Lucy, the Football, and “Bipartisanship”

Biden needs to avoid the old rope-a-dope

Photo by Ryan Reinoso on Unsplash

“Bipartisanship” is the word of the day. But what the heck does that mean?

News commentators are asking Democrats on TV, as happened to Patrick Leahy on CNN this morning, “Without bipartisanship, won’t your legislative efforts further divide the country?”

This is a BS question. It’s also the Republican’s song every time Democrats get political power; it’s even how they repeatedly crippled the Obama presidency, and the Democrats repeatedly fell for it during the 2009–2017 Obama era. They need to stop.

“You must compromise your values and principles,” Republican politicians say whenever Democrats are in charge, “and you must go against what the majority of Americans, including the majority of Republicans, want in order to get a vote from us.” They call that kind of Democratic submission to their bizarre demands “bipartisanship.”

But it’s not. There’s nothing bipartisan about gutting programs the majority of America’s Democratic and Republican voters want just because Republican politicians demand it.

“Bipartisanship” is the roadblock to guaranteeing voting rights to all American citizens, to rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and to guaranteeing health and educational rights. It’s used as a cudgel to block regulations to protect our air and water, and to continue massive multi-billion-dollar subsidies to the fossil fuel and other polluting industries.

When they had power, the Republican’s didn’t give a rat’s ass about bipartisanship when they gave their billionaire and corporate owners a $1.5 trillion tax cut. But now it’s important to them? Of course it is: Democrats are in charge.

There’s broad bipartisan support among the American people for everything from passing a massive Covid relief bill to ending student debt to building a national healthcare system. Even a green-based national infrastructure program to revive the economy and reduce global warming has broad bipartisan support at the level of voters.

“More than half of Republicans in a new American Barometer poll say they support ‘Medicare for all,’ also known as a single-payer health-care system,” notes reporter Julia Manchester for The Hill.

The headline at Forbes, the ultimate business-friendly publication, reads: “New Poll Shows Substantial, Bipartisan Support For Student Loan Forgiveness And Other Relief For Borrowers.” The article notes, “67% of respondents, including 58% of Republicans, support some form of widespread student loan forgiveness — whether it is universal, tied to income, or based on specific program eligibility. Only 26% of respondents said student loan debt should not be forgiven.”

More than 80% of all American voters support rebuilding America’s infrastructure in a way that doesn’t increase carbon emissions, the essence of the proposed Green New Deal. Timothy Cama reports for The Hill, “The survey conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication found that 92 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans back the Green New Deal plan.”

There is complete bipartisan support for all of these policies and more among the American people of both parties. They’re totally bipartisan.

Where this breaks down is at the level of elected Republican politicians. And the media seems to pay attention to them exclusively, while ignoring what polling shows the majority of Americans of both parties actually want.

Since the Reagan Revolution, Republican politicians have been entirely owned by giant corporations and right wing billionaires. As a result, they’ve consistently opposed anything that might help the American people because such aid might cause an increase in taxes on the rich and corporations to pay for it.

These Republican politicians will never vote for anything that helps the American people, even when a majority of their own party support it, as long as their billionaire and corporate owners don’t want to pay for it.

Nonetheless, like Lucy with the football, Republican politicians keep inviting Charlie Brown Democrats to take another kick at what they call “bipartisanship.” And the media stands on the sidelines, cheering the Republicans on.

It’s time to put an end to this stupid game that Republicans and the media have been playing for a full 40 years now.

Democrats and the news media must re-frame the word “bipartisanship.”

Instead of saying that something is “bipartisan” because there are billionaire-owned Republican votes for a particular piece of legislation, they need to point to “bipartisan support among the American people themselves,” regardless of how the corrupted Republican politicians may squeal or vote.

Yesterday, Joe Biden had a conference call with a number of mayors and governors about his $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill. Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan asked him to make sure it was by “bipartisan,” and in response President Biden said that they would probably have to pull the $15 minimum wage out of the legislation.

A $15 minimum wage is absolutely overwhelmingly supported by the majority the American people in both parties. When it was put on the ballot in Florida last year, the reddest of red states, it passed overwhelmingly with support from citizens of both parties. This has also already happened in a number of other red states.

While Trump got 5,658,219 votes for president in Florida in 2020 (Biden got 5,283,367), Amendment 2 that raised Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour got 6,377,937 votes!

Even though every billionaire-owned and corporate boot-licking Republican politician in the state objected to it, that vote by the people of the state of Florida was entirely bipartisan.

That should be the new definition of bipartisan: that something is supported by more than 50% of both Democrats and Republican voters nationwide. Forget what the politicians say or do.

The Republican Party and elected Republican politicians are not representing the interests of Americans, but instead only represent the interests of rightwing billionaires and giant corporations.

There is absolutely no reason why Democrats should pay any attention at all to their their pathetic demands for more tax cuts for the rich and fewer programs for working people.

The American people are desperately hoping that the Democrats, now that they have political power at the federal level, will do those things supported by a majority of both party’s voters.

The biggest obstacle to get there is this meme that bipartisanship doesn’t mean “support by voters of both parties,” but only means that elected Republican politicians will vote for something.

That’s wrong, crazy, and a prescription for continuing the political dysfunction that has plagued our nation since the Reagan revolution.

Democrats need to immediately stop falling for this Republican shtick, and the media must point out the difference between what Republican voters want and what Republican politicians are willing to do.

The political paralysis tearing our nation apart is not because of a lack of bipartisanship among the American people. Voters across-the-board, as the Florida vote on the minimum wage proves, are largely united in wanting government to put this country back together.

The problem is entirely with Republican politicians who have sworn loyalty exclusively to giant corporations and billionaires they produce.

Let’s all re-define “bipartisanship,” ignore the squeals and protests of Republican politicians, and get America back in shape and back to work.

America’s #1 progressive talk show host & NY Times bestselling author. Thom’s latest project is the “Hidden History” series of books.

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