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When will the GOP leadership learn that, to the Democrats, "bipartisanship" means total capitulation?

January 17, 2008

On the heels of a meeting between Democrat and Republican leaders about a forthcoming economic stimulus package, Capitol Hill's major newspapers featured -- on their covers -- photographs of jubilant Democrats accompanied by fawning, subservient Republicans (see images at right for examples).

Though no caving in was done yesterday, the GOP's Congressional leadership still appears to be laboring, at least to some degree, under the equally false impressions that (a) so-called "bipartisanship" is possible in Congress without fully capitulating to the Democrats' demands, and (b) GOP leaders will ever, ever receive credit from the media and from their counterparts across the aisle for compromising on issues of importance and for reaching across the aisle in good faith and working together with the Ds.

As a year and change in the minority should have taught the GOP's current House leadership, there is no "common" or "middle" ground between conservative goals and the desires of the Democrats which the latter will ever accept as being valid. In other words, the only way that Democrats will accept an act or solution as being a "compromise" or as being "bipartisan" is if it involves a complete rejection of principles by conservatives, and a wholehearted acceptance of the Democrat position on that issue.

Unfortunately for Republicans, this leaves them with two choices, neither of which appear ideal: abandon "bipartisanship" and attempt to govern -- or to obstruct bad governance -- according to their principles (something for which they will be castigated by their opponents across the aisle and in the media), or give in to Democrats and accept the faint, damning, and temporary praise that comes with allowing the other side a victory.

It may seem to some that, when done in moderation, the latter is acceptable, as it both gives Republicans the opportunity to show their goodwill and willingness to compromise and allows for some decent press for our side for once. However, the blowback™ from such actions is very real: once Republicans show that they can be convinced, for whatever reason, to temporarily shelve their principles and give the Democrats a "bipartisan" victory, their opponents' ability to score such victories in the future becomes exponentially greater. By meeting Democrats in their artificially-created "middle" (which is generally to the far left of the spectrum), Republicans have put their proverbial "blood in the water" -- and, in mixed-metaphorical language, they have exposed their jugular to their attackers, who will show far less compunction than we would in going after it and sinking their teeth into the weak spot on their prey.

According to The Hill, "Pelosi struck a conciliatory note after the meeting, saying Boehner had offered some “constructive” ideas," while Rep. Hoyer, her #2 man, made clear that Republican ideas had no place whatsoever in what the Democrats would push through the House. From The Hill:
While Democratic leaders for the most part emphasized bipartisanship in their public comments, Hoyer blamed President Bush’s economic policies for causing the current slowdown and said President Clinton’s economic policies brought prosperity. “People were much better off eight years ago than they are today,” Hoyer told reporters. “I’ve been here 27 years and I don’t think the economic policies of Republicans have worked.”
Though politics is not by nature a black-and-white game -- and governing certainly isn't -- there is one absolute constant on Capitol Hill: "bipartisanship," to Democrats, means only one thing -- complete and total GOP capitulation.

As the 2008 legislative year kicks off, the current Republican leadership needs to decide if they are going to stick to principle, or if they are going to accept backhanded pats on the head, like that which Ms. Pelosi gave to Rep. Boehner yesterday, in exchange for capitulation.

If they are going to accept the latter, then I respectfully submit that it may be time for new Republican leadership -- leadership which will not abandon principle and embrace faux "bipartisanship" in exchange for an opportunity to lap up the scraps from the Democrats' table.


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