It’s now increasingly clear that big segments of the chattering classes will not rest until President Obama is somehow forced to stop talking about bipartisanship.
That’s been a standard theme for some progressives, going back to the early stages of the 2008 campaign, who have fretted that Obama will needlessly sacrifice progressive principles and constituencies in the vain pursuit of nonexistent Republican support. But now you can add a big MSM source: Politico‘s top honchos Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, who have published sort of a primal scream on the subject.
Even though VandeHei and Allen acknowledge that the destruction of the moderate wing of the Republican Party, and the happiness of conservatives to remain “the party of No” are the most important factors contributing to polarization, they just can’t resist blaming Obama and Democrats at least as much as the opposition:
President Barack Obama is on the warpath over myths and distortions about health care reform, but he’s spreading one of his own: that there’s any chance of genuinely bipartisan health care legislation reaching his desk this fall.
In truth, Democratic offers to reach across the aisle — and Republican demands that they do so — are largely a charade, performed for the benefit of a huge bloc of practical-minded voters who hunger for the two parties to work together and are mystified that it never seems to happen.
And that’s the bulk of their analysis: independent voters want bipartisanship, so both parties, with equal dishonesty, are pretending to pursue it. He said, she said, and he and she are both lying.
Well, whatever. Allen and VandeHei may think that pursuing bipartisanship in the knowledge that it largely won’t materialize is just dishonest pandering by Obama, or an exercise in finger-pointing, but I beg to differ. Republicans have consciously chosen to systematically oppose health care reform–not just Obama’s version, but any version–and it actually is important for Americans to understand that in terms of what they can expect to happen next if Obama’s initiative is defeated. There is no Plan B for the GOP, or for the country. By “reaching out,” Obama is forcing Republicans to ever-more-explicitly make that choice, and as the latest polling shows, the public is beginning to “get it.”
Moreover, the “wedge” Obama is seeking to create between Republicans and independents is reflected in his formulation–generally ignored by Allen and VandeHei–that he’s trying to utilize “the best ideas of both parties” even when he’s not getting cooperation from the other side. His whole health care scheme relies on a competitive private-insurance-based system for universal coverage. Many of his proposals for “bending the curve” on health care spending and for Medicare reforms were once championed by Republicans. Yes, of course, Republicans quickly abandon and even repudiate these themes once Obama picks them up, but after a while, people begin to notice the pattern. And that’s both real and honest.
In reality, the biggest single problem with Obama’s rhetoric of bipartisanship isn’t that Republicans rise to the bait by refusing to cooperate. It is, instead, the media coverage of the issue which blames both sides equally, dismisses Obama’s outreach as cynical pandering, and recommends that the ignorant public forget about changing the culture of Washington, or either party.