Bipartisanship is Dead! Long Live Bipartisanship!

Redefining Bipartisanship Could Revolutionize America’s Politics

Biden’s Hope and Toolkit

If anyone believes in and can make bipartisanship work, its Joe Biden. This approach is deeply embedded in his DNA. And just for the record, he is right – as a general guideline, better to get a 90% solution with bipartisan support than a 100% solution supported only by one party.

True to his word, he has been working this from the outset. SN Collins of Maine noted last week that she has spoken with the president four times in his first month in office. I bet that is four more times than the last president spoke to her over four years.

Unfortunately, the old approach is not bearing fruit. Time for a new game plan.

What the Republicans Have Made Clear – Again

The Republican record, starting with the election certification and continuing through the COVID Relief Bill makes it clear that as a party, there is no one to deal with, on pretty much any subject. Just look at the math. An overwhelming majority of House Republicans voted to decertify the national election. Almost all the Republican Senators voted to acquit Trump.

Not one Republican in either house of Congress voted for the COVID relief bill. This is legislation desperately needed by the country. It is overwhelmingly supported by a huge majority, including many local Republican officials. I get it that there is much in the bill Republicans don’t like, but kill the whole thing? Really?

Remember that the only substantive input from anyone on that side of the aisle was a meeting with half a dozen Republican senators. They offered up something that was about 25% of what was needed, and even then, could provide no assurances of bringing along enough of their cohorts to reach only 10 votes.

There are Republicans and There are Republicans – Sort Them Out

 The lesson is pretty clear. When the Republicans chose the same leaders again this round, it was obvious that going forward they planned to follow the McConnell playbook. Oppose anything and everything the other side proposes, no matter what, then blame them at the midterms for not getting things done.

As long as this is their leadership and guys like Cruz are their loudest voices, nothing will draw organized bipartisan support.

What might work is building small, changeable coalitions of a few Republicans at a time on given issues. Paint the picture of making America both whole and better with logical, proven steps. Invite those who want to help on board.

A few will show up, and in so doing undercut the naysayers. The infrastructure bill discussed below is probably the best shot at making this work.

 In other words, build a coalition of the willing, one issue at a time. Over time, this changes the political calculus. It’s worth a try. Just cutting out the so-called Republican leadership from the discussions and the ability to make changes makes this worth trying.

Taking on the Senate Fight, Once and For All

We have come to a crossroads on the Senate. Even SEN Manchin now indicates things cannot continue as they are. He has actually proposed some changes while not killing the filibuster (which should happen) at least limits it ability to stop progress.

While we are at it, time to relook some other Senate oddities that only screw up the process of governance. Start with the ability of a senator to require an entire bill be read out loud. Just kill that. While we are at it, severely limit, if not kill, the ability of a senator to put a hold on any nomination.

Time to clean up all this dead wood. Done right, the two Democrats resistant to killing the filibuster can be brought along.

Let us remember that the Senate structure came about to protect the interests of small states. A noble goal, but one that obstructs democracy. The Republicans have the same number of votes in the Senate as the Democrats, yet they represent 41 million fewer citizens.

How does that make any sense? A voter in Utah has the same effect as 3-4 Californians. How does that make any sense today? It doesn’t.

 An Eye Toward Greatness

Team Biden has its eye on history. They are early focused on the big, big issues. These include election reform, civil rights and dealing with racism, and desperately needed infrastructure. If they can accomplish these, they will be doing the right things AND benefitting politically.

Get these done and the midterms could easily break the traditional mold of losses for the Presidents party. And they could prove that those who chose to work with the administration for the good of the country offer an alternative to the Trump nihilism.

 A Little Help, Please

To make all this happen, the more progressive wing of the Democratic party will have to work toward the middle. So far, they are not happy about it but seem willing to do so for the most part.

Who else is needed? Two groups. One, people who used to be mainstream Republicans. They need to stand up for what is right and help isolate their undeserving party leadership.

And finally, the Lincoln Project. They have been a bit quite lately and have had some of their own problems. Seeing them call out the National Chamber of Commerce this week was welcome indeed. We need them to step up for this fight as well, encouraging serious people to stand up and govern.

Bipartisanship is a valid goal. It just cannot replace valid ends and cannot be defined in the old way. Time to adapt. The next couple of months are going to be darned interesting.

        Bill Clontz

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4 replies to Bipartisanship is Dead! Long Live Bipartisanship!

  1. Well said. If they do nothing more than make Senators actually stand and filibuster rather than just threatening a filibuster, I imagine that would stop a lot of it. But I could be wrong given the divisions. There is an excellent article on Why the ‘Silent’ Filibuster is Unconstitutional in the Jan. 4, 2011 Atlantic magazine. It can be read online. What we have now is dysfunctional, partisan government with no end in sight.

    • Agreed. As usual, The Atlantic did fine work on this. Required reading at my desk every month for longer than I can recall.

  2. What can we do to assist in making this happen….other than simply vote? Excellent points!

    • Frustrating looking for a Big Lever. Especially when many of those we wish to influence are not our representatives, and so not inclined to respond. But the old tools do work – regular contact for those who are our reps, contributions all the time to good candidates and causes, working locally to elect the best we can. I do think it never hurts to send a note of appreciation to someone who does the right thing, even if his/her party does not, whether we are one of their voters or not.

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