The Politics of Bipartisanship


Voters in Canada and the United States now both have governments that must share the exercise of power with their opposition. Voters in both countries have increasingly demonstrated a volatility in elections. As party allegiances decrease in number, independent voters become more a factor in choosing governments. In Canada, we are entering our sixth year of minority government. The ruling Conservatives under Stephen Harper must obtain the support of at least one of the three opposition parties to survive in office on critical issues.

In the United States, we are back to the American version of power sharing-divided government. The American voter has chosen this course during the Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and both Bush Administrations. Outside of current dissatisfaction with incumbents, why do Americans seem to prefer divided government?

An acknowledged trait of American government throughout history has been the role played by political bipartisanship. The founding fathers were not proponents of party politics. Their belief was that politicians could come together for the greater good. Yet over the years, political parties have been successful in achieving progress through bipartisanship. Generally speaking, and there are multiple examples, foreign policy is one area where the political parties usually try to find common ground. Civil rights legislation, the defining issue of the last century, was achieved when politicians went beyond the political divide, and produced landmark progress for the civil society. America is so much better for it.

The first two years of the Obama Administration have witnessed a crescendo of polarized debate that has led many learned observers to conclude that the system is becoming dysfunctional. Democrats blame it on Republicans’ obstructionism, and Republicans attribute this to “socialistic” tendencies and rigid ideological positions taken of the Pelosi Democrats. The recent Obama-GOP tax deal may begin to change the politics that has become the “usual” in Washington to something more in line with what voters actually prefer. The deal may have upset the more left leaning Democrats and the incoming Tea Party types, but it conveyed a willingness to compromise on both sides.

On November 2, the American people chose to have a Republican House of Representatives and reduced the Democratic advantage in the Senate. It marked the return of “divided government”, but by calling it divided government, it does not mean the imperative of division. Quite the opposite, the founding fathers carefully designed a “government of the people, for the people and by the people”. The separation of powers, along with the exercise of check and balances, make US government unique and has provided the most stable democracy in the history of mankind. Granted, there can be periods where the politicians may consider local or partisan concerns more important than the overall public good. But history has shown that the system has generally worked more effectively when the bipartisanship and compromise occur.

The November 2 election results have consequences, to coin an Obama phrase. While the new Congress has yet to be sworn in, political realities and economic imperatives have converged in this lame duck session. Having to deal with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, and having to consider extending unemployment benefits to those who have just lost them in early December has created a context for choosing between bipartisanship or congressional gridlock. It seems the President and the current Republican leadership believe the former is a better course.

In the past few days, the spirit of bipartisanship has carried over to DADT, START treaty and 9-11 Responders bill. The American system of government functions best when there is an effort to achieve bipartisanship for the greater good of the electorate. At the end of the day, voters like it and see it as a more effective way to getting results that make the country advance.

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The Politics of Bipartisanship

  1. "and has provided the most stable democracy in the history of mankind. "

    It's certainly unique and it has wonderful checks and balances, but why do you say it is the most stable democracy in the history of mankind? What is your definition of "stable"? I mean to say, the U.K. has gone longer without a Civil War, there hasn't been a question over who is the rightful head of state for centuries (whereas the U.S. had that question in 2000)

    • Remember Mr. Parisella's other job when he makes a statement like that…

  2. Yes you can have bipartisanship when both sides work in good faith for the good of the country. In Canada the three opposition parties are on the left side of the political spectrum and believe in big government. Given the minority situation the opposition do anything they can to obstruct and eliminate potential "wins" the government can take to the people whenever the next election comes. So we have polarization. The opposition parties idea of making parliament work is to turn Conservative policies into Lib/NDP/Bloc policies. Harper has acted like a Liberal and so the opposition is having a lot of trouble gaining traction.

  3. biparisanship is bullshoi . Dems should stick it to the racist GOP. They say no to Obama because he is black . Wake up Obama . Boehner is a hypocrite and so is Mcconnell . No to GOP . Right wing bogots !!!!!!!

  4. Parisella, April 2009

    This week's tax day tea parties—supported by the Republican National Committee and promoted by Fox News—may give the impression that the GOP has finally found an issue on which it can attack Obama. The debate surrounding the budget, the bailouts, and tax hikes aimed at the top two per cent of income earners may indeed provide fiscal conservatives with some fodder. But the president has countered their outrage with a convincing explanation of his economic policies. Add to this the fact Obama's approval numbers remain over 60 per cent and you get the impression the tea parties will be quickly forgotten.

    Yes, those Obamanomic policies have been sooooo successful… and the tea party has been sooooo forgotten. And Obama's approval is…. 45%.

    Parisella, May 2009

    Today, if I were a Republican, I would not feel welcome inside my own party—just like Arlen Specter and many other Americans who want an credible alternative to the party in power in order to make their democracy work.

    Arlen Specter just left Congress for good, having lost his seat to the GOP. So who was more credible? Specter?

    Parisella, February 2009

    The GOP, minus a few exceptions, have consistently opposed the stimulus package. They say it's excessive and want more tax cuts instead—the same old recipe that brought this crisis on in the first place.

    Yeah, we all know what a success the stimulus was. And what was Obama doing this last month? Oh yeah, he decided to extend the Bush tax cuts.

    • Obama is a disaster. Shows when you elect someboyd President who maybe is a lawyer but simply worked as a community organizer there is not much there that will help him lead what was once the greatest country in the world.
      Hilliary was right. When the phone rings at the White House at 3:00 am who is going to answer it. Thus far Obama has been a failure.

      I don't get the sense that Americans particularly care for his hope and changey thing much these days. If the Republicans can put up a credible candidate Obama can be beat.

      • I agree with you. I think his latest moves have been to rescue himself, because he knows that as things stand today, he would lose an election, unquestionably. It's hard to say whether he can pull it off and reverse the trend. I doubt it. He had opportunities and he threw them away. It's too late now.

  5. Yeah . Extending the tax cuts ? they were a disater . He should have listened to Krugman and done a stronger stimulus . He would not saved the depression but build the economy . To hell with compromising with republicans. follow Truman who gave them hell!

    • He should have listened to Krugman

      He listened way more than enough already. Does the explosion of debt mean nothing to people anymore? Or are you so close to kicking the bucket that you just don't care about the looming hangover?

      • i,m 28 ,buddy. And I need a job . Lost it due to republicans.

        • The Republicans fired you? Really?

          Have you checked the Help-Wanted ads? That's where jobs get advertised. And the listings are not empty.

          And so it seems you feel the need to pass the bill for a spending orgy onto the future. So the next questions are: Do you have any children, and why do you seek to punish them so?

          • i mean their policies . You sound like Gingrich!!no heart . Merry Christmas . Yeah right !

          • Please elaborate on (a) when you lost that job, and (b) the Republican policy(ies) that kicked you out of that job.

            Please explain why you refuse to apply for any of the vacant jobs recently posted.

            The Grinch attempted to swipe Christmas from Cindy-Lou Who and all the other little Whos down in Whoville. Stealing the kids' future wealth for your own benefit (which you are advocating with the stimulus-now-pay-later treachery) is exactly Grinch-like. May your own heart start to grow a wee bit.

          • madeyoulook distorts facts. The majority of the new debt comes from Bush policies -unpaid for tax cuts,prescription drug program, two ridiculous wars that the US will lose anyway .Tarp is paid back,depression avoided according to CBO .
            All should go see Casino Jack . Republicans are self righteous, hypocritical and mean . like gringrich and Sarah Palin .
            out of a job for 8 months . Do 50 applications a week . So give up your gingrich bullshoi !

          • I think grayson is Parisella. Every time Parisella writes something, somebody with weird name who can't spell shows up as a cheerleader, someone who never posts anywhere else but on this blog.

            The bad-spelling individual usually talks like someone who reads the ny times but lives in a trailer park, combining elements of childishness, stupidity, bad spelling and grammar with extensive knowledge of current events and an advanced vocabulary.

            Seriously, it's an act. And it happens on his blog, almost every time, and it's always a different name, but it's always the same person.

      • Government debt and household debt are not the same. Ideally both would avoid it, but if you have to go into debt, then the time for government to do it is when the households are hurting. Stimulating the general economy to cause it to grow widens your tax base quicker, which can have the net effect of paying down the debt.

        The problem isn't the gov'ts actions now. The problem was their actions prior to 2008 — during the huge boom times, they were still running up debt like a drunken sailor. That should have been when they were increasing taxes and cutting expenditures, but nobody was willing to allow anything that might slow the boom times down to a more reasonable pace. I somehow doubt you were among those calling for higher taxes at the time.

        At any rate cutting expenditures now would simply be compounding the error — it'd be like trying to turn out of a skid instead of into it, and would send the whole thing spinning out of control to a crash.

          • That chart is the most ridiculous crap I've ever seen. You seriously wish to make the claim that 300 billion dollars of the deficit – yes, the deficit, not debt -10 years from now, will be blamed on a war that ended already? Most people would prefer a lobotomy over that brain-dead article. Even someone in kindergarten can see through garbage like that.

            And you seriously wish to make the claim that 20% of the deficit in 2019 will be caused by a downturn in 2008? Even though Obama's managed to stretch this recession into the longest since the great depression, that's still a ridiculous stretch. How much of the 2019 deficit was caused by the tulip bubble of the 1800s?

            How much of the deficit to you attribute to world war one? How about the american civil war? Why did they bother electing Obama if everything that ever happens was caused by somebody else? Might as well have elected a poodle.

          • Check the source: I'm not making the claim, it's the Congressional Budget Office.

            Do you have any data to counter the CBO data?

          • LOL

            The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, a left-wing lobbyist organization, is not the congressional budget office. You know, people are not as stupid as you think they are.

            Did you know that the graph is also based on ground-breaking research in geometry provided by the ancient Greeks? And that the colours are based on solid research in electromagnetic radiation? And that the graph itself was produced by accurate modern graphing software? So it must be true.

            If the graph was produced by the CBO, kindly provide a link, or a bibliographic reference, or even the CBO data that produced the graph.

            Yes, I know, none of those things exist. Because if they did, you wouldn't need to link to a left-wing lobbyist organization in the first place.

          • Swing and a miss.

            Perhaps if you'd done more than glance at the link before dismissing it, you'd have seen the extensive detail and sourcing provided. Perhaps you could take another look and try to refute what's actually there rather than hee-hawing about what you think you saw.

            And your Fox News/American "Thinker" data has been carefully cherry-picked to talk only about the costs of the Iraq war. No mention of the Afghanistan war, the Bush tax cuts, Bush's TARP or the cost of the economic downturn.

            Isn't it funny that you sneer at my source, while countering with Fox "News". Even funnier that your source says: "The U.S. deficit for fiscal year 2010 is expected to be $1.3 trillion, according to CBO. That compares to a 2007 deficit of $160.7 billion and a 2008 deficit of $458.6 billion, according to data provided by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget." but never mentioned that the 2009 deficit forecast was $1.2 Trillion two weeks before Obama took office.

            Here's another source: Obama inherited a $1.2 trillion deficit: http://money.cnn.com/2009/01/07/news/economy/cbo_

            So… what was your point again?

          • fox News ? HAhahahahaha!Lol .
            Fox and News are contradictions . With TJ on CBO .

          • .Actually, Britain paid the last of its WW2 debt to the USA on Dec 31 2006 – more than 60 years after the war ended. So it's not a stretch to believe that large interest payments might still be being paid 10 years from now, since to date the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost about 1.3 trillion, and neither is "over" yet – at least from the point of view of ongoing costs incurred.

          • If it's not a stretch to believe something that is clearly not true, then why do it? Who cares if it's not a stretch to believe a falsehood? At one time it was not a stretch to believe the world was flat. Do you believe something that is demonstrably false just because in an alternate universe it could have been true? Wouldn't you rather actually focus on the truth? Wouldn't you rather actually analyze the true sources of the actual deficit?

            The annual deficit is now 1.3 trillion. So you have stated the fact that 10 years of war in two countries is equal to the amount that the current government overspends in a single year. In other words, the annual cost to balance the budget is equal to the total costs of both wars. In other words, if there was no war in Iraq or Afghanistan, the savings would allow the government to balance the budget for exactly one year, after which time the country would still be stuck with an annual 1.3 trillion deficit, if there had been no wars at all.

            Did you notice that the total cost of those wars for the years 2010 to 2019 (one of them being over already) is 2 trillion, which is 50% larger than the 1.3 trillion that those wars cost for the last ten years? So you actually believe a graph that claims those two wars will cost 50% more over the next ten years than over the last 10 years?

            Thanks for voluntarily providing that 1.3 trillion figure. By doing so, you've essentially admitted that those two wars are essentially negligible with respect to the annual deficit.

            That's what I mean about those graphs being crap. You can actually tell they're crap just by glancing at them.

          • Yes, the annual deficit is now $1.3 trillion.

            Why that's barely 8% higher than the deficit Bush left behind, despite the collapsing finance sector, manufacturing sector, housing sector and overall economy that Obama inherited in addition to the $1.2 trillion deficit. <a href="http://(http://money.cnn.com/2009/01/07/news/economy/cbo_2009_budget_outlook/index.htm)” target=”_blank”>(http://money.cnn.com/2009/01/07/news/economy/cbo_2009_budget_outlook/index.htm).

          • Read below and carefully.
            TJ won .
            Fox News ? lol,Lol,lol

          • If you look at the graph, you'll see that the net additional deficit due to the cost of the wars is about 50 billion. The interest due on 1.3 trillion in the tenth year, compounding at 4% is about 70 billion.

            Unless you believe that the 1.3 trillion borrowed to pay for the wars is going to be paid off in 2011, this doesn't seem unreasonable. Not to mention the ongoing costs of the wars – payments to diusabled vets, replacement of military kit, etc…

  6. I really can't stand the "voters want divided government." Maybe that's true if you accept some sort of hive-mind consciousness to voters, but it's not true when you speak about an individual voter. Every single person who voted for the Republicans in 2008 wanted a Republican President, Republican Senate, and Republican House. Every single person who votes Liberal in Canada wants a Liberal Prime Minister and a Liberal Majority. Saying that "voters" want a divided government and thus one resulted is exactly backwards, it's only because we have a divided government that we can make the argument that that's what voters wanted. It confuses causation with results and reasons for those results.

    • Voters don't want a divided government. But the electorate does.

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