The Worthlessness of Bipartisanship


Liberal health reformers seem really excited that they've finally come up with some Republicans to support their health reforms. After a summer of intense, unified Republican opposition, a handful of GOP types have finally come out and said the unsayable: "Health-care reform? Sure. Why not?" 

Here's the lineup of bold Republican truth-tellers: New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, California's Democrat Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Bush Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. 

Okay, so it's not exactly a gang of conservative luminaries. Indeed, far from a triumph of illuminating bipartisanship, support from most of these folks is totally unsurprising. Bloomberg (who isn't even a Republican anymore) is a New York City independent not exactly known for his rigid small-government ideology; Schwarzenegger is a West Coast moderate who led a failed effort to implement remarkably similar health-care reforms in California; and Tommy Thompson was responsible for BadgerCare, an expansion of state-run care in Wisconsin. Frist's support is arguably the only real eyebrow-raiser, though somewhat less so now that he's qualified his initial statement. 

More important, I think, is that not only are these endorsements not surprising, they're not all that useful. Support from Thompson, Schwarzenneger, and Bloomberg isn't likely to move votes in the Senate, which, right now, is what matters. I suppose it's possible that Frist might be able leverage Senate connections and exert some influence that way, but it seems unlikely that it'll be meaningful, let alone decisive. 

In other words, this seems roughly as surprising as when Joe Lieberman expresses concern about Democratic plans to reduce overseas troop levels—which is to say not important at all. 

Yet Ezra Klein predicts that we can "expect Robert Gibbs to spend the next few months mentioning those three names about as often as he breathes." If Gibbs wants to crow about bipartisanship, I'm happy to let him have at it. But it's the sort of bipartisanship that isn't really useful except insofar as it gives guys like Robert Gibbs something to crow about.  

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  1. “Bloomberg (who isn’t even a Republican anymore)”

    Then why even bring him up?

  2. “In other words, this seems roughly as surprising as when Joe Lieberman expresses concern about Democratic plans to reduce overseas troop levels — which is to say not important at all.”

    So what’s the point of your piece, Peter? Please show your work.

  3. I wrote this after Walker’s piece on Frist. Will share since it has to do with healthcare.

    Neener, neener, Sugarfree! I can do surrealistic too. ;^)

    A One Act Objectivist Satire


    Mr. Thompson – Pres. Barrack Obama
    Ivy Starnes – Madame Speaker Pelosi
    Cuffy Meigs- Sen. Harry Reid
    Fred Kinnan – Andy Stern
    Bertram Scudder- Paul Krugman PhD


    The Oval Office, 2:00 a.m.

    All characters are in the room, Mr. Thompson at his desk, the others scattered about on chairs

    IVY: Mr. Thompson, I’m extremely nervous about the direction the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, er…Healthcare Reform is taking.

    CUFFY: Yes, the people seem to be up in arms! I just don’t understand it. Don’t they realize that we are doing this for their benefit?

    MR. THOMPSON: You muthafuckas chill!!! Whoops, lost character there for a second.
    (lights a cigarette, and stares at the burning ember reflectively for a moment)
    Just relax, everything is proceeding according to plan.

    IVY: I just don’t know. I mean, I thought we managed to deflect a lot of the criticism for the Anti-Dog-eat-Dog Bill, er…TARP on your stupid predecessor, McChimpy. But they seem to be getting wise to what we are doing.

    CUFFY: Who could have anticipated that that bitch Palin could have stirred up so much controversy with a Facebook post? And those teabaggers at the townhall meetings! Did you see that black man with the AR-15?
    How could we know? We couldn’t anticipate that! It’s not my fault!

    BERTRAM: They’re so mean-spirited! They take everything so literally!

    MR. THOMPSON: It WAS good theatre initially to compare them to Fascists and racists. And it gave me an opportunity to appear statesman-like and above the fray. But you pushed it too far! Of course they obviously are racists…that’s not the point. It’s bad politics to repeatedly use such divisive rhetoric when you can offer mealy-mouthed platitudes, stupid! Let the junior congresscritters stir the pot, and you remain patrician. I’ve already wasted too many news cycles managing blowback instead of staying on point. No more of that crap, or off to Guantanamo for both of you!

    (IVY and CUFFY both begin to cry)

    FRED: Let ME handle those protesters, brother. If we can’t use the power of persuasion, we use the persuasion of power! I know just what they need.
    (fondles his billy-club)

    MR. THOMPSON: Shit, Fred, sometimes you remind me of Ayers! There will be time enough for that later.
    (stares pensively into the distance)
    No, just stick with the plan. The Republicans are not a problem. Just keep stifling any alternatives they offer, and our friends in the media will “fail” to report their suggestions. The public will see them as crybabies pouting in the corner. Maher, Garafolo, and Ferrell will handle the teabaggers. Don’t forget Alinsky’s 4th rule: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.

    CUFFY: But even then, we are not going to able to float this turd past everyone.

    MR. THOMPSON: Of course not, idiot. You don’t eat the whole cake at one sitting. Stay on task. Throw up a new version of the bill every few days, keep the public confused. When their attention has wandered, as it will; we’ll run the best part of it through in conference before anyone knows what happened. Then we lay low for a few months, and after the dust has settled, we’ll start the next phase of our plan. Patience, grasshopper.

    IVY: This could hurt a lot of re-election bids.

    MR. THOMPSON: Jesus Christ, Ivy! You’re from the granola state! You really think YOUR constituents are going to buck? Man, who did you blow to get this gig anyway?

    BERTRAM: Oh, God, I love you!

    MR. THOMPSON: What?

    BERTRAM: Er, nothing. Anyone want to do a couple lines?


  4. My point is that reform supporters are trying to make something out of nothing. It’s not a big deal that these GOP types support reform, it’s not surprising, and it’s not likely to produce any political gains for reform.

  5. Sorry to jack yr thread, Suderman.

  6. In the second paragraph — I think you meant to say “California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger”?

  7. Throughout the Cold War we had a bipartisan foreign policy and ended up paying more for national defense than the entire rest of the world combined. So, no, I don’t like bipartisanship at all. These guys should be fighting tooth and nail. The nastier the better. Seriously.

  8. More important, I think, is that not only are these endorsements not surprising, they’re not all that useful.

    Thank GOD. Keep up the useless efforts congress. ITS FOR THE CHILDREN!

  9. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg – national Repub cred = 0

    California Democrat Arnold Schwarzenegger – national Repub cred = 0

    former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist – has-been desperately seeking attention and book sales

    Bush Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson – has been desperately seeking attention.

  10. “The Worthlessness of Bipartisanship”

    But I repeat myself.

  11. What is a Bipartisan? Ever seen one? I haven’t.

    1. Whenever I see people talking about something being “bipartisan”, I think of the Deacon of the Bipartisan Party in Death Race 2000.

      The 70s knew us better than we know ourselves.

      1. The 70s knew us better than we know ourselves.

        +1. And we have ObamaFAIL as president trying to make Carter look good in retro-vision.

  12. What is a Bipartisan?

    A politician who believes the governed should take it in all orifices, and be grateful.

  13. Oh, well, I’ve seen one of those. In fact–pauses to peruse dictionary–the definition of “politician” in my dictionary is one “who believes the governed should take it in all orifices, and be grateful.”

  14. Your comment does not appear to be written in an English script. Please comment in English.

    Good lord. Did Reason contract out the new comment-posting script to Lonewacko?

    1. Significan la escritura romana, pero ?se sigue siendo muy divertido.

  15. Pro Lib, your dictionary insensitive to the essentials of Dem and Rep ideology.

    Dems tend to think programs we neither want nor need shoved down our throats, while Reps favor jamming their preconceived ideas up our asses.

    A bipartisan compromise typically features both.

  16. We hatess them both, yess.

  17. Bipartisan consensus makes my ass hurt.

  18. So they’ve manged to get some Republicans on board who won’t actually have to vote on this monstrosity or have much influence on any Republicans who will. Are they Dems actually crowing about these guys? ‘Cause if they are, they’re desparately reaching here.

  19. How about the worthlessness of posting a singularity blog post with a ‘comment on this’ link that does not work.

    1. The powers that be just doesn’t want me making fun of the parallels between the Rapture and the Singularity.

    2. At least it wasn’t a zombie post – what a waste that would have been!

  20. ‘Anal rape? Sure why not! Polanski me hard big-boy!!’

  21. So bipartisan basically means, “to tag-team”. Now I understand 🙂

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  23. I know Tommy well, at least in the political sense. His brother, a friend of mine says of him, “Tommy has sold out to big government.” He and the others on the list are examples of what is wrong with the party, and why when they deserted their professed principles, the party got thumped. Better off without them, as they are impediments to real progress.

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