I Don’t Want Bipartisanship

My post a few weeks ago on Why I’ll vote for Obama in November was one of top five most popular posts I’ve ever written in terms of traffic.  I got tons of feedback in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook, via email and even some phone calls.  Most was positive, but some was very negative.  I realized I didn’t explain what I wanted in a politician well enough and that there were many misconceptions about bipartisanship and my solution to the problem.

Even though I don’t agree with much of what Obama has done and believe he’s been a bad president, I’m going to vote for him because he has the biggest chance to actually push for the big changes that we need and the current Republicans are a disaster. If he wins, he won’t do much more damage and might actually make change.  If not, we give the Republicans a second chance to come up with a potential game changing candidate.

Lots of people felt the same, but others disagreed vehemently, either supporting Obama’s agenda or saying that the Republicans had it right.  Many wished for more bipartisanship.  I don’t want bipartisanship as we’ve come to know it today.  The current definition is one side comes up with a proposal, the other side says they don’t like it, puts in a few recommendations and we pass a watered down bill that doesn’t actually change anything.

That’s not what we need. Bipartisainship used to work because each party had big ideas that they believed in, but individual politicians were allowed to have their own opinions on the rest of the issues.  Both parties were “big tents” where everyone generally agreed on the big issues, but smaller issues were left up to the politician’s good judgement.

Republicans used to believe in small government, a strict interpretation of the Constitution and generally conservative attitudes, but the individual members could stake out other “liberal” positions on tax policy, social issues, environmental protection and many others.  Democrats used to believe in larger government and a more fluid interpretation of the Constitution, but could take all sorts of other more conservative positions on individual issues.

Now, to be a successful politician, you have to be monolithic in support of your party.  You have to be lock step with them you’ll draw the ire of the party activists.  You must agree on everything or you’re voted out.  Because of jerrymandering in the House, we get more and more “true believers.” Joe Lieberman was basically kicked out of the Democratic party because he sided with the Republicans on Israel and defense.  The independent minded Republicans have all been voted out. Both parties have become irrationally tied to their positions, co-opted by hyper partisan politics instead of making things better.

I do not want bipartisanship.  I don’t want a president who leads from the right or from the left. I want someone with an independent mind.  Someone who can for example support a simplified tax code, a new look at the drug war, cutting the defense budget, a look at the prison industrial complex, civil rights and investment, not spending.  Someone to take the best from the Republicans and the best from the Democrats ad go for it.

That’s how we get out of this mess.  We don’t need compromise, we need someone who is willing to break away from working in lockstep with a party.  Someone who recognizes a good idea when they see it and throws their support behind it.  We need a rejection of both party’s lock step agenda.  We need to reject the idea of bipartisanship in its current definition and break the lockstep grasp that both extreme wings of each political party has on our country.