How can we bring back bipartisanship for the good of the country?

Steve Clark and Alison Anderson

Why have politicians, particularly in the past 10-15 years, come to see success as defeating the other party’s initiatives at the expense of the good of the country?  Even when their opponents’ proposals are very popular with their constituents, representatives will fight against them. Why are these senators and representatives reelected, then?

Steve Clark: Let’s talk about the ‘bi’ word…That’s right…“Bi-partisan.”

We heard a lot about it from Democrats before the election but not much since. The current U.S. Senate fight over whether to keep the filibuster throws the ‘bi’ word into high relief…and jeopardy.

Ezra Klein, a liberal podcaster sponsored by the New York Times, believes the lack of bi-partisanship is deliberate and cleverly planned by none other than Mitch McConnell. Klein says that rather than being an evil genius, McConnell simply understands the incentives of the system where disruption of the majority party’s agenda brings the minority party a political advantage.

He cites the 2010 mid-term elections as an example. Remember the 50-seat swing in the House and overturning the Senate with a seven-seat gain?

Are Democrats fearing the same in 2022? Is that why they are so desperately pushing to repeal the all-important filibuster rule, which is the only thing standing between them and the ability to ram through their ultra-liberal agenda?

Democrats are acting as if they know their days are numbered and have thrown away any allegiance to the ‘bi’ word. They are apparently even willing to destroy the Senate’s long-standing role as the leavening influence that keeps our entire political process from devolving into unbridled partisanship.

An integral part of the Senate since 1806, the filibuster has enabled the Senate to become known as the most collaborative and collegial debate club in the world. Under the rule, unless one party has at least 60 seats, the filibuster forces the Senate to act on a bi-partisan basis if they want to get anything done. Would we want it any other way, Alison?

Alison Anderson: I agree, Steve, regarding the filibuster—when one party is in power, they’re eager to accomplish their goals and they consider eliminating it.

Other examples abound. The new child tax credit was very popular among some senators on both side of the aisle before the election. Suddenly, as popular as this direct cash approach is for families with kids, the vote to approve it fell directly along party lines—no bi-partisanship.

Your reference to the 2010 “shellacking” that the Dems took illustrates this issue. Even after Obama’s landslide victory, the Republican minority obstructed virtually every initiative the Democratic majority proposed.

This took nerves of steel on Mitch McConnell’s part, but his gamble was obviously successful. The voting public was frustrated with the slow economic recovery and the gridlock in Congress. So instead of placing the blame with the obstructionist minority party, they rewarded them by blaming the party in power and turning the majority in both houses of Congress over to the Republicans.

Since then, the former “collegial debate club” has become a lot less chummy—and gridlock rules. So yes, the Democrats will have an aggressive approach during Biden’s first two years; they’re eager to help as many regular Americans as they can and solve the pandemic.

Lawmakers see the system as a “zero-sum game.”  If they cannot “win” in the halls of Congress, they see making sure the other party loses as the way to make their opponents look bad and lose the next election.

The real losers in this zero-sum game are the American people, because nothing gets done, or laws without input from both parties—the best kind–are pushed through.

Steve’s response: A well-known country song says, “You start walkin’ your way and I’ll start walkin’ mine.” The problem is that only one party seems interested in “meeting in the middle.”

The pattern became abundantly apparent with the president’s $1.9 trillion pandemic boondoggle that saw only 15 percent go to  actual COVID relief and the rest to Democrat pet projects.

It continues this week with the staggering, bloated, completely unaffordable $2 trillion-plus infrastructure bill. And through it all, Biden hasn’t called Mitch McConnell a single time to ask his input. And this the same week when the national debt exceeded the size of the entire gross domestic product (GDP) for the first time.

Imagine that! We actually owe more now than we make in a year, and Democrats are willing to gut the Senate rules to keep the spending spree going.

Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil must be somewhere scratching their collective heads and asking each other, “Are they crazy?”

The only solace I find in this irrational, extravagant excess is that Democrats appear to be locked onto the same path that cost them so dearly in 2010. They are borrowing and spending out of all proportion to the nation’s ability to pay—and the nation is watching. They have already announced their intent to dramatically raise taxes and have created enormous problems at the border.

They are in the process of destroying our hard-won energy independence and are in negotiations to appease the same enemies America had on the ropes fighting their own domestic insurrections because of the crippling sanctions President Trump had imposed on them. It is a recipe for Democrat self-destruction, but the loaf comes at a dear cost to the nation. 2022 can’t come fast enough.

Alison’s Response: Obviously, I see the situation differently. In the economic and social difficulties created by the pandemic, the country needs significant and serious help.

I’m trying to get at the systemic problems lawmakers have created that prevent both parties from coming up with the bipartisan solutions we need.  When we vote only for people from our own parties, but who are not qualified to create good laws by working together, we get a non-functional government.

At every turn, politicians like Matt Gaetz and Margorie Taylor Greene malign their colleagues, promote extremist rhetoric, and chase after publicity. They’re noisy, power-grabbing gadflies that promote meanness and inflammatory conspiracies.

During elections, instead of voting for candidates based only on whether they’re members of our tribe, why don’t we ask ourselves a few tough questions?

Is this candidate a decent human being? 

Does he reflect my core values? 

Is she honest? 

Does he treat others with respect?

Is she intelligent enough to understand lawmaking?

Will he represent my state or just grab headlines?

Can she seriously address the problems that face our country?

Does his past behavior indicate that he has a high degree of integrity?

We owe ourselves some serious research and thought as we vote. We may occasionally vote for another party if our party’s candidate fails to measure up in some of these areas—but we will also avoid these cults of personality and partisanship that are plaguing our country. And I believe that our elected officials, instead of pushing nastiness and high drama, might actually do their jobs. What a concept!