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Bipartisanship is still overrated

Last year, when there was still a tiny bit of hope universal health care in the US might be a reality, I mentioned in A few thoughts on health care reform in the US that bipartisanship is overrated. Well, it is still overrated.

Finally, the Republican party has explicitly said they’ll be blocking just about anything the Democrats propose:

Senate Republicans plan to block debate on virtually all Democratic-backed legislation that isn’t related to tax cuts or government spending in the lame-duck session of Congress. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, and Sen. Jon Kyl, the Republican whip, added the signatures of all members of the Republican Senate caucus to a letter that promises to implement the plan.

I applaud the Republican party for finally saying this out loud. The ineffectual Democrats, who had a majority in the house and senate and had the presidency for two years, have somehow managed to flub everything up in attempts to play nice and be able to say “This was a bipartisan effort.” I’m sorry, but… no. If you can get true bipartisanship, that’s great. If you can’t, still push through some useful legislation when you have a majority. God knows that’s what the Republicans will do when they have house and senate majorities and the presidency.

Perhaps politicians just don’t get what partisanship and bipartisanship are. Let me explain.

Partisanship doesn’t mean simply disagreeing. If you think certain swamp lands should be protected from commercial development by law and I think the law shouldn’t protect them, that isn’t a partisan stance—that’s simply a difference of opinion. If you want to vote one way and I want to vote another way, that isn’t partisanship. Partisanship, at least as in so far as it is insulting or not complimentary, means you vote against or try to block legislation not because of what’s in the legislation but because of who proposed the legislation. In other words, I’m blocking what you proposed because it’s from the Democratic party, not because the law is something I don’t want.

Bipartisanship, in its laudable form, should not mean compromise. It shouldn’t mean “We watered down this legislation so that it has nothing offensive to either major political party… in fact, it’s watered down so much it doesn’t really do anything productive for either side.” This is what we saw happen with the health care bill. With all the compromises the Democrats made to try and please the Republicans (who almost entirely voted against it anyway), the bill ended up a sham… all for the sake of “bipartisanship” that didn’t even happen.

If a bill or law is truly bipartisan, that means no major compromises. It doesn’t mean one side pushing for something and then altering it so that some people from the other side might vote for a significantly altered version. If you want to impress the voting public with bipartisanship, it has to be a strong bill that both major political parties strongly support—something that really conveys “This isn’t a left or right issue or even a moderate issue. This is a human issue, and we all agree it should be addressed in this way.” And if that happens, it’s wonderful and inspiring. But if that doesn’t happen, the next best option isn’t a watered down bill that is a failed attempt at one side pushing through legislation the other side hates so that it can appear “bipartisan.”

Get stuff done. Vote your beliefs. Don’t vote your party. That goes for both Democrats and Republicans. Or, if you are going to vote your party, at least own up to it and stop pretending you’re playing nice.

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Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality

Divided States of America

Sometimes I wonder if the South losing the Civil War was such a good thing. I don’t mean that slavery should still be a publicly sanctioned and popular practice. I do mean that Lincoln’s determination to keep the union together may have been misguided, in the long-term.

Blue states. Red States. Bipartisanship. Why? Ever heard the expression about too many chefs in one kitchen?

Real change doesn’t happen in the US because there are too many conflicting interests that need to “agree” in order to get anything done. Look at health care “reform.” So the republicans don’t want health care reform to pass, because they like things the way they are, and they also want to see a democrat motion get sunk so that the democrats will appear ineffectual and lose upcoming reelections. So the moderate democrats don’t want a public option. So they also want to put in weird anti-choice clauses. So the liberal democrats want reform so badly, they’re willing to compromise their principles. In the end, what do we end up with? Either a lot of hullabaloo about a bill that won’t pass… or a bill that doesn’t really make anyone happy.

Health care is just one example, though. Look at sex education (abstinence-only v. comprehensive), immigration, marijuana regulation, prostitution regulation, gun regulation, the death penalty, military and education spending. The supreme court is a constant flip-flop of dying and retiring judges who get replaced by “impartial” judges who are either left-leaning or right-leaning depending on who’s appointed them.

Obama is the worst example of what the “united” states faces. I have a lot of liberal friends who are disappointed in his first year in office. They had hope. They believed in change. They thought Obama was liberal (after all, the conservatives kept calling him a *gasp* socialist). Obama was never liberal. He’s moderate all the way down the line. That’s how he got elected. It’s also why he’s had trouble getting anything done.

If we had a DSA (Divided States of America) instead of a USA, I bet we would all get along better, and the two countries would get more stuff done. Sure, there would still be small internal disagreements, but in the end, a greater number of people in each country would be happier with governmental policies. In one country, abortion would be legal, the government would spend more money on education than the military, affirmative action would be commonplace, everyone could have health care, marijuana would be legal and tightly regulated (as would prostitution), and sex education would teach students how to have safer sex. In the other country, abortion would be illegal, the government would spend more money on the military than on education, there would be no affirmative action, only the rich or steadily (but not self-) employed would have health insurance, marijuana and prostitution would be illegal, and sex education would teach abstinence only.

Then you could choose what America you wanted to live in, and a lot more people would be happy, no? More importantly, a lot more useful legislation would be passed in both countries.