President Barack Obama entered the Oval Office in 2009 with high hopes that he could be a post-partisan president, bringing Democrats and Republicans together to hammer out compromises on the major issues of the day. That hasn’t happened.
Furthermore, all sides have pretty much given up on bipartisanship for this year, as the elections approach in November, Politico reports.
Even Obama appears to have thrown in the towel, apparently satisfied to run for re-election against what he calls a do-nothing Congress led by Republican obstructionists in the House.
For many, the inability of Republicans and Democrats to reach a grand budget agreement last summer represents the nail in the coffin for bipartisanship in this Congress. And now it’s all up to voters in November.
“This election is built to have a fight,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy told Politico. “If you watch from the rise of the tea party [on the right] to the rise of the occupiers [on the left], in ’08, our country said they wanted a little more government. In 2010, they said, ‘Whoa, that was too much.’
"I think 2012 is going to be the argument for the size and scope of what they want America to be, and that is healthy. We should have the debate of what we want this country to look like.”
Many prominent Democrats see it the same way. “Two different elections point in two different ways, and both sides are arguing over fundamental principles,” Neera Tanden, head of the liberal Center for American Progress, told Politico.
“The debate has become so shrill and partisan, people just assume it’s ridiculous.” So the voters must now decide, she said.
Interestingly enough, voters themselves do seem eager for bipartisanship. In a CBS/New York Times poll released this month, 85 percent of respondents agreed that “Democrats and Republicans should compromise some of their positions in order to get things done.”
Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first chief of staff and now mayor of Chicago, thinks one party needs to be in control of Congress to get anything done.
“We need to take on the mythology that divided government produces progress,” Emanuel told Politico. “Divided government produces divided government.”
So the days of the 1983 bipartisan accord on Social Security or the 1997 spending agreement between President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich are over, Emanuel says.
“Events have moved on. What the markets want, and what the world wants, is decisive action. That comes with single-party governance.”
That was the dynamic that produced President George W. Bush’s tax cuts and Obama’s healthcare reform.
The collapse of bipartisanship represents a particularly stinging defeat for Obama, as the idea that he could bridge the divide between parties made up the core of his campaign platform in 2008. But Republicans complain that he was beholden to a radical, leftist, divisive agenda.
Democrats, meanwhile, charge that reasonable Republicans were beholden to radical rookie tea partyers.
Some politicos say that without the feisty freshmen, House Speaker John Boehner would have reached a budget compromise with Obama, but we’ll never know. And we do know that the supercommittee on budget deficit reduction was unable to agree on a course of action.
Keith T. Poole, a University of Georgia political scientist, offers a historical analysis of how bipartisanship has come to wither. President Ronald Reagan was able to use a bloc of moderate Democrats and Republicans to reach important legislative accords in the early 1980s, Poole told Politico.
But since then, “steadily the moderates have all disappeared,” he said. “The moderate Southern Democrats were replaced by Republicans, and then, one by one, the moderate Republicans were replaced either by Democrats or conservative Republicans.”
He finds that Republicans have turned more conservative more quickly than Democrats have turned more liberal. That is likely because Democrats already were more liberal than Republicans were conservative.
“The Republican Party has been steadily moving to the right since the 1970s,” Poole said. “The Republicans have moved about three times the speed to the right as the Democrats have moved to the left.”
There are still some congressmen on both sides of the aisle who favor bipartisanship, and they are nostalgic for the times when it ruled the day. “It’s just a widening, a rift, between us,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Politico. “And that makes it very difficult to get back to those glory days with Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan” able to negotiate Social Security reform.
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., says Congress can’t give up on the idea of bipartisanship, however difficult it may be. “It’s a process that has to occur, and we haven’t gotten through that process,” he told Politico.
“Hopefully, at some point people say, ‘Look, we’ve got to get the work of the country done, find that common ground and move forward in a positive way.’ But I don’t belittle or minimize the challenge. It’s huge.”
© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.