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David Sirota

David Sirota

Posted: November 23, 2006 03:17 PM

"Bipartisanship" Hides the Real Power Equation That No One Talks About


Here's a very simple question to ponder with full stomachs after our Thanksgiving meal: is the real problem afflicting our political system a lack of so-called "bipartisanship" or is it actually too much bipartisanship?

I ask this question honestly, because it seems to me that congressional Democrats believe that, above all, their mandate is to be more "bipartisan." Out of all the messages coming from them and the professisonal political elite in Washington (the Serious People as many call them), the call for more "bipartisanship" seems the most crisp. Summing up this call from other Democrats quite succinctly, Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi said, "The American people voted for a new direction to restore stability and bipartisanship to Washington, D.C."

I'll admit, that feels soothing for a few minutes. Yes, yes, wouldn't we all like to go back to that era that actually never occurred to frolick happily through the fields of bipartisanship that never existed. But like the cheap massage chairs you can test out at the mall, the soothing quickly becomes a painful digging and scratching, which is why you don't buy the chair, why we shouldn't buy all this rhetoric about a need for more "bipartisanship," and why only a fool whose brain has rotted from Potomac Fever would actually believe that a country under severe economic distress in a neverending quagmire in Iraq walked into the ballot box and voted primarily on a desire to see Mitch McConnell hug Harry Reid.

Anyone who spends 5 minutes around the halls of power in the nation's capital knows that Washington is dominated by one party: The Money Party, and that the People Party is far outnumbered - even after this election. Look no further than votes on the bankruptcy bill, the energy bill, the class action bill, China PNTR and NAFTA to figure out which politicans who call themselves Republicans and Democrats actually belong to the Money Party and which politicians actually belong to the People Party. The Establishment pretends this paradigm doesn't exist - they need the drama of Democrats vs. Republicans to sell newspapers, and more importantly, hiding the existence of the real power equation is in the interest of all the major for-profit corporations that own the media.

Let's also be honest - this Kabuki Theater is sometimes reinforced by the Netroots and by self-described "progressive" institutions in Washington. There are various reasons for this. Sometimes its just easier to pretend that life is a cartoonish struggle between Blue and Red, with Blue always being Moral and Just, and Red always being Evil. Other times, it is a matter of financial pressures - some of the self-anointed progressive leaders and institutions in Washington are actually very much a part of the Money Party, both in terms of thier funding and their ideology.

What this election really was was a surge for the People Party, because so many candidates were elected on anti-Money Party themes (opposition to pay-to-play corruption, opposition to lobbyist-written trade pacts, etc.). This explains why in the election's aftermath we hear such repetitive calls for "bipartisanship": they are really repetitive and not-so-hidden attempts to make sure the Money Party that includes both Republicans and Democrats remains dominant and that the election's mandate is ignored. The thing they really do not want is for the People Party to assert itself against the Money Party.

I hope when Pelosi and other Democrats talk about "bipartisanship" they understand the real partisan divide in Washington, and will use their power to build coalitions of Republicans and Democrats to push the People Party's agenda. Because doing the opposite - solidifying coalitions of Republicans and Democrats to continue pushing the Money Party's agenda - is not the "bipartisanship" this country wants or deserves.

To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, I would remind progressives that partisanship in the defense of regular people is no vice, and Washington's faux bipartisanship in the pursuit of selling out is no virtue.