Bipartisan does not always mean good

Published 6:08 pm Monday, January 29, 2007

By By Tray Smith
As our raucous political debate continues to intensify, politicians from all sides of the political spectrum are seeking to brandish their "bipartisan" credentials in order to score brownie points with the American public. Barrack Obama and John McCain, each belonging to a different political party, are pursuing Presidential bids based on their ability to "unite" the country and work "across the political isle." But for all of the whining about unity in this country, we have to ask ourselves whether or not we really want bipartisanship and whether or not it is possible.
Bipartisan acts of Congress never combine the best and boldest policy proposals, instead, they usually settle for the most watered down and ineffective pieces of once ambitious reform plans. Politicians shove legislation through Congress because it is bipartisan, as if having two ineffective organizations pledge their support for a bill makes it better. In fact, most progress is usually made when both sides of the isle oppose a bill, but such bills rarely pass. The idea that the center is where progress is made is bogus. The political center is what prevents the most radical policy proposals that offer the best chance for success from ever being implemented in the first place.
Belonging to the center means that you do not belong anywhere, because belonging to the center requires no ideological grounding. It is not clear what an exact compromise between every extreme on every issue would even look like, and anyone who finds themselves trying to develop such a compromise does so only out of a lack of personal beliefs.
I get sick and tired of hearing politicians drown their ignorance under the guise of moderation, making it appear as if their beliefs are superior to mine because I tilt toward one end of the political spectrum. If there is a radical left and a radical right that there is a radical center, and instead of exalting it, we should offer it the same scrutiny we give members of all other points on the political spectrum.
Does this mean everyone must conform to their party's platform? Of course not. I am a Republican who opposes don't ask-don't tell, the death penalty, etc. But on each issue, I have stubbornly developed my own opinion based on my knowledge of facts and my conscience, and I understand that people may disagree. If you are one of those people, at least you know where I stand. I do not expect people to support my policy positions just because I am a Republican supporting a Democratic point of view, and I would never support a politician trying to ride the fence to victory.
A list of recent "bipartisan" actions by our government only reinforces the idea that bipartisan proposals are inferior, as they include the No Child Left Behind Act, which anyone who has stepped foot in a classroom since they graduated high school in 1964 (President Bush) will tell you is impracticable, the 2005 energy bill, billions of dollars of government spending wasted on alternative energy programs that offer very little hope for energy independence, and President Bush's unacceptable proposal for dealing with illegal aliens.
Even worse than being moderate is being an extremist who disguises his beliefs for political points. As the Democrats incessantly talk of "governing together", their actions do not match the words. This month, Democratic Congressmen have stated that President Bush should not send a proposal to create personal retirement accounts to Congress because, and I quote, "we don't like it." After President Bush asked Congress to change tax preferences that distort the health insurance market, the House Democratic leader with jurisdiction over such issues declared the proposal was dead on arrival. And after President Bush requested that Congressmen of both parties from each house come together and form a bipartisan working group on winning the war on terror at the suggestion of Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the House and Senate majority leaders refuted him, saying they wanted to work within existing structures. Instead of putting everything on the table, these Democrats want to take very thing off.
To Democrats, "bipartisan" means "support our worldview". To Republicans like President Bush, John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snow, Susan Collins, and Lindsey Graham, being bipartisan often also means "support the Democrats world view." (Though President Bush has to be careful, because as soon as he endorses a Democratic proposal, their position will likely change.)
As politicians whine about this being the most polarized moment in American history, they should remember the brief period between 1861 and 1865, and they should also remember how well "unity" worked in Soviet Russia, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and pre-Revolutionary America. Vigorous debate generates innovative ideas, and innovative ideas generate success. That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a sophomore at ECHS and former intern in the Riley administration. He can be reached for comment at

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