The Fairy Tale of Bipartisanship

We do love our fairy tales, don’t we? From Aesop to the brothers Grimm, the stories have always taught us to cooperate and work together. Then came Stone Soup, which added a little guile to the mix.

Yet nobody seems to have written a fairy tale of what you do with the playground bully. How do you cooperate with someone who smacks you in the face at every turn? How do you cooperate with people who are committed to flagrant lies and, apparently, to your very extinction?

The White House is surely alive to this dilemma, yet Joe Biden’s ambitious speech to Congress could not openly affirm that bipartisanship is dead without damaging all protocol. And so the startling breadth and extent of his proposals will have to send that message. It’s a smart way to avoid breaking with convention.

The Democrats are in the precarious position of likely losing their feeble majority in the 2022 midterms. The only way they can maintain political sustainability is by rolling the legislative dice. That is what Biden is doing, while paying lip service to bipartisanship. Read this good explanation of why and how he has to “shoot for the moon.”

The roadblock of Joe Manchin on the filibuster cannot last. Biden will have to cut a deal with him. Manchin’s cooperation will have to be bought, and his bipartisan fairy tale seen for what it is. Some kind of deal will be made because the stakes are simply too high.

These things happen in politics, and we should recognize that, as one commentator put it,

The most effective Presidents are those who put forth bold policy ideas and follow through by translating those ideas into law. Doing so requires taking political risks and embracing the challenges of political leadership, which often means persuading supporters to get on board rather than simply doing what is safe.

Opinion seems to be building on the need to forego bipartisanship. Certainly, one lone senator cannot be permitted to disable the kind of prodigious reforms that Biden is putting forward. Fairy tales finally must be distinguished from real life.

Update: Ezra Klein on the folly of bipartisanship:

This is what Manchin gets wrong: A world of partisan governance is a world in which Republicans and Democrats both get to pass their best ideas into law, and the public judges them on the results. That is far better than what we have now, where neither party can routinely pass its best ideas into law, and the public is left frustrated that so much political tumult changes so little.

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