Fisher: A two-way street

After their monumental and overwhelming defeat in the recent midterm elections, it seems that the Democratic Party has acquired a new favorite word: bipartisanship.

The crescendo started rather slowly, with a few newly elected legislators such as Connecticut Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 suggesting that now was the moment to put party allegiance aside and work together for the sake of America. By the time Thanksgiving came around, a shaken President Obama had joined the chorus, urging Democrats, Republicans and independents to come together and “accelerate this recovery.”

If Republicans are cynical about this new, modest and cuddly Democratic message, they have every reason to be so. When one of the most overtly partisan and ideological presidents in modern history suddenly decides that he wants to be your friend, the right approach is not, as some recent commentators on this page have suggested, to make every effort to compromise with him and share responsibility for his failures. The wiser path requires Republicans to take all the time they need to consider what Obama’s motivations are for his increasingly enthusiastic attempts to reach out to them.

The American people did not vote Republican in order to tell the president that his proposals were too modest, or to ensure in-depth scrutiny of his plans. They overwhelmingly voted Republican because they wanted the country to move in an entirely different direction: a direction that recognizes that we cannot continue with the colossal expenditure that has characterized both the Bush and Obama administrations. While the Republicans have woken up to this stark reality, nothing that the president has said to date suggests that he recognizes or respects this public sentiment.

What Democrats inevitably fail to understand is that any real effort at bipartisanship has to be a two-way street. Obama and his advisors are not stupid. By fostering the illusion that the Republicans are uncooperative and obstructionist, they know that they can create the impression that they are the only reasonable and trustworthy option.

But Obama’s view of bipartisanship involves neither dialogue nor compromise. It involves the Republicans rolling over and signing on for whatever new hare-brained initiative the Democrats happen to be advocating this week because it is somehow “in the national interest.” They fail to grasp that if the American people agreed with them, they would not have turned away from their party in droves.

When Republicans vote against one of the president’s pet policies, it does not imply that they want to see the country grind to a shuddering halt; it is simply evidence that they disagree with the policy. Republican legislators would not be making any grand patriotic gesture through caving in to Democrat demands. They would be betraying the millions of Americans who rejected excessive expenditure and bloated, bureaucratic government in favor of fiscal responsibility and an acceptance of economic reality.

This is not to say that there is no common ground between the two parties, or that Republicans will benefit by forcing America into a period of stagnation. But if the Democrats want to demonstrate genuine bipartisanship — and genuine maturity — they need to wake up to reality. They need to understand that their platform has been soundly rejected by the electorate and make their approach to the Republicans in a spirit of humility.

As things stand, Republicans must see this sudden superficial show of Democratic bipartisanship as the hollow sham that it is. It is merely the last role of the die concocted by a failing and unpopular president destined to serve only one term. America can see through such opportunism and will reject it come 2012. Hold your nerve, Republicans; bigger prizes await.

Alex Fisher is freshman in Morse College.


  • blah

    yes, it is all that simple.

  • silliwin01

    itc: freshman thinks he is informed about politics because he goes to Yale

    for clarification i don’t associate with either party, thinking that people sucks, politicians suck, and our current political system likewise sucks (it truly is the least worst form of governance, aside from perhaps the idealistic but ultimately implausible benevolent dictator). i take offense when people write poorly thought out, overtly aligned opinion pieces in the ydn that fail to illustrate any form of substantive critical thought

    for example, how can you claim that their platform was soundly rejected by the electorate when the exact same platform led to universal victories in the elections two years prior? it clearly isn’t the political principles that are causing the swings in popular opinion. they liked it two years ago, enough to elect the first black president and revert congress to the democrats, but suddenly don’t like it even though its never changed and basically hasn’t changed since, say, 1960? the effort is appreciated, but you sound like an middle schooler just reaching the crescendo of his rage towards the party his parents hate, and before writing anything further you really ought to observe the system a tad more and reach a more mature (and sadly, cynical) perspective on it

    another example would be your comment concerning the american people’s desire to reverse the egregious levels of spending the federal government practiced under both bush and obama. republicans candidates always preach fiscal responsibility (like bush) and yet fail to deliver, while democrats are always labeled as big government tax and spenders, yet the most recent budget surplus was enjoyed under a democratic president. as far as i can tell, your inclusion of bush was a gambit intended to make you appear unbiased, but one that fails you miserable and in doing so indicates both your ingrained hatred of democrats and lack of understanding regarding american politics

    this is already in the competition for worst ydn guest column of the year, and in light of the freefalling writing standards they have, that really says something

  • River Tam

    > for clarification i don’t associate with either party, thinking that people sucks, politicians suck, and our current political system likewise sucks (it truly is the least worst form of governance, aside from perhaps the idealistic but ultimately implausible benevolent dictator).

    Bravo, you are truly a free spirit.

  • mrmike527

    Yeah, because Democrats only were calling for Bipartisanship after they lost.

    Oh wait, they were calling for bipartisanship after they won, too. And when they presented their $600 Million stimulus package, they allowed Republicans to tack on the two most expensive items in the entire package, bringing the total to ~$820 Million–of course, the Republicans who offered those items did not vote for the package.

    Its not about Liberals and Conservatives, its always been about not cooperating with the Democrats for the Republicans. When the Democrats took out the Public Option and any form of rationing from the Healthcare Bill, what was the Republican Party’s greatest objection? Cuts to Medicare. Do you realize how blatantly ridiculous that is? The party of Liberals had to FIGHT the party of Conservatives to reduce one of the most socialist elements of our government.

    The problem has not been that the Democrats refuse to allow a two-way street, the problem is that Republicans have figured out its best politically for them to completely disagree with everything the Democrats do. The Dems have constantly been open to compromise, and aren’t passing legislation that Republicans don’t want–they’re just passing legislation that Republicans don’t vote for.

    No YDN, it does not make for interesting articles when you simply alternate a crazy Conservative opinion one day with a crazy Liberal opinion another day. Perhaps it would be better to find someone who’s not trying to write propaganda pieces for either party?

  • phantomllama

    silliwin01’s comment is in the competition for worst ydn website comment of the year, and in light of their freefalling writing standards, that really says something…

  • SY10

    This piece is as bad a recitation of Republican talking point tripe as Newsham’s have been of Democratic talking point tripe. Maybe Fisher and Newsham should get together to yell their talking points at each other, and leave the YDN opinion page for people who at least make an effort to do some independent thinking. If I wanted to read Boehner and Pelosi press releases, I would.

  • PurpleHaze

    I find it deliciously ironic that this column is published the same morning that Senate Republicans (side note: still the minority in that body) have announced that they will block all legislative items for the remainder of this session if they don’t get what they want.

    Alex suggests that Obama and his advisors “[foster] the illusion that the Republicans are uncooperative and obstructionist.” I think the Republicans do plenty to foster that “illusion” on their own.

  • pablum

    Is Alex Fisher even old enough to vote, yet?

  • phantomllama

    I’m pleased pablum remembered to comment. I was getting worried that we might see a right-wing article without one of his silly little snide remarks beneath it; he might not have got his bonus from the DNC this month…

  • pablum

    I may be petty, silly, and snide, but I am no Democrat.

  • Standards

    As PurpleHaze noted:

    delicious, delicious irony

    I think there’s a word for someone who writes exaggerated and dishonest diatribes:
    partisan hack?