Well, I’m happy to report a very prominent convert to the theory that President Obama is engaging in a strategy of “grassroots bipartisanship” whose success is best measured by public opinion trends, not near-term support from Republicans in Congress. Mike Tomasky of the Guardian has a post up today that not only embraces the much-derided B-word, but cites TDS and New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg as the only folks who seem to completely “get it.”
I believe that Barack Obama is right to talk about bipartisanship, and I do not think that he should drop it because of the congressional voting pattern on one piece of legislation. I think his critics – and on the broadly construed left, among bloggers and pundits and whatnot, they are legion to the point of near unanimity, with only two exceptions I can think of – are missing an important point.
The standard criticism of Obama’s bipartisan outreach goes like this. He met with Republicans on Capitol Hill. They stiffed him. They showed that they’re impossibly troglodytic. Why should he waste any more time on these people? Just crush them.
But here’s the thing. This criticism, and this entire debate about the efficacy of his bipartisan overtures, presumes that Obama’s audience for his bipartisan talk is the Republicans in Congress and the conservatives in Washington.
But that is not his intended audience. His audience is the country.
You should read the whole thing. And you should also check out Hertzberg’s typically fine column, which coins a wonderful phrase for Obama’s political strategy: “Gandhian hardball.”