The Bipartisan Crowd

Nothing Can Be DoneThis morning, Jonathan Chait published an article, Obama’s Refusal to Deal Paving Way for a Deal. It starts, “Most of the news coverage of the ‘fiscal cliff’ has come from the perspective of soothing bipartisan centrism, a point of view dramatized most explicitly by CNBC’s hysterical countdown to January, festooned with slogans urging the two parties to ‘Rise Above.'” Chait is ridiculing this and noting that it is exactly because Obama is being firm in these negotiations that we are likely to see a reasonable deal. This, of course, is what we liberals have known all along; it took the centrist Obama 3 years to figure it out. Of well. Better Nate than lever.[1]

Chait’s article is quite worth reading because he explains how things are likely to go from here. But I’m more interested in this chorus of calls for bipartisanship. And you know what I think of that: bipartisan consensus can bite me. Bipartisanship is what is always called for by two kinds of people: those who know nothing and those in the middle. Let’s look at each.

Those who know nothing think that the two sides are fighting like football teams: it’s all a game. But as much as I may despise Republican policy ideas, I don’t doubt that these people really do believe that the world would be oh so much better off if only we kept piling money and gifts on the rich and powerful. (That is the idea behind tinkle down economics.) The two sides are the two sides because they disagree. They don’t disagree for sport.

Now we come to those in the middle. I really hate these arrogant bastards.[2] Their claim is that they’re open minded and are just being objective. This is the basis for all mainstream political coverage. But even when coverage is truly centrist (it is usually just socially liberal and economically conservative), it is no less ideological. So when centrists say the two sides should just compromise, what they are really saying is exactly what the extremists on each side are saying: I want it all my own way!

Making reasonable compromises is a good thing. Giving up something you can live without in order to get something you can’t live without is a good idea. Minimizing your losses when you are in a bad negotiating position is a smart move. And giving a weak opponent a way to save face is noble. But compromising for its own sake is madness.


I can’t help but notice that the mainstream media are much more hysterical in their calls for compromise when the liberals are in a strong position. I don’t recall anyone telling Boehner that he should be more reasonable when he claimed he got 98% of what he wanted. And for the hundredth time: 98% wasn’t good enough. What’s more, Boehner didn’t not follow the noble course. But now that things are reversed, Obama is supposed to.

[1] This is from a joke. It is an example of what Wikipedia calls anti-humor. In this case, it tells a very long story leading up to a spoonerism of “better late than never”: “better Nate than lever.” Feel free to make up your own story!

[2] Arrogant Bastard Ale is excellent. Highly recommended!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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