A Caution to Republicans and Democrats

I’m an independent who voted Democratic this time. Now obviously I can’t speak for independents as a group. That is, after all, what independent means. One of the things I wanted was bipartisanship, and my impression is that either I don’t know what that means or most of the people in Washington DC are pretty clueless on the matter.

In my view bipartisanship means honestly listening to one another, and cooperating across party lines wherever that will work. There are two things to avoid: 1) Bickering, grandstanding, and other such tactics and 2) Compromising away your principles. I think both of these things should be avoided diligently and equally.

When two politicians disagree on a substantive issue of principle, debate it out openly and honestly, and then end up voting against one another, I regard that as good civic responsibility. When the same politicians waffle around until they find some mushy compromise, I call that dishonesty and cowardice.

So when President Obama and congressional leaders get together, I don’t mind the fact that the Republicans have numerous objections to the stimulus package that is taking shape on the Democratic side. They should. There is much here to which one may object.

When President Obama gives as his reason for opposing them the fact that he won, that is also quite within bounds. After all, he did win, and not only has the right and the power to pursue the policies one which he campaigned, or which he deems appropriate in the current circumstances; he has a duty to do so.

On the other hand, when Democractic leaders in congress write rules that tend to freeze Republicans out of the process, that’s not bipartisan, and when a Republican such as Senator John Cornyn of Texas uses the rules that are available to block a cabinet appointment when he (a) knows he’s going to lose in the end and (b) intends to vote for the particular appointee in any case, that’s not bipartisan.

At the same time, if was actually opposed on principle to the appointment itself, saying so and voting against the appointment would be simply carrying out his duty as a Senator.

It seems to me that the politicians simply don’t understand how grandstanding and petty bickering looks to those who are not already their committed followers. I think it’s one reason congress, under the control of either party, has extremely low approval ratings as a whole. We just see too much of this sort of behavior.

It seems simple to me–talk, listen, decide, vote. Procedural tricks are quite valid when they can accomplish something, but when they are used simply to draw attention to oneself, I think they will tend to backfire more and more.

I’ve voted Republican before. I voted Democratic this time, for the most part. I could easily be persuaded to vote Republican again–or for a third party if sufficiently provoked.

That’s just a thought from one independent.

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