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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

'Bipartisan Solution' is an Oxymoron

Flintstones clubLike a lot of kids from my generation, I grew up watching The Flintstones. It wasn't very funny, but I was a kid, it was colorful, and that was good enough. After all, this was the same generation that thought Scooby Doo was the best thing ever, despite the fact that every single episode was almost identical -- different location, different villain in a different costume, and that was it.

Needless to say, I don't see a lot I still find funny when I look back. Except the boxing matches. That was a great idea. You get two cavemen in a boxing ring and they take turns whacking each other over the head with a club. I think this is pretty funny still, but I'm a deeply disturbed man.

Anyway, this is what "bipartisanship" looks like to me. One party offers a suggestion and the other side beats the hell out of them for it. Then the other party offers a competing suggestion and they take their turn getting the crap knocked out of them. It's absurd, it's stupid, it's ineffectual, and it's surprisingly popular.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that the public likes bipartisanship, but doesn't find a lot of it in Washington.

Nearly six in 10 in the new poll say the Republicans aren't doing enough to forge compromise with President Obama on important issues; more than four in 10 see Obama as doing too little to get GOP support. Among independents, 56 percent see the Republicans in Congress as too unbending and 50 percent say so of the president; 28 percent of independents say both sides are doing too little to find agreement.

In this Flintstones boxing match, Republicans are clearly losing. The "no healthcare reform ever" message is losing -- the GOP is seen as the most partisan and "nearly two-thirds of Americans say they want Congress to keep working to pass comprehensive healthcare reform."

This realization of defeat is even admitted to by a large percentage of Republican voters -- 44% see their party leaders "as doing too little to strike deals with Obama," while only 13% of Democrats are "worried about inaction on Obama's part."

The GOP's partisan obstructionism becomes especially apparent after reading a post by Ezra Klein. In it, Klein points out that Republicans demand certain reforms -- and that every one of those reforms are in the Senate healthcare bill. In other words, the GOP gets everything they want in that legislation and they're still running to FOX News hourly to explain how it's the worst thing ever.

"On Sunday, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell responded to Barack Obama's summit invitation by demanding Obama scrap the health-care reform bill entirely," Klein wrote yesterday. "This is the context for that demand. What they want isn't a bill that incorporates their ideas. They've already got that. What they want is no bill at all. And that's a hard position for the White House to compromise with."

The real Republican position isn't that plans for healthcare reform are bad -- it incorporates all of their ideas -- the real position is that Barack Obama must not suceed in passing a bill. See, that spoils the narrative they're constructing that Obama is a hopelessly ineffectual president. If people think Obama's doing a good job, then the "big Republican year" in November is in jeopardy and 2012 is out the window entirely.

Meanwhile, 45,000 people will die this year from a lack of healthcare coverage. To put this into perspective, 9/11 killed 3,000 people. In response, we had to run off and invade Iraq right now, we had to throw out civil liberties and privacy, and begin torturing people. We began a war that served no purpose, abandoned principles this nation was founded on, and flushed $3 trillion down the toilet.

The crisis we're in right now will kill 15 times as many people as 9/11 and Republicans argue that there's no big rush. I guess we should be happy they aren't lifeguards or paramedics -- they'd show up and save you in a year or so.

Unfortunately, the same can be said of Obama and the Democrats. The president has issued yet another call for bipartisanship. How often does that paleolithic pugilist have to smack you over the head with a club?

On the bright side, there are signs that the idea of a bipartisan solution is on its last legs. Obama won't rule out budget reconciliation to pass a bill and reports have it that he chewed out John Boehner over obstructionism in a private meeting.

Bipartisanship may be popular, but so is Santa Claus -- and both are as likely to start offering solution in DC any time soon. The belief in the public's love of bipartisanship is misplaced; quick, name your favorite law. Was it bipartisan? Do you even know? Do you even care?

On the other hand, one bipartisan bill jumps readily into my head -- the authorization to use force in Iraq. Aren't the results more consequential than the process?

The time has passed to put the idea of bipartisanship behind us. It'd be nice, but it's not going to happen -- Republicans will make sure of that.

It's also not even remotely necessary.


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MSNBC's Rachel Maddow explained the problem with seeking bipartisanship last night, thoroughly and inarguably.