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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bush and Bipartisanship

Predictably, perhaps, George W. Bush is making noises about reaching out to Democrats, and healing partisan divisions and serving as “president of all the people.” And there’s a debate among Democrats in Washington, at least, about how they respond these suspect overtures.
We’ve been here before, folks. Bush said similar things upon becoming president in 2001, and, with the exception of the No Child Left Behind law (which he betrayed after the fact), his primary strategy for bipartisanship was to pick off handfuls of Democrats in the U.S. Senate who were willing to pocket small concessions while giving Bush most of what he wanted. Bush’s party then proceeded to demonize those very “bipartisan” Democrats as obstructionists whenever they came up for re-election.
But what is bipartisanship? Back at the beginning of the Bush presidency, the DLC published an analysis of the ten very different meanings of that term, and a pessimistic evaluation of Bush’s intentions, that’s held up pretty well over time. It makes for good and relevant reading today.
The most important question for Democrats in Congress today is not their attitude towards Bush or his party, but their willingness to become an insurgent, outsider party devoted to genuine reform of Washington, and focused on communicating a positive, alternative agenda to the American people. Yesterday’s New Dem Daily outlines the kind of reform agenda Democrats ought to embrace, even if–perhaps especially if–they are forced to fight Bush and the GOP like wolverines.

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