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Curious, bi-partisanship

I am wondering how much credit the Democrats in Congress (or Our Only President) will get for bipartisanship in passing a Jobs Bill. For those of y’all who aren’t following the minutae, the vote in the Senate was 70-28, with the Nelsonator crossing the aisle to vote Nay and thirteen of the forty-one Republican Senators crossing to vote Aye.

The interesting thing about this, and about how it plays out in the minds of the masses, is that there was a so-called bipartisan bill that was the subject of some (evidently) serious negotiations between Sen. Baucus and some Republicans. Majority Leader Reid made a point of pissing on that bill. As well he should have, as the bill stunk. So the Democratic Leadership achieved a bipartisan vote without doing any serious bipartisan negotiations. Do they get credit for that?

On the other hand, the bill itself is mostly tax cuts, evidently, and not all that many of them. It’s not like the bill that replaced the negotiated bill was a partisan bill, as these things go. There was every reason for a Republican to vote in favor of it, particularly if it was going to pass anyway—not much risk against a pretty good reward, that reward of course being the ability to go home and take credit for job creation and tax cuts. Whoo Hoo! So sure, the Democratic Leadership brought to a vote a bill that was likely to attract some support from across the aisle. Do they get credit for that?

Figaro, in a note on the topic, claimed that bipartisanship was an oxymoron. That is, since partisanship meant doing things for the sake of the party, rather than (or at least in addition to) for their own sake, bipartisanship meant doing things for the sake of two parties, which doesn’t make any sense, since in our system anything good for one party must be bad for the other. This is a clever observation, but it doesn’t actually describe politics. There are lots of things that are good for both parties, and usually when you have the support of a majority of each party (as the first Patriot Act did, I think, and most confirmation votes, and so on) it has that bipartisan support because it is for the good of both parties in addition to being popular policy.

Digression: Since bi specifically denotes two, one could also reserve bipartisanship to refer to efforts by the two parties to support the two-party system and diminish the support or influence of any other parties at their expense. This behavior does exist, and would be a perfectly good definition for the word, if it weren’t for the fact that the word already exists and has a different meaning. You would have to pay it extra to take on the new meaning, and then you would presumably have to pay your readers and listeners extra to accept it. End Digression.

What’s interesting is that I really don’t think that a third of the Republican Senators thought it was good for their Party to cross the aisle and that the other two-thirds disagreed. Nor do I think that they thought it would be good for their Party to have a third of it cross and the other two-thirds stick. No, I think this vote was based on the personal political calculations of the individual Senators for their own benefit. As well as on policy grounds, of course, but I’m not talking about those here.

But—I wouldn’t be surprised, if the general approval of their Party was improved by this example of co-operation. My prediction is that in six months time this vote will be remembered, if at all, as an example of the Republican Party’s willingness to work together with their opposites to Get Things Done. And the amusing part is that the analysis will be wrong in so many ways that it will almost be right.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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