Another Case for Bipartisanship

At his Mother Jones blog, Kevin Drum makes an interesting case that bipartisanship is important, after all. On the most contentious issues now before Congress, he says, Democrats have addressed at least some conservative concerns. But the fact that those actions haven’t won over Republican votes corrupts the political process. As Drum puts it:

If you have bipartisan support, you can do it right: you can stand up to special interests and K Street lobbyists and enact real reform. But you can only do this if you have political cover and plenty of votes. If, instead, you have to do it in the face of implacable partisan opposition, then you can’t afford to make any more enemies. Every vote is precious, and that means instead of standing up to special interests, you have to buy them off. All of them.

That sounds like a reasonable description of the health care debate, in which the Obama administration has cut side deals with an array of interest groups in an effort to get them to hold their fire. (As this interesting story in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times notes, less-hated groups, like doctors, were able to strike sweeter deals.) And it also applies to the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, where seemingly every House Democrat with a coal plant or hog farm in his district was able to hold the legislation hostage.

So in an ideal world, there’s still an argument that bipartisanship, narrowly defined, shouldn’t matter. But Drum makes a good case for why it does.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.