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Friday, February 20, 2009

The Highest Broderism

by dday

David Broder's paean to bipartisanship yesterday was pretty funny. Funny in an "what version of Earth in the DC multiverse is this guy living on" fashion.

Some consider Obama's wooing of Republicans a rookie mistake, a measure of his naivete. Others focus on the Republicans and fault them for obduracy in denying Obama all but three of their votes on the stimulus bill. The critics agree that the effort at bipartisanship should end.

I hope Obama isn't listening. It's the worst advice he has received.

It starts from a false premise: that the stimulus bill proves the failure of outreach to Republicans. In fact, had Obama not negotiated successfully with Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter and met most of their terms, his bill would have died. This was a success for bipartisanship, not a failure.

Morone's history also is false. To prove that bipartisanship has never existed, he has to skip over Harry Truman's success with a Republican Congress on the Marshall Plan, Lyndon Johnson's forging the great civil rights acts with Sen. Everett Dirksen and Rep. Bill McCulloch, and Ronald Reagan's steering his first budget and tax bill through a Democratic House.

But the real reason Obama should ignore this advice is that he will need Republican votes to pass the remaining parts of his program. When it comes to energy, regional and commodity interests will inevitably divide the Democrats. They always do. Oil, coal, natural gas and consumer groups will exert their will. If Obama writes off the Republicans in advance, he will end up with a watered-down bill -- or nothing.

It's useless to argue with Broderella, but nevertheless...

Never mind the fact that he has to go far back in history, when Dixiecrats still existed and the parties were ideologically jumbled, to prove his fantasy. He really manages to define bipartisanship in this one, doesn't he? Meeting most of the terms enforced by conservatives is the new working definition. And he demands that the President give in to the terms of Republicans in the same way to pass his agenda.

Is Broder aware of the modern conservative rump faction that includes about 90-95% of elected Republicans in Washington? Their spiritual leader Rush Limbaugh said yesterday that trying to understand a Democrat is like trying to understand a murderer or a rapist. Their favorite son Jim DeMint's plan for economic recovery is to do nothing, stand still and hope everything magically bounces back. Their top legislative agenda consists of cherry-picking pieces of stimulus spending to prove that the entire bill is wasteful, a project they have ANNOUNCED TO THE MEDIA IN ADVANCE.

The parties disagree. These days they violently disagree. And the public has pretty much made their decision on who to support.

According to a new AP poll, voters are assigning blame to gridlock -- and they're blaming Republicans. Asked whether Obama was doing enough to cooperate with the Republicans, 62 percent said he was. Asked if the Republicans were doing enough to cooperate with Obama, 64 percent said they weren't.

Republicans now run the risk of being blamed for their own irrelevance. The stimulus bill passed without their votes and that's being seen as evidence of their intransigence, not Obama's. Bipartisanship is being measured by through the evident intention's of the players, not the final tally on the bill. If this normalizes -- if Americans begin to expect that the GOP won't cooperate and so Obama can't be expected to win their votes -- you'll have a situation where Obama can reach out to them on entirely on his terms because it doesn't matter if the outreach actually succeeds. If the President asked Mithc McConnell to help him pass Medicare-for-All, it's hardly the President's fault if McConnell refuses. And that will lead the GOP totally, and unsympathetically, marginalized.

In fact, Republicans are starting to actually be blamed for their own policy ideas, and are desperately trying to run away from them. Jim Tedisco, the candidate in the New York Congressional special election to replace Sen. Gillibrand, refuses to answer the question of whether or not he supports the stimulus even though the answer is obvious. Rep. Joseph Cao, who beat Dollar Bill Jefferson in Louisiana, is now facing a potential recall as a cause of his vote against the stimulus. This is not a function of whether one side or the other is bipartisan enough, it's that the public has generally discovered that they really don't like Republicans.

Parties disagree. They have a particular platform and they are expected to uphold it. The electorate looks at each side and makes a decision. If they don't like the results they can choose the alternative later. It's called democracy. I don't think David Broder believes in it.