Bipartisanship may belong on endangered list

6 mins read

By Terry Manning

I was asked what I saw as the main difference between Republicans and Democrats.

Well, I answered, you could invite both parties over to play “Call of Duty,” and Democrats would show up with video-game controllers and virtual-reality goggles. Republicans would show up with flak jackets and AK-47s.

I was riffing on the GOP’s disproportionate obsession with Second Amendment rights over all others, but the comparison falls in line with their seeming commitment to escalating every difference of opinion into all-out war.

In war, there is no room for compromise, so none is sought and none is granted.

Still, I respect the desire for bipartisanship. It would be a great example for young Americans to see lawmakers on both sides of the aisle working together to advance the nation’s interests. But it’s not going to happen anytime soon, and I think President Biden has learned that lesson, making comments that the American Rescue Plan – aka the COVID-19 stimulus bill – met his goal of bipartisanship by being supported by Republicans outside of Washington (to the tune of 76 percent positive) even if not by those inside Congress (no GOP lawmakers voted for it).

Interestingly enough, according to Newsweek, a poll conducted by Data for Progress and Vox Media showed nearly a third of Republican voters think their lawmakers did vote for the plan. Maybe the most recent former president was right to lean on uninformed voters, since they can be counted on to support him and the party no matter what they say or do — or do not.

Some Republican lawmakers actually bragged on aspects of the plan they knew would help their constituents, making sure to differentiate between those narrow aspects they liked and the overall plan they did not support. Hopefully their voters remember that even the most appealing parts of the plan would not have passed without Congressional Democrats voting for it, along with Vice President Kamala Harris as tiebreaker in the Senate.

Still, the hope for bipartisanship lives. Even in the face of a full-scale assault on voting rights in Republican-controlled statehouses around the nation, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is reserving wholesale support for the Democratic-sponsored For the People Act, which would supersede many of those planned rollbacks.

“Pushing through legislation of this magnitude on a partisan basis may garner short-term benefits,” Manchin wrote, “but will inevitably only exacerbate the distrust that millions of Americans harbor against the U.S. government.”

Which could very well be true, but what about the millions for whom passage of the bill would bolster their belief government is not only able but willing to do things that work on their behalf?

The demographic that believes the Big Lie about the last election is never going to be persuaded to believe otherwise, so why waste time trying to change their minds? And further, why should Democrats risk losing the support of the people who put them in office in a futile effort to reach these hard-liners?

Georgia has already passed a ridiculous set of voting changes, including making it a crime to offer food or drink to voters standing in long lines. This happens mostly in Democratic-leaning districts where precincts have been reduced in numbers to discourage voters by making voting as tortuous as possible.

Even after the state’s governor and Republican election officials said the vote was secure and presented evidence to support that assessment. But facts didn’t keep that same governor from signing the bill into law mere hours after its passage. And now Georgia’s success is being studied to help the GOP develop “best practices,” according to the New York Times, so they can replicate this atrocity in at least 42 other states.

At this point the Big Lie is less about what happened in 2020 and more about will happen in 2022, 2024 and thereafter. The GOP’s influence is shrinking as the nation’s populace becomes more diverse and voters become more open to voting for government – at least at the federal level, so far – that reflects their own diversity and openness.

So where will Manchin find Republicans to vote for a bill that speeds their own demise? He seems all too willing to trade power already in the Democrats’ hands for a bipartisanship still in the bush.

Terry E. Manning lives and works in Savannah, Ga. He is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com.

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