Bipartisanship is not a magic word

Jeb Bush caused a stir this week when he said partisanship in Washington had gone too far. If that doesn’t sound like news, what really drew attention was the former Florida governor’s apparent belief his father and Ronald Reagan would find it difficult to become the GOP nominee these days.

I say “apparent” because Bush’s statement, in an interview with Bloomberg, included one enormous qualifier. Reagan and George H.W. Bush would have trouble with today’s GOP, the younger Bush said, “if you define the Republican Party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement.”

Well, that settles that!

The notion that Reagan, at least, would be spurned by the contemporary GOP is odd. In 1980 he was considered far more conservative than the elder Bush, who succeeded him as the Republican standard bearer. Nothing about nominees Bob Dole (1996) or John McCain (2008) places them to Reagan’s right. Even George W. Bush was less aggressive than Reagan on taxes, and his spending, given that unlike Reagan he had a fully GOP-led Congress to work with, is less forgivable.

Yet, Bush didn’t mean Reagan was too conservative for the 2012 GOP.

Until cloning technology allows us to re-create Reagan in the flesh, however, this is just a parlor game. The more pertinent matter is whether Bush was correct to point the finger at partisanship.

Or, even better, whether bipartisanship is the cure for what ails us.

Bipartisanship gave us the No Child Left Behind Act, which both sides now criticize (for different reasons). There was significant support from each party in Congress to authorize the Iraq war, which the left eventually disowned and of which the right grew weary.

The same goes for McCain-Feingold — formally, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act — which sought to get “soft money” out of elections but instead led to super PACs.

That’s just in the past 11 years. Back in the Reagan era, when the president struck those bipartisan deals of which Jeb Bush approves so much, “working together” brought us tax cuts but only unfulfilled pledges of reduced spending, and amnesty for illegal immigrants without the promised border enforcement to prevent future illicit border crossings.

I could go on, just as Bush or others could point to good laws that passed with bipartisan support: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for instance.

The point is that being “bipartisan” doesn’t necessarily make a bill good.

Obamacare wouldn’t have magically become good law if a few Republicans had voted for it. The handful of GOP votes for the Dodd-Frank financial reform didn’t prevent it from enshrining “too big to fail” into the law or squeezing credit markets.

A common argument today is that the problem has more to do with obstructionism, that too often one side stands in the other’s way to forestall legislative progress.

The left trotted out this argument back in the health-care debates of 2009-10. In fact, very liberal Democrats spent several months trying to bully moderate Democrats into supporting very liberal policies before Scott Brown’s election to the Senate gave Republicans enough votes even to be obstructionist.

Lately, the GOP-led House and majority-Democrat Senate have disagreed about long- and even short-term plans for taxes and spending. The bipartisan solution being urged is for Republicans to accept higher taxes in order to get lower spending. That happens to be the exact kind of arrangement, economists now warn, that would lead our economy off a “fiscal cliff” in 2013. But at least we’d be holding hands as we took the plunge!

When “bipartisan” means taking the best ideas from both sides, it’s not such a bad thing. If this happens less frequently these days, I chalk it up to two things.

First, while there’s an apparent cry for compromise, there’s very little consensus about what’s an acceptable compromise. We want other people’s taxes raised, or spending that affects other people cut. Politicians don’t advocate splitting things down the middle, because there’s no sign of a constituency for shared pain.

Second, even when combining ideas is practical, the results tend to be smaller than the kind of Grand Compromise we think we need for our toughest problems. But in some cases — health care comes to mind — it’d be better to take several nibbles at problems than to go whole-hog.

Making both sides mad, or happy, too often is just an excuse for not making sure to make good law.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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268 comments Add your comment

Farsider

June 14th, 2012
5:37 am

A lot of the talk that Reagan couldn’t cut it today in the Birther Party primary is simply a counter-factual analysis of what he actually did. He cut taxes. A lot. But then he pivoted and raised them the next year. One of the biggest peacetime tax increases ever. He negotiated with terrorists when he said he wouldn’t. But Presidential candidates don’t run on their future record, so in that sense it isn’t fair to Reagan to apply what he DID to his so-called political leanings when he actually ran for the office.

Joel Edge

June 14th, 2012
5:52 am

We’ve “compromised” ourselves into this hole. This bipartisan plea is getting old. Fool me once, etc.
Good article.

Common Sense isn't very Common

June 14th, 2012
7:06 am

So what’s the answer Kyle?

More partisan politics or less?

On what bills?

Why can’t the bills stand on their own merits and be voted on(and debated) one at a time instead of having all the riders in them?

I thought that was the plan in Congress since the 2010 elections, but the stuff I see appended to all the important bills has absolutely nothing to do with the original and for the most part is a partisan rider.

jconservative

June 14th, 2012
7:14 am

I would agree that Reagan was one of the more effective “compromisers” of my generation. I would also agree that nothing is magic about the word compromise. It all depends on who’s ox is being gored.

Here is a little chart on who was in charge during the Reagan presidency.

Year……Congress..President…Senate…….House
1987……..100th………R…………..D – 55…….D – 258
1985……….99th………R…………..R – 53…….D – 253
1983……….98th………R…………..R – 54…….D – 269
1981……….97th………R…………..R – 53…….D – 242

For 6 of his 8 years Reagan had the Senate covering his back. Yet that was the period of some of his more far reaching compromises. That was the period he became a “moderate” Republican.

When a president triples the national debt he losses the right to be called conservative.

I disagree with Jeb Bush. Reagan would be the presidential nominee in 2012. He was just as moderate as the current nominee, Mitt Romney.

If one wants a conservative Republican president one must look back to Herbert Hoover. All since have been “moderate” at best.

@@

June 14th, 2012
7:15 am

The bipartisan solution being urged is for Republicans to accept higher taxes in order to get lower spending.

Didn’t work for Reagan. He negotiated with dems in good faith and they took us to the cleaners.

Politicians don’t advocate splitting things down the middle, because there’s no sign of a constituency for shared pain.

Shared pain for everyone is TRULY fair. Dems would argue otherwise.

…it’d be better to take several nibbles at problems than to go whole-hog.

Which is what Republicans were advocating during the debate process. “Slow down” is what I heard. Dems refused to listen. Impatient children, they…

Illegal Alien

June 14th, 2012
7:23 am

Nazis or Communists didn’t believe in bipartisanship either.

It works both ways. This should be a team effort.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

June 14th, 2012
7:25 am

Since obozo extended the Bush tax cuts, I guess that means the tax and spend dummycrats should immediately disavow him, right?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 14th, 2012
7:27 am

Which Democrat is going to compromise when more than half the country is getting a government check? Welcome to Handout Nation, and Democrats are the party of handouts.

Ayn Rant

June 14th, 2012
7:30 am

The Republican Party is a bunch of greedy, disagreeable old white men, backed by a bunch of foolish, senile billionaires. Could that possibly be what Jeb Bush alluded to?

Compromise with that lot is the worst thing a president, senator, or congressman could do for his country. The Republican “program” is: keep waging the Cold War by squandering trillions on sophisticated, usually unreliable, weapons for which there is no enemy; refrain from burdening the ultra-rich with taxes that support the institutions and infrastructure from which they derived their wealth; deregulate the predatory, monopolistic business practices that restrict free enterprise; and convince gullible voters that the ultra-rich, if showered with even more wealth, will invest their capital in job-creating American enterprise even if there is no consumer demand for new products and services.

There is no middle ground between sense and nonsense. Forget compromise and bipartisanship! The future of our country depends on the destruction and reinstitution of the Republican Party.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 14th, 2012
7:36 am

Ayn Rant: The Republican Party is a bunch of greedy, disagreeable old white men, backed by a bunch of foolish, senile billionaires…who WORKED for a living and built this country.
——————-

Fixed.

Good luck with Handout Nation.

@@

June 14th, 2012
7:38 am

Why can’t the bills stand on their own merits and be voted on(and debated) one at a time instead of having all the riders in them?

Because it’s not the intent of government to let voters in on their dirty little secrets.

Common Sense isn't very Common

June 14th, 2012
7:42 am

@@

I agree with you on that, too much BS in DC is masking the lack of progress

Bob Loblaw

June 14th, 2012
7:43 am

I don’t know, folks. When a state like Indiana tosses a leader respected around the world like Richard Lugar aside for a “real conservative,” then I begin to think Jeb is right.

@@

June 14th, 2012
7:45 am

Bob Loblaw:

And who was it that tossed the blue dogs from the dem party?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 14th, 2012
7:56 am

Bills that never made it to a vote on the Senate floor:

The Lugar Balanced Budget Act

The Lugar Tax Cut Act

The Lugar Spending Sanity Act

The Lugar Smaller Government Act

@@

June 14th, 2012
8:01 am

My take on Lugar is his constituency thought he spent too much time of international affairs and not enough on local affairs. With all the praise lavished on him, he forgot about the folks who put him in office.

In short…he got the big head.

Ol; Timer

June 14th, 2012
8:04 am

Bipartisan is not a magic word, but neither is intransigent, bullheaded, stubbord, uncompromising, obstructionist, meanspirited, etc.

the red herring

June 14th, 2012
8:04 am

if there is to be compromise on spending cuts and tax increases i say the spending cuts should come 1 year before the tax increase and that the tax increase would rely upon having $3 worth of cuts for every $1 worth of tax increase. the tax increase should not be implemented if the cuts haven’t been made and in force for a year. if you do it the other way around the cuts will never happen—-been there done that.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 14th, 2012
8:07 am

Ol’ Timer, don’t talk about Harry Reid that way!

carlosgvv

June 14th, 2012
8:08 am

The Republican electorate has been taken over by fundamentalist “born again” Christians. This kind of mindset is rigid and narrow and will not tolerate any deviation from the accepted dogma. Republican politicians know this and act accordingly. They know if bipartisanship becomes accepted in their Party, the hardcore faithful will pull up and go elsewhere.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 14th, 2012
8:09 am

the red herring wins “Post of the Day”.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 14th, 2012
8:10 am

carlosgvv, your mental health is rapidly deteriorating.

MrLiberty

June 14th, 2012
8:10 am

Most accurate bumper sticker ever:

Bipartisan = Double Penetration

Freedom and liberty suffer the most when the two criminal parties come together on legislation.

Dumb and Dumber

June 14th, 2012
8:11 am

Why compromise with a socialist, jihadist, America-hating, liberal-Nazi-fascist Kenyan?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 14th, 2012
8:13 am

We should have compromised with Hitler. Only 3 million Jews would have been murdered.

JohnnyReb

June 14th, 2012
8:16 am

Compromise, hell !

One should compromise only when the agreement will work. When on the very rare occasion the Left puts forth something good, compromise is not necessary and most from the Right vote for it.

The Left rolls out the “compromise” cry when their plan sucks and the Right won’t go for it.

If we take the Senate and White House, we should set about not writing new laws but fixing the mess that “compromise” has produced.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

June 14th, 2012
8:18 am

“When a state like Indiana tosses a leader respected around the world like Richard Lugar aside for a “real conservative,” then I begin to think Jeb is right.”

Strange, Bob Loblaw, but I’m not even a Republican, yet I had little respect for Richard Lugar.

When he couldn’t name his own Indiana address where he allegedly resided, I knew it was time for him to go.

jconservative

June 14th, 2012
8:19 am

“Which Democrat is going to compromise when more than half the country is getting a government check? Welcome to Handout Nation, and Democrats are the party of handouts.”

I agree that the USA is a socialist nation. I disagree that the Democrats alone are to blame. Half the socialist legislation now on the books was signed into law by Republican presidents.

As I noted earlier the last conservative Republican president was Herbert Hoover and I was not even born when he left office. And the next Republican president will not be a conservative.

Eighty years ago the American people demanded a socialist nation. In the last 80 years they have built a socialist nation. That is what we have today. I see nothing on the horizon that indicates that will change.

Thomas Heyward Jr.

June 14th, 2012
8:21 am

Balderdash……………………….
.
There is plenty of Bipartenship on the truly evil things.
.
Kill Lists, Patriot Act, NDAA, torture, etc………..
.
Just because state-sponsored mouthpieces are ordered to ignore them, doesn’t mean that those that value liberty and the rule of law………….do.

JohnnyReb

June 14th, 2012
8:24 am

Jeb Bush is a Republican Party elite. The group who decided it was Romney’s turn. They are more interested in maintaining “control” than they are responding to the base.

The base does not want compromise with the Left. The only thing preventing the Tea Party from becoming a third party is, at this time doing so would put Obama in for four more years.

If Romney does not clean up the mess, we may just see the Tea Party emerge more strong than the RNC.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 14th, 2012
8:24 am

jconservative: Eighty years ago the American people demanded a socialist nation.
————————

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”
― Alexis de Tocqueville

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 14th, 2012
8:25 am

Democrats decided they wanted to be the dictators.

JDW

June 14th, 2012
8:28 am

@kyle… “working together” brought us tax cuts but only unfulfilled pledges of reduced spending”

Let’s put this bit of HORSE HOOEY to rest. Reagan submitted 8 budget requests and over 8 years spending equals those requests. The man got EXACTLY shay he asked for. Any “unfulfilled pledges” you might imagine rest on his shoulders.

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-CDOC-107sdoc18/pdf/GPO-CDOC-107sdoc18-1-12-4.pdf

carlosgvv

June 14th, 2012
8:29 am

Barry – 8:10

You think it will be good if Romney wins but, for you, it will be a disaster. You see, if he wins it does not mean your personal problems will go away. Instead, you’ll realize Obama is not responsible for all your troubles and be forced to man up and look in the mirror. In other words, you won’t have Obama to kick around anymore and will be forced to take some personal responsibility for your troubles. So,don’t lecture me about MY mental health.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

June 14th, 2012
8:32 am

Let’s put a bit of HORSE HOOEY to rest, shall we?

JDW is NOT to be confused with a Presidential historian.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

June 14th, 2012
8:34 am

“You see, if he wins it does not mean your personal problems will go away.”

No, just the entire United States of America’s problems will go away.

I can live with that, carlos.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 14th, 2012
8:34 am

I don’t have any of your imagined “personal problems”, carlosgvv, so that’s not what I’m worried about.

I’m worried about an America-hating Marxist bent on destroying the free market capitalist economy.

jd

June 14th, 2012
8:41 am

The founding fathers warned us about the destructive nature of factions and parties — unwillingness to compromise, period, is a death sentence to a dynamic republic.

Rafe Hollister, suffering through Oblamer's ineptocracy

June 14th, 2012
8:42 am

Speaking of compromise, how many Republicans were consulted, before Oblamer decided to purchase those helicopters from Russia.

America’s everywhere are trying to buy “made in America” merchandise and Oblamer is buying Russian helicopters. With 8.2% unemployment I wonder what the workers at Bell and Secorski are thinking.

Rafe Hollister, suffering through Oblamer's ineptocracy

June 14th, 2012
8:47 am

Democrat idea of “bi-partisan” is to try and pick off Snowe, Collins, or Browne to vote with them for some big spending deficit enhancing entitlement bill.

Republicans idea of “bi-partisan” is W letting Teddy Kennedy write the No Child Left Behind Bill.

Both versions stink.

Jefferson

June 14th, 2012
8:47 am

You work together or you fail. Why keep sending back politicians that fail ? The point should be results or someone else, no matter who is to blame. If you must vote party lines, stop the BS of nobody running against the incumbent just because of party.

Its pass or fail, A or F.

Jimmy62

June 14th, 2012
8:47 am

Bipartisanship is a two way street, yet to the left it means the right must do what the left wants, and the left can continue to ignore the right (or call them stupid hicks).

Kyle Wingfield

June 14th, 2012
8:48 am

carlosgvv @ 8:08: “The Republican electorate has been taken over by fundamentalist ‘born again’ Christians.”

Right. Which is why they nominated Mitt Romney over Rick Santorum (and John McCain over Mike Huckabee in 2008).

Jefferson

June 14th, 2012
8:51 am

Kyle Santorum is crazy and you know he would lose, so ya’ll snuggle up to Romney who is not even an good alturnative. Same with Huck, he’s a sell out.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 14th, 2012
8:52 am

I thought Leonard Pitts’ column today was just as ignorant, biased, and hateful as usual, but I see that it applies quite well to carlosgvv’s ranting today.

Illegal Alien

June 14th, 2012
8:56 am

I suspect the Defense Department decided to buy helicopters from Russia, primarily because that’s what was already in service and they’re easier to maintain.

Unless you’re using all “Made in America” goods (Cars, electronics, etc.) and you don’t shop in stores like Wal-Mart, you aren’t part of the solution.

the cat

June 14th, 2012
8:56 am

Enter your comments here

ragnar danneskjold

June 14th, 2012
8:58 am

Here, here, well-done. Until the leftists abandon leftism, there is no rational reason to compromise with them. Beat them with our good ideas, which are “anything other than leftism.”

the cat

June 14th, 2012
8:58 am

next door, Bookman has over 600 hits on his page and Kyle you have 40 on your page. The reason is you will not do any moderation on this board.

litlle barry is happy about all the jews killed in the holocaust? Seriously Kyle-you have no trouble with this?

Lil’ Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward–Again)

June 14th, 2012
8:13 am
We should have compromised with Hitler. Only 3 million Jews would have been murdered.

Link

You should be ashamed.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 14th, 2012
9:01 am

the cat
June 14th, 2012
8:58 am
———————

Get a grip, hater.

You should be ashamed of your lack of reading comprehension.