The rookies are in! With the legislature now in full swing, the freshmen members have descended upon Augusta. These have come, with visions of their own grandeur rife with the fantasy of how their silver tongue and persona, steeped in the magnanimous, will alone bridge the partisan divide. Soon, the rude awakening will occur, or so we hope.
Why do I hope for a rude awakening? It may help the reader to understand my disdain of the modern clamor for bi-partisanship if we first examine the partisan divide. For this purpose, I will borrow and embellish an illustration from a columnist far more accomplished and respected than I, Peggy Noonan. This is from a column she wrote in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago entitled “Why Its Time for the Tea Party”.
Ms. Noonan likens the partisan divide to the increments on a yardstick. The one-inch mark would represent the extreme right, what some call “right of reason”. The 36-inch mark would represent those on the left, who just transported in from their spaceship through the StarGate on moonbeams. The 18-inch would represent the middle ground or the Nirvana of bi-partisanship.
While media elites, the Democrat Party, and moderate Republicans continue to loudly decry the lack of bi-partisanship from Conservatives and Conservative Republicans alike (Yes, there are some true Conservative Republicans that still exist.), the true reasons for the political divide are ignored either by intent or lack of political gravitas. The prevailing system of governance of today would be settled somewhere around the 28-inch mark in Ms. Noonan’s ideological yardstick. Conservatives would like the government to be running somewhere in between 5 and 10 inches but the yardstick seems to be increasingly tilted towards the 36 inch mark at an alarming pitch.
This is infuriating to voters, who have clearly spoken to their candidates on the campaign trail and have an expectation of legislative behavior based upon campaign promises. The elected legislators once in office are immediately barraged with a call for bi-partisanship and are assured that this is what the majority of people want. But the negotiations are happening at the 28-inch mark and, when Republicans hold up their accomplishments, with an “it could be worse” smile, the people throw their hands up in disgust. We are still at 28 inches, in fact, its now 28 and ¾ inches. We haven’t gained an inch.
The people are outraged! The Democrats and moderate Republicans admonish Conservatives for their lack of bi-partisanship, more concessions are made to salve the perceived political faux pas, and the Nation and States slide deeper into the mire of Socialism. Republicans are left looking like buffoons.
True and healthy bi-partisan tension can only occur on the flat plains of the middle ground. Bi-partisanship will never work until some courageous partisans refuse to be thwarted in their resolve to pull the mired wagon of government back to the 18-inch mark. Then and only then can bi-partisanship function on equal footing.
The fantasy of many Republicans to be that bridge over troubled partisan waters will never come to fruition as long as this fallacy of bi-partisanship exists. It is folly to build a bridge on anything other then a solid footing. We have wasted too much energy constructing monuments to futility in the mire only to see them sink away. Its time to pull back to the high ground of common sense, where negotiations truly work.