5 Reasons Bipartisanship Won't Work

This might be the only consensus in Washington

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President Obama is pinning many of the White House's abortive legislative hopes to the possibility of bipartisanship. He's planning a televised bipartisan summit on health care reform, which Republicans are threatening to boycott. He's also pushing for a job bill with bipartisan support. But GOP obstructionism has recently been at a high, leading many commentators to wonder if bipartisanship is dead. If it is, does Obama have a shot? That bipartisanship will fail seems to be the only consensus in Washington these days.

  • No: 'Bipartisanship Popular, Compromise Tricky'  The Washington Post's Jon Cohen reads the polls, saying Americans "want the two sides to keep working to pass comprehensive health-care reform." However, "The sticky part of widespread desire for compromise is that it's simple to want it from the other side. About three-quarters of Democrats see the congressional Republicans as intransigent, while a similar proportion of Republicans see Obama that way."
  • No: But Obama Gets This  The New Republic's Jonathan Chait insists it's all part of a plan. "Obama uses a similar approach toward Republicans as foreign enemies like the Iranian regime: take them up on their claim to some shared goal (nuclear disarmament, health care reform), elide their preferred red herrings, engage them seriously, and then expose their disingenuousness," he writes.
  • No: Scant GOP Cooperation  The Washington Post's Ezra Klein reads the GOP "ransom note" response to Obama's call for bipartisan talks, which includes a demand to scrap health care. "These are not folks who concern themselves with the appearance of good faith. The only thing missing is an obscure riddle that Obama must answer before he can speak to Mitch McConnell."
  • No: Neither Side Really Wants It  The New York Times's David Herszenhorn explains. "Skeptics around Washington are already warning that the summit will be nothing more than Kabuki theater, allowing each side to grandstand on television while providing little in the way of substantive debate or additional understanding for the folks watching back home," he writes.
Republicans will ask if Obama's willing to consider an across-the-board tax cut. He'll say no, because he doesn't think it will create jobs and he knows it will add significantly to the deficit. Then Republicans will say they couldn't reach a deal ... Mainstream news will describe Congress as a partisan pit, and public opinion will begin to turn against the bill because they think Democrats are forcing legislation through, and the bill is taking too long to come together, and they don't think it will work, anyway because the press surrounding the bill will be mostly negative. Moderate Democrats will get nervous and ask to pare down the bill, which will probably make it less effective, and months later, if Democrats actually pass the weak-sauce law, it will necessarily lose Republicans, alienate independents and frustrate liberals.
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