Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Ways of Thinking: Post-partisanship

George W. Bush did not show partisanship in welcoming president-elect Obama to the White House. By all accounts President Bush was hospitable, willing to help the new president in any way he could. A White House spokesman said that their meeting was “good, constructive, relaxed and friendly." As private citizen George W. Bush he wished his successor much success.

On the other hand, during the debate over the economic stimulus package, President Obama’s appeal for bipartisanship fell on democrat and republican deaf ears. Democrat Speaker of the House Pelosi said, “Yes, we wrote the bill. Yes, we won the election,” which was unashamedly partisan, completely unacceptable, lacked civility, and certainly was not a demonstration that she was going to support the President’s call for bipartisanship. Democrats followed the house leadership by shutting out the Republicans from participation in writing the initial legislation. Republicans responded in kind by showing their non-support and partisanship with a unanimous nay vote on the proposed legislation.

Congress needs an education on the means and methods of bipartisanship. That education will be difficult since they do not have the mindset or the even the will to earnestly try to embrace the concept of shared accomplishment; one side wins and the other loses, one side or the other must always be triumphant, never a win-win outcome of collaboration.

There is no political advantage in shared accomplishment, and therefore, much to the chagrin of President Obama, it may not ever be embraced by a congressional majority to ever be viable without a good deal of persistent leadership, follow-through, and a great deal of a hands-on, in your shirt sleeves, showing by example on how it should be done.

As Kevin Hassett stated in his commentary posted at, “It is no coincidence that the tone of our government has degenerated at the same time as its performance. One could randomly select any corner of government today and find ample room for improvement, to say the least. There is nowhere an individual foolish enough, or an addict delirious enough, to design a government that works the way ours does.”

In George W Bush’s first inaugural address he expressed that “Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos. And this commitment, if we keep it, is a way to shared accomplishment.”

Post-partisanship, the idea that politics can rise above partisanship, has been called for by Presidents from Nixon to Obama, and by many states governors and mayors. By Schwarzenegger who said, “All of our most deeply held dreams and aspirations require us to build on our common bonds rather than keep resorting to the tired battle cries of partisan politics that divides and demoralizes us.”; and by Bloomberg who said, “We do not have to settle for the same old politics … a fundamentally different way of behaving—one built on cooperation and collaboration.”

The problem of partisanship seems to lie not in the leadership of the executive branch of government, but very clearly in the leadership, and rank and file, of Congress. Congress in turn is a mirror of society who themselves do not embrace the concept of shared accomplishment. One side must always win; one side or the other must always be triumphant.

This is clearly observable in American society in what entertains us, and in our public interactions with each other: in sports one side must win, and if there so happens to be a brawl, well that’s just value added; in some game shows and reality shows where one side is triumphant, the loser is then summarily dismissed in an atmosphere where incivility and put-downs are commonplace; in the raucous incivility of talk-show hosts; in the raucous incivility prevalent in much of American humor and comedy. We seem to be in so many ways raucously uncivil, schadenfreude-ingly joyful in the put-down, and to Americans winning is everything.

As Americans we must first correct our bad, unacceptable, uncivil behavior so that in the discourse of future generations who seek political office they will embrace the concept of shared accomplishment, the treatment of others with civility, and in the spirit of post-partisanship, cooperation and collaboration.