The Left/Right Alliance That Cut Pentagon Spending

Transpartisanship vs. bipartisanship


The winter hat of freedom

The New America Foundation has just published a paper called "The Sequester, the Pentagon, and the Little Campaign That Could"—the second in a sequence of studies it's calling the "Strange Bedfellows Series." The report is a worthy account of how some progressive Democrats and Tea Party Republicans joined forces in 2010-12 to cut "defense" spending, showing how the alliance emerged, won a significant legislative victory, then lost some ground after ISIS became a major issue. You should read it.

But as interesting as the specific case study is, what really captured my attention was this explanatory passage on the report's inside cover, explaining what the larger series is about:

The paths taken on issues from sentencing reform to changes in Pentagon spending to resistance to government surveillance share a common thread: they were all a result of transpartisan cooperation. By transpartisan, we mean an approach to advocacy in which, rather than emerging from political elites at the center, new policy ideas emerge from unlikely corners of the right or left and find allies on the other side, who may come to the same idea from a very different worldview. In transpartisan coalitions, policy entrepreneurs from the ideological corners recruit endorsers and test ideas, eventually bringing them into the policy mainstream at the local, state and national levels. Unlike traditional bipartisan coalitions, which begin in the center, the established, centrist politicians and institutions are often the last to recognize and embrace a transpartisan vision.

Not every transpartisan left/right alliance is congenial to libertarians. (Indeed, on some issues—frequently centering around censorship—both sides are essentially transpartisan coalitions and the elites would rather be talking about something else. Where was the center during the porn wars?) But I think a lot of libertarians' first instinct is to cheer when they hear that elements of the left and right are uniting against the center, and that's not just because our movement frequently feels like a left/right alliance itself. For the most part, libs understand that when people get channeled into Red Team vs. Blue Team poo-throwing matches, our issues tend to lose. But the alternative to that partisan tribalism isn't the bipartisan center. It's modular alliances among the outsiders.

Bonus link: The first entry in the Strange Bedfellows Series, on mass incarceration, can be read here.

NEXT: Trump, Cruz Make Play for Paul Supporters, But Rand Says He's Not Going Anywhere

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Did Jesse just other transpartisans?

    1. Tyrannies still aren’t special enough for government protection.

  2. For all visitors from the reason site who comment using a phone, I propose a challenge. From this post on, let your phone do your talking for you. Just accept every autocorrect and dictionary substitution that your phone suggests.

    1. Trusting the machines for all of your communications is just the last step towards surrendering to your future robot overlords.

      1. Robot overlords? You’ve been prophecising about reptillian overlords for what, 2 years now? Make up your mind. Robots or lizards?

        1. Why not both? Maybe Godzilla was merely a robotized reptile battle wagon?

        2. I work for Your Future Reptilian Overlords. However your species seems intent on serving robots

  3. I had the misfortune yesterday of getting stuck listening to 5 minutes of Hugh Hewitt and he was ranting and raving about how the next GOP candidate had to make the repeal of the sequester for the defense department his number 1 priority. Otherwise there would be no way we could go kill all the muslims that needed killing.

    I – for the sake of my sanity – can’t believe that there really are so many people out there who think that what we really need is more foreign wars. Please tell me it is just nutters on talk radio who still have the raging war boners.

  4. Jesus Christ, the Sequester? Even saying that word is dangerous. DO YOU WANT TO KILL US ALL?

  5. Many folks who never served, or even seen some of the inner workings of the DOD and its contracting, procurement, and equipment acceptance policies usually hold those views. On top of that, many ignore history, and the efficiency of the free market vs gov’t defense.

    It’s like the limited gov’t or minarchist folks that believe only top men and their magical socialism, can only in this instance (or RoAdZ excuses),be magically efficient. Sadly this never was or is the case.

    Anyone who cares to read about the history of defense production should read “The Myth of National Defense” which has a bunch of contributors.

    Another good book to read is Command of the seas by John F. Lehman Jr. The problems are laid out, and if there were any concerns about efficiency, and effectiveness, then the DOD would have adopted his changes and even more. But with gov’t that will never be the case. And it’s been that way since the birth of this country. What this book, either intentionally or unintentionally does is further strengthen the case for the private production of defense.

  6. Is this significantly different from the Committee on Base Closings and Reassignment? Because that is the onky other successful “cut” of military spending. I only scare quote cut because the money was mostly reallocated to other defense projects. The US definitely closed and consolidated military bases and lowered that cost.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.