Myth of Bipartisanship
Thomas N. Tripp
(This article was written as the debt ceiling debate
ensued in Congress in the midst of the recovery from the Great Recession
brought on by the financial meltdown beginning in 2008. The debate
regarding the need to raise the debt ceiling focused on cutting spending so
the U.S. debt did not continue to rise until it became untenable [which is
still the case in 2013 when the second debt ceiling debate, over the same
issue, ensued]. The call for bipartisanship was yet another attempt to
paint those who are fiscally conservative as being obstructionist, etc., if
they did not cave in to political pressure. The conservatives were
making an existential point, everyone else simply wanted to kick the can of
fiscal integrity down the road.)
While some in Washington
try to solve and others obstruct fixing our fiscal mess, we hear the liberal
lament: “our political system is broken because of partisanship.”
This is untrue, even absurd. This
argument tries to pit politics against principle.
The Democrats are using their own convoluted brand
of partisanship, a cynical feel-good version of “can’t we all just get
along?” after they have already stacked the deck against reform.
They assert there is something wrong with the political system when
they don’t get their way, rather than with their policies.
The political claim prevents discussion of the real problem the
nation faces: insolvency. And
the liberal hypocrisy has finally been brought to trial.
Democrats have been on an untenable political and economic course for
decades, during which they have claimed a moral high ground.
Now they are astonished to find that the public no longer believes
Obviously we need to protect those who cannot help
themselves, and we need to make Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid
solvent and safe, not only from bankruptcy, but from the crass media and
political maneuverings of liberal politicians who claim to be the only ones
welfarism that promises everything and delivers little but
lowest-common-denominator living standards was born in the 1930s, during the
administration of Franklin Roosevelt. In
that era there was no bipartisanship. The
Democrats controlled both the executive and legislative branches and their
Congressional majorities were impregnable.
They passed legislation implementing government programs that
promised to remedy the economy’s deep-seated malaise and to save future
generations from the poverty that grew inexorably in that decade.
But the untenable programs of that era, still-burgeoning today,
haven’t yet “solved” poverty. Nevertheless,
it was a politically astute move.
American psyche in that time was based on the idea the government owed an
individual nothing more than opportunity and freedom of choice. People
didn’t want handouts and welfare lines—that solution was anathema to the
head-held-high view of every capable man and woman in
. They wanted only a chance to
work. But the government checked
the economy and took every wrong turn possible via false sentimentality and
a thirst to use the power they held to gain a political foothold that would
last for generations. They
wanted the masses beholden.
It was not
as though there were no countervailing voices—voices that understood the
human impulse toward achievement and the dignity of individual
partisanship ruled and the calls for economic sanity were dismissed.
In the long term, FDR’s policies led to a culture of dependency for
the poor and an untenable public debt created by a political machine that
bought votes with cynical parentalism.
President Lyndon Johnson’s administration in the 1960s bipartisanship was
ignored again and the Democrats rolled over both common sense and fiscal
reality when they enacted Medicare and Medicaid but imposed no fiscal
controls and offered no incentive to individuals to use these programs
wisely. Forty-five years later
President Obama used the same majorities to impose his version of another
ill-founded mandatory health care system.
In all three eras the liberals had the power of numbers.
Today the conservatives have the power of principle.
It seems a fair fight.
liberal economic and moral conflagration can only be resolved by an equal,
but far less cynical partisanship. The
Tea Party reaction has risen with a view not toward politics but founded on
principle. Because the liberals
cannot dismiss principle on its merits, conservatism is attacked on a phony
of the efforts of the Democrats to convince us otherwise, the political
system isn’t broken, it is working just fine and the proof is in the
electoral pudding. Republicans
who embrace conservative principles are winning elections in record numbers,
yet they are being accused of acting in their own political interests rather
than the country’s. The exact
opposite is the truth.
the point, Democrats and the conservative-Republican alliance are not
fighting the same battles. The
liberals want to maintain power, the conservatives want to right what the
citizens see as wrong. The
liberal call for bipartisanship—see the “Super Committee” debate—is
not a policy. It is the last
refuge of the scoundrels who created this disaster in the first place.
The Democrats took partisanship to an untenable extent that has
created, so many decades later, the massive debt our children and
grandchildren and their children are expected to repay, while making it
worse be denying a hearing to any rational solutions.
Passing this burden to the next three generations is unconscionable.
election resulted in an unprecedented shift of power with 63 new Republican
members of Congress (the fourth largest political reversal in
history), more than 700 new state legislators, and a change of control in
more than 20 state legislatures. Intensive
efforts in 2011 mounted by government unions to reverse conservative
electoral and policy victories in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Indiana and other
states failed because the public now understands today’s battle is not
about partisan politics, it’s about the principles of sound economic and
question remains: Will the
Republicans, guided by their conservative mentors, continue on a course of
fiscal sanity and civic responsibility, whether after the 2012 elections
they hold one house of Congress or gain the Senate and the White House?
If they achieve their own majorities in
will they effectively counter-punch both the Democrat’s defensive call for
a mythical and self-serving bipartisanship and the liberal media’s
political assault on honest economics and real freedom?
Worse, will the Republicans, in a giddy state of political power, get
so full of themselves they overreach and forget why
they are there; will they foolishly conclude they can create their own
political dynasty by petty attacks on legitimate, but currently irrelevant
targets such as NPR or the National Endowment for the Arts?
nation’s single purpose is to bring back economic honesty and freedom of
individual choice via responsible and responsive governing.
If those who understand this need do not remain on a rational fiscal
course we will lose the coherent and sound momentum we have created.
Jobs will remain scarce, our national security will be at risk, the
quality of our health care will plummet as costs soar, and we will bequeath
our kids and grandkids nothing but misery, debt, a perpetually empty Social
Security “lockbox,” and the decline and destruction of an ideal—the
United States of America—that is so worthy, and so precarious.
The electorate knows this is not
about power, it is about principle. Can
the political class both comprehend and act on that reality?
Tom Tripp is
secretary of the American Conservative Union Foundation and author of First Principles: Self-governance in an Open Society
This article first
appeared in the Washington Times; it later appeared on Townhall.com
and other Internet websites.
© 1 October 2011