The “Benefits” of Bipartisanship

There are times for bipartisanship. There are issues on which members of both political parties agree, and sometimes those issues produce landmark legislation. There are also times when, like in diplomacy, compromise is necessary to achieve anything at all. However, I am convinced that bipartisanship for bipartisanship’s sake is not a virtue.

Without getting excessively Hegelian, I believe that there is an element of truth in the operation of a dialectic, especially regarding the reform of government. Where honest debate and honest intentions exist, a conflict between different reforming priorities should produce a synthesis containing the best of each world view. This is largely the dynamic that drove the British reforms of the 19th century, which expanded the franchise, introduced labor laws, and created the beginnings of a social safety net (see footnote below).

Unfortunately, bipartisanship, especially the version practiced in America whereby Democrats water down their principles to attract (unnecessary) Republican votes, preempts this dynamic. Years of milquetoast Democratic rule neither corrects the excesses of the previous Republican rule, nor does it sufficiently advance the goals of progressive ideology to allow for a true synthesis. The result is a political system in which the ‘centrist’ point of view is inexorably pulled to the right. I do not believe that this reflects the viewpoints of Americans in general, but rather the scope of ‘permitted discourse’ as represented in the media (see this wonderful discussion of this phenomenon here.) This then shapes the world view of the next generation.

All of this goes to say that I am very disappointed in President Obama’s approach to passing the stimulus plan. More on the flip.

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Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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