Churlish headlines this morning read, “Stimulus 2, Bipartisanship 1.” But they spell it wrong. Bipartisanship Won!!
How can I say bipartisanship won? Because in during the election campaign which ended so happily on my birthday, Barack Obama and the Democratic congressional campaigns reached out to everyone, and especially to centrist Republicans (sometimes to the short term frustration true blue Democrats). And they succeeded. The focus of the media has been on the lopsided votes in the House and Senate, where troglodyte Republicans are holding on to the past and imagine that they are proving something by refusing to participate in addressing the serious economic problems we face.
But in November centrist jurisdictions elected Democrats. Republican voters voted for Democratic candidates. The congress we now have includes may centrist Democrats who are sensitive to the concerns of their constituents. Our President and the Democratic party are now “bipartisan.” Centrist and liberal elements co-exist in one grand party.
The remaining “Republicans” in both houses are the tired right-wing dredges of their party spouting worn out slogans and touting more of the same failed policies that got us where we are.
I am among those who have complained that the stimulus and some of the other proposals of the current administration have not gone far enough in addressing the excesses of the truly partisan policies of the past eight years. I hope those policies will be reviewed and progress extended. But I have come to realize that they are the result of the fact that the Democratic party is now, under Barack Obama’s leadership, truly a big tent. What look like failed attempts to reach out to the Republican Party are really, in part, necessary accommodations to the former Republicans who now find themselves within the Democratic party, either in Congress or in the electorate. There is the true bipartisan stretch.
This sometimes leads to short term frustration for purists, those of us who would prefer the perfect to the [insert your favorite term: good, necessary, possible . . .]. But in the long view it this may be for the best. The remains of the Republicans in both houses may think they are having the best of both worlds, letting the Democrats carry the water while they sit back and carp, in the theory that if current policies fail they can point fingers but if they succeed they will share in the benefits. But in reality they are just falling behind.
As Arlen Spector said, “I think there are a lot of people in the Republican caucus who are glad to see this action taken without their fingerprints, without their participation.” Except in the most reactionary jurisdictions their perfidy will come back to haunt them.
Specter, along with centrist Maine Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe were the only Republican members in either house to join in crafting and supporting the stimulus, but millions of other Republicans joined on November 4th to create the bipartisan Democratic Party that made this possible.