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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

“Bipartisanship’s” Outcasts

Via ThinkProgress, we learn today that the office of House GOP poohbah Eric Cantor has issued a statement dismissing President Obama’s commitment to “bipartisanship” as nothing more than a marketing ploy:

“Though the administration’s marketing of its bipartisan hard work has been outstanding, the actual work has been almost nonexistent,” said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

This is because, presumably, Obama and House Democrats did not give a whole lot of thought to accomodating the arguments of Cantor and other House Republicans that the entire thrust of the economic stimulus legislation was a terrible idea, involving “welfare” and “socialism,” that should be rejected in favor Bush-style across-the-board and corporate tax cuts, along with deregulation.
As one of the more consistent defenders of Obama’s brand of “bipartisanship” in the progressive blogosphere, I’d beg leave to make it clear that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Eric Cantors of the political world. Obama’s “grassroots bipartisanship” means reaching out to the millions of Republicans (and Republican-leaning independents) around the country who may not particularly like or trust Democrats, but who generally accept the idea of direct government action to revive the economy and to deal with long-overdue national challenges like health care reform, climate change, regulation of the financial sector, and ridding Washington of the death-grip of pay-for-play special pleading by corporate interests. Some of them also don’t like a foreign policy that engages in unnecessary wars at the expense of our national interests. These are the people who have been fundamentally misrepresented–literally and figuratively–by congressional Republicans for years, a misrepresentation that looks likely to grow worse as GOPers convince themselves that Bush’s main sin was excessive “moderation.”
So in reaching out to these essentially disenfranchised Americans, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for Obama to recognize the GOP pols who have disenfranchised them as their exclusive bargaining agents. I don’t fault him for going throgh the motions of “reaching out” to the Cantors of the world, because their predictable rejection of his overtures helps make his broader point. And in any event, anyone who thinks Eric Cantor gives a damn about “bipartisanship”–short of some sort of corrupt Washington power-sharing arrangement that repudiates the results of the last two national elections and the real-life results of Republican rule–hasn’t been paying much attention to the events of the last eight years.

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