Thursday, October 4, 2007

Question: Is Bi-partisanship Always Good?

Larry raises an interesting question in a comment on an earlier post. Perhaps because I tend to vote across party lines I assume that bi-partisanship is good. I suspect that many of the commenters here have a much stronger political party affiliation than I do, and as is often the case, there probably are situations when partisan trumps bi-partisan. When and why is it good to be partisan?


Anonymous said...

UM, I have never voted a straight ticket in my life. I share your commitment to bi-partisanship as one of the best aspects of our political system. No one party has all the answers or all the right people to lead our country. Aside from the checks and balances I firmly believe that when we work together to solve problems we find solutions that work for all Americans. I'll be interested in reading what others have to say on this topic, but I think that one look at the "state" of our State makes my case for bi-partisanship. On the federal level I am convinced that unless and until we all sit down, forget the high handed rhetoric and party labels and really work on behalf of what's good for ALL Americans we will continue to flounder.

team america, world police said...

In addition to the "checks and balances" advantage of the two-party system (just look at what happens when one party has uncontroverted rule, such as the national GOP over the past years, or the Dems down in Springfield today), the political party system provides a relatively effective means to bring many people together under a fairly cohesive (theoretically) system of ideals and beliefs, in order to strengthen and perpetuate those ideals and beliefs.

While it's easy to let the party system run away with itself, identifying oneself with a party and then supporting those candidates is hopefully an easy way to promote the election of people to decision-making posts who share the values of the people who identify themselves with that party. Most of the time, except for those of us who live and breathe politics, most people do not have the time or inclination to dissect a candidate's stance on every issue, so most people ID themselves with a party, and trust that the person running under that banner shares most, if not all, of the voter's ideals. Not a perfect system, but not a bad one, if the alternative is a pure democracy (everyone votes individually on every single issue).

That being said, on any given vote or issue, there could well be a candidate or position in which one may not agree with the party line, so I have no problem with people crossing lines to vote, or even elected officials- in fact, blindly toeing the party line is probably a far worse transgression of the people's trust, because the elected officials are supposed to represent their constituency, not the party itself.

The fact is, there are hard-line zealots in each party, and they do a lot more harm than good.


Walter Sobchik said...

The one thing I can't stand about Democrats around here are that they criticize Kirk for being bipartisan. When he and Lipinski finally take the rhetoric on Iraq down a notch, Kirk is the devil and they need to primary Lipinski. This is nuts! Someone save the center in this country.


Anonymous said...

Liked the Lovell hospital thing this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Walter, it's kind of nuts to say the least. Our great country NEEDS bi-partisanship if we are ever to move forward. I think that's one of Congressman Kirk's greatest strengths. He has never authored a piece of legislation without a Democratic co-sponsor and that just riles the leaders of the 10th Dems. Congressman Kirk understands that only by coming together, yes, to the center most of the time, can we make laws that really benefit all Americans. Let's just be glad we have Congressman Mark Kirk working for ALL of us in DC.....and let's work hard to KEEP him there.

ArchPundit said...

There's a problem with most of these answers in that they beg the question.

I'm not at all unsympathetic to the notion that one can work with others of a different party.

However, what is best for the country is a question that arises from how one views the role of government and the role of the market. People evaluate those roles very differently and so there is natural disagreement.

There are times we can agree--SCHIP is a good example. There was a good compromise put together despite very different views on how the government should interact with the health care industry.

And I don't think there are any Illinois statewide elections where I haven't (or wouldn't have when not in Illinois) crossed party lines other than in 2002 and there were a couple close calls in that one but I did end up voting straight ticket Democratic and regretting Blagojevich.

I'm far more partisan at the federal level largely because those distinctions between the role of government and the role of the market, civil rights and liberties, and finally foreign policy have become far more heightened than in the past.

Part of that is natural realignment where the parties are far closer in electoral terms and so the stakes of each election are higher. But part of it is also a fairly radical administration that has somehow pulled the entire party with it.

The example of employment discrimination legislation is one of the best cases I've seen. The Republicans, moderate and conservative voted to keep the amount of time to file such a case to within 6 months of the disparity arising regardless of whether the individual knew of the disparity or not. This effectively kills off any sort of civil law response to wage discrimination based on gender.

That's a pretty widely held belief between most people I know regardless of ideology that a woman should be paid the same for the same work, yet this bill was stopped from changing a Supreme Court ruling on law by a Republican Party bloc.

What happened?

On the war, I think the Kirk-Lipinski plan is a capitulation to this administration. Even if you think we should stay with combat troops, the bill requires nothing of this administration other than to reduce a few troops they would have to reduce by next spring because of troop rotations.

It's not a compromise to admonish the administration and not force them to do anything differently. For some of us that might be a pullout of combat troops. For others it might be a change in the force structure or time out of country for troops.

The bill Lipinski and Kirk are pushing forward does none of this. It tells the administration it should do some things, but has no sticks so as the President has made clear, he gets to stay the course which I don't think anyone is happy with. It's a capitulation to the executive of proper legislative authority and it's much of the reason we got in this mess in the first place.

And so here is my disagreement with the notion of bipartisanship being a good thing in itself. It has to be an effort to accomplish a goal, not just position taking to provide cover for elected officials.

If you read the classics in the political science literature, position taking is an essential electoral strategy, but often that is all it is. If it doesn't lead to some sort of effective legislative change, it hasn't done anything, but aided reelection.

IOW, too often bipartisanship is a cover to seem like someone is doing something when they are simply using it as cover.