Bipartisanship That Makes Sense

I like the way Matt Yglesias describes what bipartisanship should mean:

[T]he trick with these bipartisan concepts is to make sure that the credibility is flowing in the right direction. . . . The new administration needs to . . . build support for progressive policies by showing that it can be supported by a politically diverse group of people.

This is sharp thinking.

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

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    Many of the best policies are neither... (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by AdamSmithsHand on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 02:53:39 PM EST
    ...progressive nor non-progressive.  They are just good ideas.

    My read of Obama is that he has little desire to get distracted by waging big partisan battles.  Nor do I see him capitulating in the name of unity.

    I suspect what we'll see in the early days of this administration is a habit of ignoring the usual battles in favor of making progress on a multitude of unsexy common sense fronts that are less emotionally loaded.

    Going back to an old blog post from more than a year ago, I think we'll see the wonky Obama Hilzoy described back in late 2006 for the first hundred days:


    Taking this tact will allow the Obama administration (and congressional leaders) to develop some trust with each other as they work in good faith on the kind of non-controversial legislation that often brings more real change to people's lives than the issues we worry about day after day.  

    Meanwhile I think he'll be feeling things out for the best deal possible on healthcare and a few of the other linchpin progressive issues with an eye towards knocking one ore two of them off the list before his first term is up.    

    Yeah, there's a difference between ... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 02:55:04 PM EST
    coalition building and unity pony bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship.

    The important thing is developing a coalition which agrees with you on a certain issue.  Not watering down legislation (or loading it with giveaways) so you create imaginary bipartisanship.

    For example, one can use the hard right/hard left coalition which exists on some issues.  Or regional coalitions.

    Not every piece of legislation need break on clear partisan lines.

    This really is not a new (none / 0) (#16)
    by Pepe on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 05:18:09 PM EST
    concept then. In a small majority held Senate this is the way it has always been for hundreds of years. The only time a majority of 59 or less can ever pass anything is either when the minority doesn't filibuster or you bring some of the minority in which most often has a cost connected to it. Virtually every piece of legislation in the last 8 years for example has been the product of a coalition of sorts even though the participants didn't label it as such.

    I don't think Yglesias is saying anything new and groundbreaking here.

    FWIW almost every piece of legislation is watered down in someones eyes. Very few pieces of legislation get passed without some give and take in a less than 60 majority. We won't have 60 by ourselves. Obama's idea of achieving 60 is post-partisanship, he has made that very clear. So watered down we will get in almost all cases. He doesn't seem to me to be willing to fight too hard or too long on anything and is prone to changing his mind often (wishy-washy). And given the high expectations of the public for to Get Something Done he is even less likely to engage in long drawn out battles. He needs to sign bills and quickly move on to the next pressing issue. The GOP knows that and will use that to their advantage.

    Additionally what will water things down further is the lack of money. The GOP will use that also to their advantage in stripping bills to the bone so they can reclaim their lost mantra of fiscal conservatism. And of course the Democrats mantra of PayGo will feed right into that and both can claim fiscal responsibility at the cost of severely watered down policies.

    Yglesias is daydreaming.


    GIve Maine something (none / 0) (#30)
    by BackFromOhio on Fri Nov 07, 2008 at 09:14:34 AM EST
    and get its two senators on board.

    Speak softly (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by robrecht on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 03:36:07 PM EST
    and carry a big Schtick into  the bully pulpit.  

    The blogosphere hates bipartisanship (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by Steve M on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 03:41:58 PM EST
    because, frankly, we can think of few examples where working in concert with the GOP has actually worked out well.

    If it turns out that we're able to get 80% of what we want on some agenda items by incorporating Republican concerns, well then, maybe bipartisanship will cease to be a dirty word.  Yglesias is right.  But of course people are going to hate the concept when it seems like bipartisanship means Charlie Brown and the football, time and time again.

    I kinda like being in the position, for once, of holding all the cards and listening to the Republicans whine that wah wah, Rahm Emanuel is too mean to represent change.

    The Republicans are not really (none / 0) (#7)
    by andgarden on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 03:53:48 PM EST
    in a position to block much of anything. It's fun.

    "Reach across the aisle" reached my (none / 0) (#14)
    by wurman on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 04:36:07 PM EST
    wretch point during the campaign.

    Allowing Bu$hInc's tax give-away for the millionaires to "sunset" out of existence is a lead-pipe cinch and will lead to partisan howls from the Senate GOP Bu$hbots.  Too bad.

    It will be entertaining to see what the "schtick" really becomes when the Democrats decide to cut taxes for joint income filers under $150K.  It's unlikely that will have bipartisan support.

    It would be interesting to analyze a list of stated Obama-administration legislative goals and guess which, if any, may have some appeal to Boehner & McConnell.

    It seems to me that some reality therapy is in great need.  Bipartisan? if wishes were ponies. . . .


    Energy (none / 0) (#18)
    by Manuel on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 06:20:28 PM EST
    It needs to be done and there are enough good ideas that can get broad support that something will be done.

    The financial crisis is another area where there can be bipartisan agreement the extreme Republicans in the house notwithstanding.


    Really? (none / 0) (#17)
    by Pepe on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 05:26:26 PM EST
    I don't think you have thought through their political needs and strategy to get there. It doesn't include folding and sitting back and watching.

    And then there is that little thing called we have less that 60. I hope your not thinking that they are going to be gun shy on filibusters. They are not. It is the only tool they have.

    Add to that, that even though we picked up seats many polls showed that the public by a fairly wide margin don't think one party rule is wise. Given that if we force the GOP to filibuster by not giving them the concessions they want then they will use that 2 years down the road to make a case that the public already agrees with. I don't think Obama even wants to think of the ramifications of giving the GOP control of the agenda in one of the Houses do you?


    And let's not forget how important some (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by fuzzyone on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 03:59:48 PM EST
    non legislative things are, like naming U.S. Attorneys

    The prospective appointments (none / 0) (#9)
    by andgarden on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 04:09:26 PM EST
    are making me salivate.

    Damn, it will be good to get the government back.


    I've been thinking that too (5.00 / 0) (#22)
    by ruffian on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 09:22:23 PM EST
    About all the wonderful changes Obama can make without any 'help' from Congress. Just reclaiming the executive branch will help immensely, without any new laws being passed.

    No. More. Monica. Goodlings. (none / 0) (#26)
    by andgarden on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 10:17:18 PM EST
    (Or Alberto Gonzalezes)

    Hooray (5.00 / 0) (#27)
    by squeaky on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 10:22:37 PM EST
    Although the winger civil servants that she and her cronies placed are going to undoubtedly scream that the new admin hires are politically based.

    Republicans need bipartisanship, (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by MyLeftMind on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 04:17:31 PM EST
    we need buy-in from Repub leadership.  If they don't cooperate with the mandate for change, they become superfluous.  But if we don't seek to find common ground, they'll hamstring our President and our agenda for their own gain.  

    By finding common ground, I don't mean meeting halfway.  I mean working from shared values.  We have a leader who wants to move past the culture wars, and who rode to power on the backs of millions of American idealists with the audacity to hope.  This is our chance, the defining moment of our lives.  America has just experienced a non-violent revolution.  The entire world is celebrating our success.  For the first time in our lives, we have the political clout to make our country into something we can be proud of.  Let's not blow it.  

    I think Ezra Klein's post on Baucus (none / 0) (#1)
    by andgarden on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 02:18:45 PM EST
    is along the same lines.

    Please delete this comment (none / 0) (#2)
    by jes on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 02:32:21 PM EST
    along with  your new spambot commenter.

    The difference between the GOP approach (none / 0) (#10)
    by digdugboy on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 04:17:12 PM EST
    and the Dem approach is this:

    The GOP used policy disputes for political gain. The Democrats will use politics to advance their policy goals.

    Meaningless (none / 0) (#12)
    by koshembos on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 04:26:36 PM EST
    I find Matt Y.'s statement totally meaningless. If you define bipartisansip as support for progressive goals, you are talking about nothing. Republicans will never support even middle of the road concept unless the issue is very specialized (education).

    In normal European coalitions (Germany, Israel,  tc.) no one talks about bipartisanship. It's either with the coalition or not. When you don't have a coalition (UK) talk of bipartisanship is meaningless.

    It's time to understand that in a polarized world, you work and do what you can by yourself.

    I will say that Obama has a smart (none / 0) (#13)
    by ThatOneVoter on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 04:34:45 PM EST
    approach when he actually f***king does something.
    Let's not pat ourselves on the back for choosing Obama: winning the election was not the end of our gamble on him, but only the beginning.
    He has raised hopes so high that people are going to turn on him fast if he doesn't deliver something both solid in detail and extraordinary in scope.

    .. not a believer that this is a time (none / 0) (#15)
    by ThatOneVoter on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 04:39:38 PM EST
    for healing wounds and bringing people together. This is a time for a leader who recognizes national and global emergencies and has the courage to act correctly, and if people are not ready, has the ability to drag them along, kicking and screaming.

    Absolutely, but I don't think he has the political (none / 0) (#28)
    by suzieg on Fri Nov 07, 2008 at 03:46:30 AM EST
    courage to do so. His first day in office will be the start of his re-election campaign - he will not try to pass any bold legislation for  fear of putting his re-election in jeopardy - his past votes are a reflection of a careful man looking out for his best interest.

    As a result we will not get any kind of health insurance legislation in his first term - he's told us so and why I would scream at the TV everytime he told us that he would fight for affordable health insurance - he might pass something like access to health insurance but nothing major and for people like myself who has to pay over $22,000 in premiums,co-pay and deductibles it might mean going without, which most likely will spell a death sentence as I've been battling aggressive breast cancer for the past 4 yrs.

    Listening to Pelosi yesterday, enumerating the party's priorities and having health insurance reform out of it was a terrible blow as it must have been for all the people who voted for them thinking that help was on the way! I'm no longer going to support a party of cowards!


    Even if Obama (none / 0) (#31)
    by BackFromOhio on Fri Nov 07, 2008 at 09:20:17 AM EST
    has the political courage, will Congress?  I think Congress may not buck him, at least at first.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

    What Yglesias is talking about... (none / 0) (#19)
    by Tom Hilton on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 07:00:06 PM EST
    ...is exactly what Obama has always had in mind, as far as I can tell.  Peel off a handful of not-insane Republicans, marginalize the angry losers, and call it 'bipartisanship'.  It's smart politics, and it could lead to good policy.  

    The problem is (5.00 / 0) (#20)
    by Steve M on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 07:14:38 PM EST
    the number of not-insane Republicans keeps dwindling.  We lost a couple more of them this year.

    Why is that a problem? (none / 0) (#23)
    by ruffian on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 09:26:54 PM EST
    Didn't they get replaced by at-least-as-sane Democrats?  I hope Obama can reach out to them just as easily.

    I get the point that it would be good (none / 0) (#24)
    by ruffian on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 09:29:17 PM EST
    to say you have Republicans on board for the sake of it.  I'm still of the opinion that good policy will prove its own worth.

    Look to Maine (none / 0) (#32)
    by BackFromOhio on Fri Nov 07, 2008 at 09:21:29 AM EST
    The other problem is many of the new Dems in Congress are very conservative.

    "bi-partisanship" (none / 0) (#21)
    by cpinva on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 07:30:57 PM EST
    is just semantics for "i don't have the b*lls to hold your feet to the fire".

    i'd say the public spoke loud and clear on tuesday: they repudiated, without question, the republican party rule of government. it's both ineffective and costly. it's aim is to bankrupt the country morally and fiscally, which it nearly succeeded in doing.

    all the republicans partook in this, why should the dems give a damn what they think? let them whine. as their power and influence fades, their constituents will get the hint, and they will be even fewer in number come 2012.

    Proving progressive policies work (none / 0) (#25)
    by ruffian on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 09:36:15 PM EST
    is the best way to build support for progressive policies.  I say, get at least one or two enacted ASAP, with or without Republican support. Prove they work, and support for more will be there. Obama is a smart guy - he can find the one with the most immediate visible positive impact - probably a start on his health care plan.

    Pelosi told us yesterday that health care is not (none / 0) (#29)
    by suzieg on Fri Nov 07, 2008 at 04:00:13 AM EST
    on the table because they wouldn't be able to get it done even though they have the votes to do so! I'm so disappointed and disgusted with them, I cannot find the words! Anyway, if you had listened to Obama's speeches in the primaries on health care, he told us then that he would not fight for it in his first term only in the second and if it worked for kids. During his campaigning for the elections, he took over Clinton's plan as his own but I'm sure he's got no intention to follow through even though he heard heart wrenching stories because there is too much political capital at stake!

    Have you forgotten his little gems/pamphlets on health care in which he told the good people of Penn and Ohio how Hillary was going to force them to get government run health insurance resulting in functionaires deciding on the course of action regarding their health care? If he was truly for affordable health care, he would have put out a specific plan and he would have espoused it during the primaries, which he did not - he's always been for insurance access, leaving health insurance companies basically in charge - he's counting on their good will which they have told him, they are against!

    Health care costs Clinton the house and senate, and he's not going to take a chance that the same fate happens to him.


    Among other things, Pelosi (none / 0) (#33)
    by BackFromOhio on Fri Nov 07, 2008 at 09:22:57 AM EST
    is sending a message to Hillary that Pelosi is the Queen Bee.