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The Myth of Bipartisanship

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
This post was authored by Thomas N. Tripp

While some in Washington try to solve, and others obstruct, fixing our fiscal mess, we hear “our political system is broken because of partisanship.” This is untrue, even absurd. This argument tries to pit politics against principle.


The Democrats are using partisanship and diversion to prevent discussion of the real problem the nation faces: insolvency. Thus they claim there is something wrong with the political system (when they don’t get their way) rather than with their policies. This hypocrisy has finally been brought to trial.

The liberals have been on an untenable political and economic course for decades, during which they have claimed a moral high ground. Now they are astonished to find that the public no longer believes them.

Obviously we need to protect those who cannot help themselves, and we need to make Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid solvent and safe, not only from bankruptcy, but from the crass and cynical political maneuverings of liberal politicians who claim to be the only ones who care.

The welfarism that promises everything and delivers little but lowest-common-denominator living standards was born in the 1930s, during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. In that era there was no bipartisanship. The Democrats controlled both the executive and legislative branches and their Congressional majorities were impregnable. They passed legislation implementing government programs that promised to remedy the economy’s deep-seated malaise and to save future generations from the poverty that grew inexorably in that decade. But the untenable spending of that era was and is still nothing more than taking money out of the pockets of the productive people who create jobs and pay taxes and putting it into dead-end programs. Nevertheless, it was a politically astute move.


This Keynesian form of government interference—spending money that doesn’t exist—resulted in higher taxes and outlays than the economy could sustain. The tax rates stifled the capital-intensive job creation that was so necessary, while at the same time the liberals created the false idol of an omniscient government that can and should take care of everyone and everything. Sound familiar?

However, the real American psyche in that era was based on the idea that the government owed an individual nothing more than opportunity and freedom of choice. People didn’t want handouts—that solution was anathema to the head-held-high view of every capable man and woman in America. They wanted only a chance to work. But the government checked the economy and took every wrong turn possible out of misguided sentimentality and a thirst to use the power they held to gain a political foothold that would last for generations. They wanted the masses beholden.

It was not as though there were no countervailing voices—voices that understood the human impulse toward achievement and the dignity of individual self-sufficiency. But partisanship ruled and the calls for economic sanity were dismissed. In the long term, FDR’s policies led to a culture of dependency for the poor and an untenable public debt created by a political machine that bought votes with cynical parentalism.


During President Lyndon Johnson’s administration in the 1960s bipartisanship was ignored again and the Democrats rolled over both common sense and fiscal reality when they enacted Medicare and Medicaid but imposed no fiscal controls and offered no incentive to individuals to use these programs wisely. In both eras the liberals had the power of numbers. Today the conservatives have the power of principle. It seems a fair fight.

The liberal’s results can be resolved today only by an equal, but far less cynical partisanship—the Tea Party reaction has risen with a view not toward politics but founded on principle. Because the liberals cannot dismiss principle on its merits, conservatism is attacked instead on a false emotional level.

In spite of the efforts of the Democrats, the political system isn’t broken, it is working just fine and the proof of this is in the electoral pudding. Republicans who embrace conservative principles are winning elections in record numbers, yet they are being accused of acting in their own political interests rather than the country’s. The exact opposite is the truth.

More to the point, Democrats and the conservative-Republican alliance are not fighting the same battles. The liberals want to maintain power, the conservatives want to save the nation.

The liberal call for bipartisanship is not a policy. It is the last refuge of the scoundrels who created this disaster in the first place. The Democrats took partisanship to an untenable extent that has created, so many decades later, the massive debt that our children and grandchildren are expected to repay. Passing this burden to the next two generations is unconscionable.


The 2010 election resulted in an unprecedented shift of power with 63 new Republican members of Congress, more than 700 new state legislators, and a change of control in more than 20 state legislatures. Even intensive efforts in 2011 by the government unions to recall all of the conservatives elected to the Wisconsin senate in 2010 failed, in large part because the public now understands today’s battle is not about partisan politics, it’s about the principles of sound social investment.

But the question remains: Will the Republicans, guided by their conservative mentors, continue on a course of fiscal sanity and civic responsibility? Will they effectively counter-punch both the Democrat’s defensive call for a mythical and self-serving bipartisanship and the liberal media’s political assault on real economics? Worse, will the Republicans, in a giddy state of political power, get so full of themselves they overreach and forget why they are there; will they foolishly conclude they can create their own political dynasty by petty attacks on legitimate, but currently irrelevant targets such as NPR or the National Endowment for the Arts?

The nation’s single purpose is to bring back fiscal sanity via responsible and responsive governing. If those who understand this need do not remain on a rational economic course we will be nothing. The people will have no jobs, we will be unable to protect our national security, and we will bequeath our kids and grandkids nothing but misery, debt, a perpetually empty Social Security “lockbox,” and the decline and destruction of an ideal—the United States of America—that is so worthy, and so precarious. The electorate knows this is not about power, it is about principle. Can the political class both comprehend and act on that reality?


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