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The Death of Bipartisanship

By       Message Bob Burnett     Permalink
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At the beginning of the 112 th Congress, a Bay Area Congresswoman was invited to a Washington gathering of new Representatives, mostly Republicans.  When she mentioned that, in previous eras, the two Parties had often worked together, a freshman Republican barked, "We were sent here to shrink the government, not collaborate with you." President Obama seeks bipartisanship, but most Republicans aren't interested in pursuing the common good. 


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As Congress plods through its business, Democrats and Republicans are miles apart on issue after issue.  On jobs and the economy, Democrats want more government intervention, while Republicans believe the Feds should get out of the way of the "free market."  On the Deficit, Democrats advocate taxes on the rich and selective cuts to programs; Republicans abhor taxes and demand massive cuts to entitlements.  On Healthcare, Democrats want the Affordable Healthcare plan to become a single-payer system; Republicans want "Obamacare" to be repealed.  Democrats take Global Climate Change seriously and advocate a drastic change in energy use and production; Republicans deny the problem and argue America should extract oil and gas wherever we can.  It's difficult to find any area of agreement or political middle ground.


 

As the US faces a series of daunting problems, political dialogue grows increasingly adversarial.  President Obama seeks compromise, but Republicans seem ideologically intractable, unable or unwilling to change their stance.


 

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There are four possible explanations for the adamantine Republican posture.  The first is political. Republican legislators have been indoctrinated to believe that if they do not toe the conservative Party line, radical "Tea Party" activists will campaign against them in the next election.  As a consequence, many Republican politicians are afraid to compromise less they lose office.


 

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.

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