Post-Partisanship

You may not be able to define the “post-partisans,” but you know them when you hear them, if only because they all seem to use the same speechwriter. Who made each of the following statements? Your choices are Michael Bloomberg, Barack Obama, and Arnold Schwarzenegger:

A) “All of our most deeply held dreams and aspirations require us to build on our common bonds rather than keep resorting to the tired battle cries of partisan politics that divides and demoralizes us.”

B) “Perhaps more than any other time in our recent history, we need a new kind of politics, one that can excavate and build upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans.”

C) “We do not have to settle for the same old politics … [We need] a fundamentally different way of behaving—one built on cooperation and collaboration.”

The idea of a politics that rises above partisanship dates back at least to the Progressive movement of a century ago, and the term post-partisan surfaced as far back as the 1970s. But only lately has “post-partisan” become Post-Partisan®, a brand with a following. Advocates say it stands for everything good, including (to quote from just one speech by Bloomberg, the mayor of New York) “real results,” “honesty and common sense,” “innovation,” “teamwork,” etc., etc.

Still, vacuous though the concept may be, the exasperation it bespeaks is real and justified. America is a centrist country without a centrist party, and many Americans, whether they call themselves post-partisan, independent, or just moderate, are getting fed up.

Answers: A) Schwarzenegger. B) Obama. C) Bloomberg.

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Jonathan Rauch is a contributing editor of The Atlantic and National Journal and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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