come to our table when they're ready to do the decent thing, but not a moment before – and we certainly shouldn't be playing nice with them. That's how we got where we are today – by giving them what they want. No thanks!

  • Ed –

    I also heard that Obama likes to kick cats, hates his own kids and isn't even an American. Oh and he hates his mom and is a Yankee's fan too.

    The guy has only been in office for … oh wait. He hasn't been sworn-in yet.

    I understand the cynicism that exists toward elected officials and governing from the middle. I don't like it any more than the next progressive who wants it to be pay-back time after the last 8 years.

    But the more analytical side of me says that if Obama ran as a unifier and then did what W did then the liberal/progressive movement would be in the same sorry shape the political right is in currently eight years from now. All of us who read this are smart enough to know it's going to take time to undo what the GOP has been doing since the Contract with America.

    While I don't always know exactly what I want, I do know pretty well what I don't want… and that is to trade in two years of trying to ramrod half-baked social, economic and foreign policy bills through Congress only to have them backfire just in time for the next round of elections.

    The change I think a lot of the readers of this blog want is not going to come over night.

    As for Cabinet appointments…

    Hillary Clinton is not her husband. I didn't vote for her and am not really a fan of hers. However, I am willing to let her make her own mistakes before I criticize her in her new role.

    During his Senate confirmation, Gates actually said he didn't think the US was winning the war in Iraq. What's more, when the Walter Reed story came out I believe it was Gates who actually cleaned the mess up. He's not the mindless GOP war-monger Rummy was.

    And for as much as I hate Rick Warren's ideology – especially toward gay and lesbian men and women – can someone please tell me the other people who have given the inagural invocation? Can you tell me what they've said at the event?

    Let's allow Obama the chance to actually govern before we complain about what a horrible job he's doing.

  • My hope is that Obama will reach out to the Repugs the same way aWol reached out to the Democrats: talk about bipartisanship while cheerfully ignoring everything the opposition has to say.

  • I really hope that Obama is more like FDR than Clinton, where he actually stands up for The People and not the economic aristocrats. I agree with BK that Obama shouldn't be criticized until he is actually in office and done something stupid. I completely agree that the Democratic party has been the equivalent to a battered wife. I think this is what Obama really needs to work on. He needs to pound the point home that Reagan and his policies have ruined America and Republicans do not represent 99% of Americans. He needs to fight HARD for issues like a fair economy, labor, global warming, an energy evolution, health care, etc.

    The 2006 and 2008 elections showed that the Democrats can win elections and are not the battered wife anymore: they just need to stop acting like pussies and not be afraid to stand up for their ideas and The People.

  • I just found this blog (while looking for fellow Ayn Rand haters) and I've been browsing the archives. This stuff is great. Thanks.

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