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First, it’s tricky to connect the results of specific congressional votes with approval of the overall results of everyone’s votes. If mere thousands of votes across the nation had gone differently, the Senate would still be Republican, so it’s doubly hard to say the overall results represent any strongly held national view. The very small number of votes that would have to have gone the other way to switch recent presidential elections or congressional partisan control make the talk of bitter partisan division that underlies all these calls for gooey bipartisan kumbaya in our gentle land all the more dubious.
Even if we could assume that the overall result of 2006’s election was an accurate reflection of most voters' overall wishes rather than an emergent pattern above and beyond their control, that result—GOP executive, Democratic congress—is the best guarantee we could have of “partisan gridlock.” And those, such as Unity 08, who link big money corruption with partisanship should note that it was only partisanship—a Democratic desire to differentiate themselves from their sleazy colleagues across the aisle—that led to the recent anti-lobbyist action we’ve seen. Partisanship is the one thing that makes the bastards go against their larger interests as politicians.
The real glory of Lanny Davis is that he isn’t afraid to be more specific than Unity 08 about the important results bipartisanship will get us—he’s not trying to gin up millions of delegates: “A bipartisan administration is also essential for enacting new taxes.”
Bipartisanship, see, goes above and beyond the petty interest of particular parties, and is dedicated to the larger good of…politicians and the growth of government. (Unity 08 also grants “our objective is to fix the old parties.”)
CNN’s political wizard Bill Schneider said of Unity08 that it “intends to stay in business just long enough to bring the two parties back to the middle.” Middle of what? It’s where they’ve always been: middling along together, for war, both on drugs and overseas (until it all starts going terribly, obviously wrong—at least on the overseas part, they'll keep the drug war going come hell and high water), for ruinous expansions in entitlements and expansions of federal control of education (even if they might disagree on the details of how), for subsidizing some kind of energy or another, for Patriot Acts, for the whole destructive, unaffordable apparatus of spending and control that has been built up over decades by presidents and congresses of both political persuasions.
Ross Douthat in the February Atlantic gives a different, and probably more accurate, take on Our Bipartisan Future. And voila!--it’s more Bushism, the president we all love to hate. We all may hate Bush, but Douthat sees, convincingly so, on the GOP political horizon nothing but more Bushism, with, perhaps, a more human face. This, Douthat posits, holds out great hope for bipartisanship in the near term:
For instance, evangelicals and liberal internationalists might come together on the use of force for humanitarian ends overseas. Big-government conservatives and populist liberals might agree on the need to address the financial insecurity of working-class families.
God help us all, he might be on to something. While the Unity 08 types have no chance of achieving their specific stated goals, the boosters of centrist bipartisan government are already getting what they want.
Senior Editor Brian Doherty is author of This is Burning Man and Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.