One of The Atlantic’s “Biggest Ideas of the Year” in 2008 was “post-partisanship.” Actually, as the amplifying mini-essay conceded, the notion that our world would be better if politics would rise above partisanship—-or if politicians would rise above politics, or if governing would rise above politicians, or something like that—is not new. It is the meat and potatoes of every newspaper editorial board. It is the result of every public-opinion poll. Every election brings another general or business executive who promises to do what’s best for the country, not what will garner the most votes. The conundrum of begging people to vote for you because you are not someone (that is, a typical politician) who goes around begging people to vote for you may be why a general or business executive doesn’t get very far.
This is the year when partisanship made a comeback, with no post about it. Republicans decided to oppose President Obama’s health-care-reform proposal before they—or, for that matter, Obama himself—knew what was in it. Their slogan, echoing Nancy Reagan, was “Just say no.” They didn’t offer an alternative proposal. They rejected all those imploring them to come to the table, to be reasonable, even to merely look reasonable. They were, in a word, partisan.