Way back in January, I wrote a blog about possible areas that Democrats could work with Republicans on. I had thought that there must be some common ground between the Tea Party Republicans and the Democrats that they could work on. After seeing how the Republicans in the House rejected the compromise that their leader Boehner had fashioned with Obama on the debt ceiling debates and constantly rejected any proposals of Obama, I feel pretty naive about thinking that Democrats could work on some issues with these new brand of Republicans.
If my memory is correct, I think this conservative Republican revolt started towards the last years of the Bush years, when they revolted against Bush’s support of the McCain/Kennedy immigration reform bill. I think this uncompromising attitude is bad for our country. In the past I remember how Democrats and Republicans were always able to find some common ground.
Even though most Democrats opposed the Bush political philosophy, they still found some areas to agree on. Ted Kennedy teamed up with Bush on No Child Left Behind and worked with John McCain on an immigration reform bill.
During the 1990s, Clinton worked with Newt Gingrich and the Republicans on welfare reform, a capital gains tax and the first balanced budget since 1969. Before the Monica Lewinsky derailed their talks, Clinton and Gingrich had planned on working on centrist reforms on Social Security and Medicare.
Bush H.W. Bush worked with Democrats on the American’s With Disabilities Act and the Immigration Act of 1990.
Ronald Reagan and Tip O’ Neil had many political differences, but they were also good friends, and they managed to work on bipartisan solutions to keep Social Security sustainable and in passing a historic tax reform bill.
I’m a bit more skeptical now about efforts at bipartisan collaborations. At the beginning of the health care reform debate in 2009, there was a gang of six Senator including Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa , Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Michael Enzi of Wyoming. The White House had given Grassley wide lattitude to influence the shape of the health care reform bill to try to reach a bipartisan plan. In August during the town hall meetings, when the Tea Party first made their presence felt, Grassley began making false claims of the health care reform bill having death panels, even though Grassley voted in 2003 for counseling for end-of-life issues and care. John McCain and Orrin Hatch both voted against the Dream Act in 2010, even though they both had voted for the Dream Act in the past. Lindsey Graham left a partnership with Joe Lieberman and John Kerry on a compromise climate bill that would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions. I think the Tea Party has made many Republicans afraid of collaborating with Democrats in any way.
I think one of the reasons that bipartisan collaborations are more rare is that there are less moderates in either party. The situation isn’t as bad in the Democratic Party because there is still a sizable number of Blue Dog Democrats. In the Republican Party, however, there has been a concerted effort by conservatives and Tea Party members to purge the GOP of moderates. A famous case of a moderate leaving the Republican Party is Senator Jim Jeffords in 2001.
In a June 23, 1996 article entitle Why Today’s Politics Stink, David Broder writes of the reason that moderates are becoming less frequent in either political party:
The need for cross-party friendships is even greater now than in the past because the ideological differences between the parties have grown. And in both the House and Senate, a bloodless version of ‘ethnic cleansing’ has been taking place within each party.
For most of the postwar period, Democratic congressional majorities included a kaleidoscope of personalities and views, ranging from Northern liberals like Humphrey, Hart, and McGovern to Southern conservatives like Sam Ervin, John Stennis and Harry Byrd. But the conservative Southern Democrats began to disappear after the civil rights revolution. In the House, some of their seats are now held by African-Americans. But most of the House seats and all of the Senate seats that have switched parties are filled by conservative Republicans. As a result, the center of gravity in the House and Senate Democratic caucuses has moved north and moved left.
Exactly the opposite has been happening to the Republicans. With Southerners now in the top leadership positions in both House and Senate, the congressional GOP is much more uniformly conservative than it was when Dole arrived. And just as conservative Republicans have replaced conservative Democrats in the South, so liberal Democrats have replaced moderate and liberal Republicans who once were numerous in New England, the Middle Atlantic states, the Midwest and the Northwest.
As each party has become more homogeneous in terms of philosophy, there has been less tolerance of dissent. The penalties for deviating from the party line have increased.
The differences of view- even of philosophy- between the parties are genuine. But the press treats these disagreements as if they were narrowly partisan and the public often sees these battles simply as evidence of small minded, churlish behavior- and condemn everyone involved, regardless of party label. The result is a more polarized, less productive Congress- and one which the public has come to despise.
I think bipartisanship is only possible if there is a sizable number of moderates in the Republican Party where reasonable compromises could be worked out. I think the current crop of conservative and Tea Party Republicans and moderate and liberal Democrats are too ideologically apart for there to be any meaningful collaboration. The Republican ideas on free markets and small government are too opposed to the Democrats ideas of the necessity of the federal government.
I’ve had some disappointments with Obama, but I still like President Obama and will volunteer to help reelect Obama in 2012. But after the elections are over, I’m going to work on those issues that I strongly support and do my best to pressure Obama to support those issues. I’m also hoping that some moderate Republicans start to stand up to the Tea Party and starts reasserting their place in the Republican Party. A reinvigorated number of moderate Republicans would be good for both the Republican Party and for our nation.
If you enjoy this cartoon, take a look at these links for more of my political cartoons at Everyday Citizen:
Jasper And the Homeless Veteran
Jasper Celebrates the 4th of July
Jasper Meets Howard Zinn
Jasper and the Nature Poem
Government and the Market Economy
Jasper Joins Two Protests
Bob the Nerd Vampire
Jasper Debates War
Jasper Finds His Way Home
Jasper Escapes the Detention Center
Jasper At A Detention Center
Jasper Meets a Poet
Jasper Tackles Health Care
Jasper Protests the War
Jasper and the Economy
Jasper Sings a Protest Song
The Road To Health Care Reform Cartoon
A Cartoon about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
A Cartoon about My Experience in an Evangelical Church
A Cartoon about Political Debate
A Cartoon On Gay Marriage