Pundits all over the political spectrum continue to turn the election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s senate seat into this weird notion that Democrats should somehow start working with Republicans in a bipartisan manner. This rationale is irritating at best, because it implies that a) the Democrats weren’t trying to be bipartisan in the first place and b) the Republicans would acquiesce to bipartisan efforts if the Democrats tried harder. Both are untrue.
Democrats have attempted to bring the Republicans in on health care and the stimulus so many times without success it’s almost sickening. There were over one hundred and sixty Republican-proposed amendments passed and added to the Senate health bill, knowing full well that the Republicans had every intent to vote against it and to vilify the Democrats for passing it. They stripped the public option out for Olympia Snowe, and when she withdrew her support, didn’t add it back in. This bill is so watered down in the name of bipartisanship that it’s virtually ineffective in the long term and has now become a symbol of weakness of the Democratic Party.
Republicans, who have shunned every single public and private bipartisan effort on the President’s part and ridiculed those from Congressional Democrats, have actually somehow sold the message to the American people that it’s the Democrats that have refused to play ball. And the public bought it! It’s a well-established talking point from the most prominent of pundits to the simplest of political minds that the Democrats are refusing to work with the Republicans.
So you’ve got the Republicans refusing to work with the Democrats, and the Democrats so wanting to look bipartisan that they allow the Republicans to water down the health bill (and the stimulus package, remember that?). The American public is unhappy with the piece of legislation that might not even work now anyway so the Democrats look weak and have fulfilled the Republican prophecy that they’ve failed. Then the Republicans some how get to come out of this looking like roses and saying that the Democrats weren’t bipartisan so it failed.
Eventually, the Republicans will take control of congress again, and when they do, we’ll hear about their clear political mandates and they’ll completely shut out every Democratic attempt at bipartisanship and still find a way to blame all of their failures on the other guys.
We have to stop letting Republicans somehow control the message and set the agenda for the Sunday morning talk shows. It’s time to grow a pair, use budget reconciliation, like the Republicans taught us, to pass every damn progressive initiative the American people voted for in 2008.