The Difference between Embracing Bipartisanship and Eschewing Obsessive Partisanship

by Whitney Pitcher


The recently passed fiscal cliff deal was heralded by the media as a “bipartisan compromise”.  Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein emphasized that the deal needed a “bipartisan basis”. Republican Senator John Boozman called the bill a “bipartisan solution” that would “tackle the financial troubles are country is facing”. The bill ultimately received a total of 125 Republicans and 219 Democrats between both the House and Senate. The bill indeed was bipartisan, but what was the price of bipartisanship? Eighty percent of the revenue from the bill will go to President Obama’s cronies through incentives and subsidies. The Congressional Budget Office ultimately determined that the touted “balanced approach” really meant that there would be 10 dollars in tax increases for every dollar in spending cuts leading to an additional $4 trillion in deficits.Additionally, the payroll tax holiday expired as part of the deal. It is indeed arguable that the tax holiday shouldn’t have existed in the first place, as the holiday could contribute to the insolvency of Social Security. However, allowing that tax holiday to expire while claiming that the deal didn’t “raise” taxes is a disingenuous claim by politicians pretending to champions for the middle class while 77% of Americans see less money in their paycheck. In order to face the political reality of a looming, media declared fiscal cliff that would have meant deep across the board spending cuts and tax increases, Congress ignored the fiscal reality of our present and future to spend more… but bipartisanship!

The media has touted the bipartisanship of both President Obama and Governor Chris Christie in recent months as well. President Obama has chosen to appoint former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. Hagel supported Obama 2008 candidacy and has taken some stances on Iran and Israel that have made many leery of him as a Defense Secretary. Following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, Governor Christie embraced and praised President Obama’s response while more recently trashing Republicans for ultimately waiting a few days to pass a clean bill for Hurricane Sandy aid, rather than the pork laden bill that Christie preferred. Both of these politicians “sacrificed” in their bipartisanship–Obama his partisan stance for his policy stance and political friendship and Christie his party’s purported conservative platform for his political advantage.

Abandoning a party platform (i.e. principle) for the sake of party happens often in politics. It’s called obsessive partisanship. Congressman Paul Ryan joined in the aforementioned “bipartisanship” when he voted for the fiscal cliff deal, noting that he “had the guts to vote for it” and that allowing this plan to pass meant that “now we can finally debate spending”. However, when Congressman Ryan had the opportunity to “debate spending” when President Bush was in office, he didn’t. As I have written before:

He is an intelligent Congressman who has shown leadership in the House on the budget and making strong stances against Obamacare, particularly the IPAB—the unelected board of bureaucrats tasked with managing how Medicare pays. Ryan has served as a Congressman in Washington DC since 1999 and worked for House members for several years during the early and mid 1990s as well. However, despite his strong stance against the Obama administration’s profligate spending, he also supported the TARP bailout during the Bush administration and the auto bailout set in motion during the Bush administration.

Paul Ryan is just one example. Individuals on both sides of the aisle are guilty of obsessive partisanship. When President Bush raised the debt ceiling, then Senator Obama called it “a failure of leadership”, only to raise the debt ceiling himself in his first term. He is poised to raise it yet again. This is obsessive partisanship. It’s one thing for a liberal or a conservative to vote or govern according to his or her principles. It is another thing to abandon one’s alleged principles for the sake of party or political expediency.

Thankfully, there are some individuals who have eschewed obsessive partisanship for the sake of maintaining their principles. Sarah Palin is a prime example:

She had garnered a reputation for bucking her own party– calling out the Alaska GOP chair for doing party business on state time, taking on and defeating an incumbent governor in her own party, cleaning up the ethical mess caused by that incumbent she defeated, and even suing a GOP presidential administration to enable energy development in Alaska.

There are other examples as well. Just this week former Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate, Adam Andrezjewski filed a lawsuit against Republican comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to make the state of Illinois checkbook publicly available. Topinka had earlier denied Andrezjewski’s organization’s (For the Good of Illinois) FOIA request. He is suing a member of his own party for the sake of making a state in fiscal shambles more transparent. Making state spending publicly available was embraced by Governor Palin as well and is an example of obsessive partisanship eschewed. When Governor Palin launched that effort in Alaska in 2008, it was praised by both Grover Norquist and Democrat Ralph Nader. She willing exposed the spending she signed into law at the risk of political criticism.

This why pro market, pro transparency populism needs to be embraced. Americans have become jaded to politics where their kids’ futures are put in jeopardy because politicians in Washington want to play kick the can for the sake of their own political expediency. Politicians too often point the finger of blame and broken promises only to find that when they point fingers they have three pointing back at them. Is a pro market, pro transparency approach to governance idealistic? Perhaps. Do we deserve it? With our propensity to vote the same folks into office election after election, maybe we don’t, but America’s future does deserve it. We can’t continue to sacrifice our fiscal reality for the sake of our bipartisan, but obsessively partisan political reality.

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