It’s Time for the Republicans to Be Bipartisan

September 15, 2009

…or so sayeth President Obama.  Not that he is alone.  Republicans call for “bipartisanship” as well.  One media site even argues that the media have been too hard on Obama in examining his bipartisan efforts, and should instead focus on the Republicans’ purported failure to be bipartisan (notwithstanding that the Republicans don’t have any power to block anything the Democrats want to do, so it’s not like they’re obstructing anything). 

Cutting through the rhetoric, bipartisanship is nothing more than bone-tossing.  The masses and the media may be fooled, but no politician is really bipartisan, nor does he or she desire to be.  They are merely cognizant of the need for public approval, so it’s a public relations move.  Does anyone ever really want to compromise unless they have to?  Of course not. 

Bipartisanship for Democrats in power means that they’ll lob Republicans a bone in exchange for good public relations.  Bipartisanship for Republicans in the minority means “if you guys run over us, don’t think we’ll forget it or ignore it in the media, especially if you get everything you want and then you fail.”  (Incidentally, I think the real reason Democrats so badly want bipartisan support on bailouts and universal healthcare is that they don’t want to bear all of the blame if those risky moves blow up in their faces.)

But conversely, bipartisanship for Republicans in power means that they’ll lob Democrats a bone in exchange for good public relations.  Bipartisanship for Democrats in the minority means “if you guys run over us, don’t think we’ll forget it or ignore it in the media, especially if you get everything you want and then you fail.”  You may recognize this from the past election cycle, where the questionable war effort was blamed entirely on the Republicans, and the Democrats went for the throat. 

The media may play a different role on one side than they do on the other, but when it comes to political speeches, politicians left and right are both playing the same game on the same field, and like any championship team, they cheat when they can get away with it.

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