12/20/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A "Team of Rivals" Or a Rival Team?

A quick lexicographic note: Seems to me the term "Team of Rivals" is the new euphemism for "bipartisanship," which unto itself has always been a synonym for "buypartisanship" (ie. bipartisan corporatism) and "Broderism" (the principle, championed by Washington Post columnist David Broder, that bipartisanship is an inherent virtue regardless of what it is in pursuit of). The terms are cousins of the "center-right nation" meme we've been hearing. The language changes with the times - but the definitions stay the same.

"Team of Rivals" is now being used to justify Obama administration appointments and congressional Democratic moves that appear - at least aesthetically - to be somewhat at odds with all "change we can believe in" rhetoric (and for those who don't think there have been many appointments already, there have been many through the transition and the transition's extremely powerful "advisory" committee - and if you think those are irrelevant, you must have forgotten the influence of George W. Bush's similar appointments in 2000). The real question is what are the boundaries of this Broderism in disguise? Is "Team of Rivals" really a veneer for creating a rival team against progressives?

Does "Team of Rivals"-ism mean appointing, say, neoconservatives warmongers because they supposedly have a valid meritorious perspective that needs to be included, despite Obama's anti-war campaign platform? What about free trade zealots from Bob Rubin's extended political family - should they be included in the "Team of Rivals" after an election that saw Obama and downticket Democrats campaign vigorously against NAFTA-style trade policies? And sure, Joe Lieberman should be empowered to subpoena the incoming Obama administration that he declared his hatred for, right? Because hey, it's a "Team of Rivals," right? Hell, why not give some congressional chairmanships to some Republicans, so that Congress can have it's own "Team of Rivals?"

Look, I'm all for "inclusion" - but let's also remember, the most comprehensive post-election poll shows that a whopping 70 percent of Americans want conservatives to bend to Obama's agenda, not the other way around. And so what about the other side of the "team?" If "Team of Rivals" = "Bipartisanship," shouldn't there be some full-on progressives in some very powerful positions? Wouldn't that complete the "team" in "Team of Rivals" and the "bi" in "bipartisan?" Or are we really not going to see a "team" nor "bipartisanship" - but merely lockstep corporatism/conservatism disguised with the latest happy sounding terms from the Broder dictionary?