Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bipartisanship vs "doing what works" Take 2

When President Obama severely worsened his stimulus bill in order to win over republican votes that he didn't need, it was an odd choice. And a not a very wise choice as it turns out, since the bill passed the house with exactly zero republicans supporting it.

While it doesn't matter how many republicans voted for the bill as long as it passes (a concept I hope Obama grasps for future battles), this idea that bipartisanship is inherently good is one of the most infuriating lies in all of politics. Kos provides a well worded take-down:

I know this is a difficult concept for the Broder-wannabee-"bipartisan" fetishists, but there are good ideas, and bad ideas. And it's clear that the GOP was full of nothing but bad ideas, since they're the ones that brought us to where we are today.

So if you've got two parties that fundamentally disagree on how to solve our nation's problems (including one that created said problems), it's not better to take the good ideas, take the bad ideas, and somehow "meet in the center". That doesn't make the "good" ideas any better. In fact, it makes them worse. It's simple logic anywhere but inside the Broder/Halperin world.

Bottom line, there is nothing inherently good about "bipartisanship". The only thing that matters is whether a solution is good or not. Consider that two of Bush's biggest disasters -- his tax cuts and Iraq -- were "bipartisan" affairs. Getting votes from the opposite party doesn't make the underlying legislation any more likely to succeed. If anything, our nation would've been better served with more partisanship during those times.

Finally, as we've discussed ad infinitum, there was no margin for Republicans to support this. If the stimulus succeeds, Obama and the Dems will get all the credit. If it fails, everyone who voted for it will get tarred with it. So Republicans are better off making sure it's seen as a Democratic proposal rather than a bipartisan one. That way, they can wield it as a political weapon.

And that's not a bad thing. There's one last negative byproduct of bipartisanship -- lack of accountability. It's harder to hold people responsible for their mistakes when everyone points a finger at someone else. In this case, let the voters note which party is responsible for the stimulus. If it succeeds (and I'm not 100 percent confident that it will), let the credit go to those who deserve it, and if it fails, then Democrats will have to take their accountability lumps. And that's the way it should be.

Republicans played this properly, unlike the constantly-capitulating Dems the past decade. It's Obama's chasing of the magic "bipartisan" pony that deserves scorn, because no number of concessions was going to get him a single Republican vote in the House. The Senate is different, and he'll get crossover support there which he can use to laud his "bipartisanship". But House Republicans? Screw them. They are irrelevant, unpopular, and should henceforth be treated as such.

The stimulus was supposed to be one of the easiest bills that the Obama Administration had to pass, and frankly I'm still amazing at how much it's been fucked up. Hopefully it serves as a lesson for the future, because if they use this approach for any of the major legislative battles, the Republicans will eat us alive.

For the shorter version of this post, here's a pretty common sense quote from John Kerry:
If they’re not going to vote for it, let’s go with a plan that we think is going to work.
Yeah, that seems about right.

1 comment:

  1. "democrats... democrats never change"
    -wolf blitzer