A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Post Partisanship

by on February 12th, 2009

Changing the way Washington does business won’t be easy or quick.

A funny thing happened on the way to a post-partisan Washington. The Democratic House decided it didn’t need to be post-partisan because it had the votes and the Republicans decided that they could play all the worst partisan games with the stimulus and Barack Obama would not be able to fight back without seeming to go back on his promise.

It seems that President Obama is going to have to revise his approach to creating a post partisan American government. I suggest that he take a page or two out of Ronald Reagan’s play book. The one that says “The Soviets: Trust but Verify”.

I suggest this because the Republicans are acting very much like the Soviets of old.

Sure, they have an old tyme ideology that provides plenty of cover on their anti-spending dogma and just like the Soviet leaders with their dachas and expense accounts they never worry about whether their message is consistent with their example.

More disturbing, however, is the way in which the Republicans have mimicked those wiley Soviets by demanding concession after concession and then acting as if President Obama’s expectations that his election should give him some control over the agenda was an about face on his promise to reach across the aisle.

Like the Soviets, they have figured that they can have the best of both worlds. They can line the pockets of their friends and still vote against the final bill. If the Stimulus bill works, they can claim that their tax cuts were what created all the jobs; and, if their tax cuts have crowded out the strategic investments needed for the measure to actually succeed, they can crow about how they were right to vote against it.

It almost makes one long for the good old days of bitter partisanship.

President Obama will need to develop a response for this kind of behavior or they will continue to run that play like a prison football team from The Longest Yard. That’s where the Ronald Reagan approach might come in handy.

1. Regularly warn the American people that they can’t be trusted and point out their behavior each time they engage in it.

2. Play the partisan in response to their shenanigans, using humor works well.

3. Raise the stakes suffiently so that there is an incentive for real and honest post partisan behavior.

In short, institute a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction for playing the slime card.

The polls show that the American people see what the Republicans are doing here. Yes, there is some damage to the President’s agenda but, according to just released national polling, the minute that President Obama began to fight back the American people came down on his side. It won’t be long before the Republicans find – as the Soviets did – that the price of their gamesmanship may just be a lot higher than they thought.

Wayne D. King