Is Bipartisanship Dead?

The White House needs Congress to get along. That may be a futile hope.

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If the White House is going to get anything done at any point during President Obama's tenure, the Republicans and Democrats of Congress will have to get along. This means that at least a few Republican Senators must occasionally join with Democrats to pass even the simplest legislation. So far, however, a hardline GOP policy of obstructionism has made this impossible. Above, a brilliant graphic by Andrew Odewahn visualizes the widening partisan gap. Is this just a short-term hiccup or is bipartisanship really, truly dead? And what can we do about it?

  • Dems Must Fix Structural Collapse The Atlantic's James Fallows argues it's up to Democrats to draw attention to the problem. "[T]he structural failures of American government are the country's main problem right now," he writes. "If Democrats could find a way to talk about structural issues -- if everyone can find a way to talk about them -- that would be at least a step. And the Dems could talk about the simple impossibility of governing when the opposition is committed to 'No' as a bloc."
  • Obama Courts, Pressures GOP The New York Times's Hulse and Zeleny survey the two-prong strategy. "Obama intends to follow through quickly on his State of the Union proposal for bipartisan White House brainstorming sessions. Republicans will also be invited to the White House this weekend to watch the Super Bowl, as well as to Camp David and other venues for social visits." Obama's goal is also "forcing Republicans to make substantive compromises or be portrayed as obstructionist given their renewed power to block almost all legislation in the Senate."
  • Obama Will Shame GOP Into Action The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder declares bipartisanship dead. "Republicans know that the benefit they're deriving in the short term far exceeds the criticism they're getting from the political elite." Ambinder suggests shame will be the White House strategy.
Really, the ONLY way for Democrats to get anything done is to change that balance. The White House will continue to reach out -- not because they actually believe in the magical bipartisan fairy, but because they're ready to remonstrate Republicans when the GOP slams the door in their faces. Another strategem would be to force the GOP -- old white guys with sketchy bladders -- to filibuster. Stand up there and filibuster. Expose the ugliness of what the process is. (Andy Stern of SEIU has been advising senior congressional leaders to employ this.) Figure out a way to channel the public's anger -- diffuse as it is -- onto Republicans by exposing their votes against popular majoritarian items. [The Washington Post's Ezra Klein explains why this is unlikely.]
  • High School-Style Clique Wars The Economist says the "self-segregation" is a social, not policy, divide. "The social divide is, of course, most striking because it appears not to correspond to any reasonable ideological divide; as Mr. Obama told the Republican senators, the health-care reform that passed the Senate on party lines is an extremely moderate bill, the most conservative and private-sector-friendly version of universal health insurance imaginable. But that doesn't really matter; the clash in the Senate isn't about policy. It's a war between two cliques."
  • End The Filibuster Liberal blogger Digby thinks that's the only option. "That one supermajority requirement makes it impossible for our two party system to function under conditions such as this. Obviously, the Republicans have no need to eliminate it because they have achieved this party discipline while the Democrats, also obviously, have not," she writes. "Actually getting Republican support is impossible."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.