Pure partisanship

By Megan McArdle

I find it hard to believe that, in this day and age, anyone is really making an issue of Obama's purported ability to transcend partisanship. Whether it's Paul Krugman lamenting that he just doesn't have the steely will to really stick it to the right, or fawning fans gushing that Barack's transcendant appeal will finally unite us all into one big pulsating mass of Obamamaniacs, I have the same reaction: didn't I already graduate from high school? More to the point, didn't they?

Neoadolescence is the only explanation I can devise for the fact that none of these Very Serious People seem to recall that eight years ago, George Bush was making this claim at least equally convincingly. And am I really the only one who remembers that every single campaign of my adult life has sported lavish feature stories on the crossover appeal of the media's favorite candidate? Forget 1992--in 2004 I could have papered a largish condo with all the stories those angry Republicans who were crossing party lines for the first time in order to cast their lot for Kerry.

It is easy transcend partisanship when you are not, yourself, a polarizing figure. As the anodyne governor of a conservative state, George Bush had little difficulty reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats whose politics would put them on the rightish side of the Republican party in New York. Similarly, a first term Senator whose party holds an uneasy majority seldom has either the need, nor the opportunity, to become the standard-bearer for partisan purity.

And though you really wouldn't know it from the gushing political columns, it is not exactly a stunning surprise to find Democrats voting Republican, or Republicans voting Democrat. We live in a dynamic world. People change. They grow. Liberals get mugged, and conservatives get sacked. None of this means that we've suddenly got A New Sort of Candidate. Barack Obama is a lovely chap, but five gets you ten that in a couple of years conservatives will be complaining about him just as bitterly as they did about Clinton.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2008/01/pure-partisanship/2484/