Not in practice, mind you, but as a codeword sop to the masses as justification for defending the status quo.
The end result of bipartisanship is paring down a bill until it changes next to nothing of import. And then selling it as if it were the greatest thing since the last bucket of lukewarm spit to pass this way.
This is nothing new in politics. The money has always been on the side of the status quo, since change can be costly to one’s bottom line.
And the status quo has perennially been about "I’ve got mine. Screw you," now hasn’t it?
One only need watch the FDR Fala speech (Youtube above) to get that. Or read a little history, you can pretty much pick any era.
What is new? That there is no real voice for change and the little guy capitalizing on this moment in our nation’s history.
And it shows.
Jean Edward Smith has a fantastic op-ed in the NYTimes today talking about FDR, the false sop of bipartisanship and the real value of a little more backbone:
. . .this fixation on securing bipartisan support for health care reform suggests that the Democratic Party has forgotten how to govern and the White House has forgotten how to lead.
Roosevelt understood that governing involved choice and that choice engendered dissent. He accepted opposition as part of the process. It is time for the Obama administration to step up to the plate and make some hard choices.
He cites numorous examples of Roosevelt New Deal reforms which were enacted in spite of entrenched interests, and not because they’d been pared down to mere windowdressing to win their support.
Were there membes of Congress consorting with moneyed interests trying to block the bill, much like Max Baucus’ lobbyist-filed anteroom? Undoubtedly. Although, as Krugman points out, there’s a lot more of that lobbyist payola floating around these days.
But the real difference between then and now?
FDR sold the need for change at the grassroots by making that change actually happen. And without selling the public’s interest down the river in the process. Which made his grassroots support all the stronger, and enabled him to fend off opposition by painting them as being against the public, fueling more public support in the process.
FDR drew his power for change from the people, not just from the people around him inside the Beltway.
Better political leadership in the Democratic party would help. So would those leaders actually believing in the need for change instead of giving it political lip service and then undercutting it with their actions.
Can the Obama administration still make needed changes? Absolutely.
Will they? Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it?