Bipartisanship (Really!)

Marc Ambinder has some advance skepticism about efforts to build support for stronger action against global poverty and disease on a bipartisan basis:

The second is to create a transpartisan set of solutions. That's going to be hard. The politics of poverty is perceived as intractable. Liberal and conservative solutions rarely overlap, and when they do, there are distinct political downsides for at least one of the political parties. Remember, the mass of Americans who want bipartisan solutions aren't the same Americans who vote in primaries. That's why Fred Thompson talks about bipartisan solutions and espouses fairly conventional Republican policies.

Naturally, this came up a lot in a small meeting I and some other bloggers attended with Bill Frist, Tom Daschle, John Podesta, and Michael Gerson who are, I guess, the key symbols of bipartisanship. I came away fairly convinced. Frist, who turns out to be almost shockingly impressive on this subject, specifically said that in his view "the real turn was the faith-based community embracing an issue that heretofore they'd been uncomfortable with, largely because of condoms." What happened was less that people with strong religious opposition to condom promotion decided to embrace it anyway, said Frist, but that people reach the conclusion that "we don't have to be out in front on all aspects of the issue" and just focus on helping in the ways they can help in good conscience (distribution of medical supplies, campaigns on the importance of faithfullness in marriage) rather than fighting other people over different prevention methods.

Frist did, however, concede that thus far it's the Democratic candidates who "have taken a leadership role today on these issues." The main obstacle, as best I can see, to bipartisan action on this front is that (as one conservative blogger in the room noted), on the right this kind of thing is specifically identified with exactly the kind of Gerson-ian "compassionate conservative" strain of conservatism that's becoming deeply unfashionable at the moment.