Bipartisan Gag Reflex

Democrats clanging on about bipartisanship, or using the word bipartisan seventeen times in a turn before the camera has become a national disgrace. You’re my president, Mr. Obama, but this intervention is for you too.

Let me remind those of you who are profligate in your use of this sorry word, that it inevitably creates the impression the speaker is nervously pleading for voters to really, really like him, or else to assure listeners that whatever proposal he or she is offering isn’t too, too hot or too, too cold, which in most translations means: too Democratic. Might I suggest that this reinforces in voters’ minds that you are backing away from Democratic goals and principles as though recoiling from touching an electric fence; or that thirty years of relentlessly successful Republican propaganda has left you with the political confidence of a naked gladiator. It may be true, but trust me, offering up that persona isn’t helping you.

Republicans seem to have figured this out long ago, because they seldom if ever use bipartisan or bipartisanship. I imagine this has less to do with the fact that the words are meaningless, than because they really don’t give a damn about them anyhow. If you’re a brazen shill for oil companies, and a bought and paid for Wall Street hack doing a marionettes dance every day in public view, sucking up to voters as a soothing compromiser really isn’t your thing.

In fact, when Republican members of congress, along with lobbyists for the financial industry outnumbering actual members of congress 5 to 1, attempt to obliterate financial regulation or to assassinate the new Consumer Protection Agency or persistently, profusely and shamelessly coddle the wealthy tax brackets, or contemptuously do the bidding of credit card companies against consumer, they’re already giving voters the middle finger, while cockily telling a chunk of them, “You idiots will be voting for us anyhow…you always do”. Besides, Republicans already have their arsenal of profoundly banal clichés about the evils of government, the looming threat of Sharia law, and the perfidy of abortion to drown any sprig of skepticism by their reliable voters in the bathtub.

American democracy has always relied upon a large degree of comprise simply because of the divisions of authority in the structure of our government. Those compromises always entail some long or short-term positive gain for the compromiser, as well as an element of giving in. No one makes a deal, enters an arrangement or signs an agreement because of an abstraction called bipartisanship.

Even judged simply for its usefulness as vocabulary the word comes out unforgivably weak. It means literally what it says it means, which is anything containing elements from each of the political parties. Of course, the fact that the ratio in the combination may be 99 parts from one party and 1 from the other, should tell you something about the weightiness of the world bipartisan. Needless to say, if congress passes a bill that calls for the cutting down of every tree on the North American continent, or one that declares September 11th National Skyscraper Appreciation Day, or one that increases marginal tax rates for all incomes to 99%, or one that ends Medicare, Social Security, and demobilizes the American military, or one that actually creates a Ministry of Silly Walks sponsored by John Cleese, there you have your proud, bipartisan achievements.

I know some Democrats representing redder hued districts or states live in fear of being perceived as too flamboyantly Democratic. Leave the craven and vacant buzzwords to the Republican Party. It needs them, because its policies are so unredeemably awful. It has to dress up its actions in dazzling marketing, because it is perpetually trying to sell the American public a brand new euthanasia machine.

But, for my sake, all of you, please, cut, cap and balance the number of times you use “bipartisan ” in any given appearance. Do it on a bipartisan basis, and for the sake of bipartisanship.


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