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Bipartisanship has lost its way in the US

In our opinion

 


Bipartisanship.

It’s the buzzword tossed around state and federal capitals as if it’s some magic talisman, a holy elixir that simply by uttering authenticates and justifies any and all pieces of legislation.

But what does it really mean. According to Webster, the root word “bipartisan” means “of, relating to, or involving members of two parties; specifically: marked by or involving cooperation, agreement and compromise between two major political parties.”

What does this mean politically then? In January, two Washington Democrat state senators joined with 23 Republicans to form a “majority coalition.”

Majority in that thanks to the move, Republicans were in the larger bloc of 25 senators in a body of 49 total. This created, according to Republican and “majority coalition” press releases, “bipartisan” support for legislation passed by the majority.

But two legislators don’t even represent 5 percent of the total chamber body. Do just two members really represent “cooperation, agreement and compromise between two major political parties?”

On Sept. 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “No Subsidies Without Verification Act,” legislation that according to The Hill’s Pete Kasperowicz is “aimed at preventing people from receiving health insurance subsidies under ObamaCare until a better system is put in place to verify who is eligible for those subsidies” by a 235-191 vote margin.

Five Democrats joined 230 Republicans to pass the legislation out of the chamber of 432 members – a figure representing roughly one-tenth of 1 percent of members. And yet according to a press release from the office of 5th district Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, the bill received “bipartisan” support.

In our opinion, neither of these examples represents the literal definition of the word bipartisan: cooperation, agreement and compromise. In the real world, one might think that to be bipartisan, legislation should have more than single digit endorsements by members of the opposition party.

But then politics, American-style, isn’t in the real world a lot of times.

Veteran political-watchers tell us it hasn’t always been this way. Sure there has been confrontation and opposition, that’s human nature.

But there has always been someone or several someone’s who step forward to provide leadership and a path towards middle ground, someone who is able to help engineer compromise, agreement and cooperation between the two parties.

So the reason then we have congressional gridlock is because we have a lack of leadership. And maybe the reason we have a lack of leadership is because we’ve made it difficult for people to step forward and be leaders.

Even though they make up the definition of bipartisanship, cooperation, agreement and compromise – especially the latter – are seen as dirty words. They’re signs of weakness, an abandoning of values.

Maybe it’s a reflection of our culture. We have so many special interest groups at the tabling lobbying for attention and getting their way that instead of polarized, we’ve become stratified.

Maybe the media has a hand to play in this too. To fill that ever-demanding 24-hour news cycle with some kind of content, immediate delivery has been substituted for qualitative information. Better to be the first to get it out than wait and get it out correctly.

In place of hard facts we’ve inserted speculation, conjecture and in some cases outright opinion without stating it as such. But then maybe the public is also to blame, preferring the quick, on-the-run, 140-character delivery of Twitter, or the short, colorful overview of USA Today rather than spending an hour to really learn about the issues.

Whatever it is, it needs to be looked at with a much more critical eye. Because the reality is there is no such thing as bipartisanship on tough issues in Olympia or Washington D.C. It’s really politicians grasping at straws, anything to show they aren’t weak while still pretending to work together.

And it’s destroying our country.

 

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