Bipartisan Tragedy

by digby

I quoted David Gergen earlier saying that public opinion may cause the final bill to ultimately fail, which I agree may be remotely possible. But that's the last rational thing he said all night. At the moment of the passage of the cloture vote in the Senate, he blurted this out:

In my judgment it's a tragedy for the country to have a bill this important, a historic piece of legislation, pass with only one party voting for it.

After droning on irrelevantly about how Earl Warren got all the justices on board for Brown vs Board of Education and saying that this is the first major piece of legislation in 50 years that didn't have bipartisan support, he added that both parties are equally at fault. (Oh, and everything is toxic and poisonous and tragic, tragic, tragic.)

I think it's a tragedy that cable gasbags are so predictably fatuous. The last I heard, the president personally had Snowe on the phone for an hour last week and couldn't get her on board for no discernible reason now that the public option has been jettisoned. Meanwhile the Republicans had been hammering her for weeks to not vote for cloture. How this partisan supermajority vote is the fault of both parties, much less illegitimate, I don't know.

I heard an Republican say something pretty smart the other day that I've been meaning to post and I think it is a good time to throw it out there . It was Craig Shirley a former Reagan advisor who said this:

SHIRLEY: Let me be a voice in the wilderness for polarization.

I think it is intellectually dishonest to go out there and present to the American people a party that has liberal Republicans, moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans, a Democratic Party that has conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans, and liberal Republicans—or Democrats—is, that when you have two parties with diametrically opposing views, one organized around the concept of freedom, the other organized around the concept of justice, and they give the American voter an honest choice, I think that that is much more intellectually honest for the American voter, so that they have a clear choice of who and what set of principles they want to lead this country.

Would that really be so bad? I don't think so. Atrios makes that point often.

The Republicans obstruct this reform for political reasons, to be sure, but its political appeal lies in the philosophy that the government shouldn't be involved in making it easier for people to get health care. They just don't think that social insurance programs are a legitimate function of government. They never have. And regardless of whether or not you think this bill is well constructed, there can be no doubt that the Democrats do not agree with that. I see no reason why the parties shouldn't break down along those philosophical/ideological lines and let the voters decide from election to election whether they approve.

This faith that there can be ideological "consensus" on these big issues is clearly outdated. The country has realigned the parties along some very old ideological and cultural fault lines and the partisan divide is much cleaner. People just disagree and in every battle some not insignificant minority will be unhappy with the outcome. A handful of Senators crossing the aisle doesn't confer legitimacy. The constitution does.

Gergen and others who are bemoaning the lack of bipartisanship are sounding more and more out of touch. (I can guarantee that nobody in the country gives a damn if Senators are fraying their precious personal friendships to get this bill passed. Boo hoo.) Right now, the biggest problem for the parties is that far too many people see them both as being unresponsive to their constituents' needs and desires and far too responsive to the needs and desires of the moneyed interests. From their point of view, bipartisanship has never been stronger.

Anyway, the Senate Dems got their cloture vote and barring some shocking development they'll pass the bill and send it on to conference. And then we'll see what happens next.