Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What Exactly is Bi-Partisanship

In the classic baseball movie "Bull Durham," one of the key tasks that Kevin Costner's "Crash Davis" was supposed to accomplish with Tim Robbins' "Nuke" LaLoosh during their stay with the Durham Bulls was to teach him a series of inane quotes to tell sports reporters in order to sound committed to team values and hard work and other boring stuff
Crash Davis: It's time to work on your interviews.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
Crash Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clich├ęs. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time."
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring.
Crash Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down.
Whenever I hear some athlete or coach talk about playing one game at a time, or just doing whatever the team needs to win it reminds of when politicians talk about bi-partisanship. It's inane, meaningless, supposed to sound appealing, and basically designed to tell the audience nothing. Yet every four years (and increasingly I can remember more and more of these new administrations) politicians talk about "reaching across the aisle" and "getting past partisan rancor" and "holding hands and singing Kumbya" with the other side. They point to the public's alleged "exhaustion with partisan fighting and bickering" and accuse their rivals of "simply being partisan."

Well if the public is so tired of partisanship, why do they keep electing only members of the Duopoly to the Congress? Last time I checked, all but two members of Congress, both of whom caucus with the Democrats, belong to one of the two parts of the Duopoly, so the notion that either Republicans or Democrats are being "partisan" is sort of like accusing a living person of breathing. I mean, what the hell are they supposed to do except be members of parties? And it's interesting that whenever the majority accuses the minority party of being partisan what they are usually saying is "stop being principled and asking for concessions on stuff to which you are vehemently opposed ideologically."

And then the minority, and it's public advocates like this pill popper, believe that bi-partisan means "give me nearly equal power over writing legislation and respect my opposition to anything I don't like even though I badly lost an election and have very little power to stop you from implementing your plans." And then Republicans whine and complain about how Democrats aren't respecting the wishes of the minority after the GOP ran rough-shod over Democrats for eight years.

For a fictional, and much more entertaining version of this silly game, check out a deeply mature, intellectual show like Gossip Girl to understand the depth of sincerity of the Democrats and Republicans when it comes to bi-partisanship, finger-pointing, and back-stabbing.

Most people elect members of parties because they believe, wrongly in my view, that the two brands represent something different. Republicans supposedly stand for limited government and a strong defense even if Bush presided over the biggest domestic spending increase since LBJ and people tend to vote for them because they suupport those general views. Democrats supposedly believe in helping out the little guys (and women) and getting out of people's personal lives even though they have supported giving gobs of money to banks and Wall Street firms and forced social conservatives to violate their personal principles and publicly accept things like gay marriage. Yet folks continue to believe these two brands are different.

So the problem with bi-partisanship, in my view, is that people either are just using the phrase as window-dressing, or they mean totally different things when they claim to want it. When voters vote for people they expect them to be ideological. Americans don't expect Barack Obama to cut taxes, decrease spending, and nationalize Christianity. Americans didn't expect John McCain to raise taxes, ban guns, or understand free-market economics (sorry, cheap shot). Obama should act like people expected him to act, and in four years the electorate can "judge" his actions, and we can hear lots more about "bi-partisanship" all over again.

1 comment:

  1. bipartisanship in a two party state is a one party state.

    Here's a recent short video spot from our media division on bipartisanship: