Sunday, December 30, 2007

When bi-partisan becomes a dirty word

By Libby

Having scrunitized the field of candidates, the Village Elders are about to assemble. They will hold their high counsel and render their wisdom unto the masses, complete with stern admonitions to stop all our bickering and play nice with each other.
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a potential independent candidate for president, has scheduled a meeting next week with a dozen leading Democrats and Republicans, who will join him in challenging the major-party contenders to spell out their plans for forming a "government of national unity" to end the gridlock in Washington.

Those who will be at the Jan. 7 session at the University of Oklahoma say that if the likely nominees of the two parties do not pledge to "go beyond tokenism" in building an administration that seeks national consensus, they will be prepared to back Bloomberg or someone else in a third-party campaign for president.
I'd agree this appears to be just another Broderistic call for false comity, but I was rather surprised at the ferocity of the responses. Sure this is likely a scam to preserve the status quo but I'm not so certain we should be offended by the concept of bi-partisanship. I think perhaps, the problem is the term has lost its original meaning and has been redefined over the last seven years to mean caving into the GOP agenda. However, it wasn't always so and consensus is worth striving for.

So while I think Matthew is right that polarization is a necessary component of the struggle, I don't think it's a desirable end goal and all too often it seems to me that it leaves us defining the battle on party lines. But we're a huge population with diverse needs and it should be clear by now that neither party offers a panacea for the common good.

That's not to say we shouldn't fight tooth and nail for what we believe in, but at the end of the day, polarization is just a tactic that defines the battle. Real progress, by definition, can only be reached by consensus. That requires a willingness by all sides to compromise, which is not to be confused with capitulation.

The establishment Democrats seem to have forgotten the difference, to the detriment of our constitution, but I don't think that should prevent progressives from seeking some common ground with our political opponents. Democracy demands that we do so.

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