Bipartisanship Amid ‘the Charred Ruins of American Prosperity’

Calling it “obvious” that “promises to get beyond partisanship are the most perfunctory sort of campaign rhetoric, almost as empty as the partisanship itself,” the latest from Thomas Frank (Wall Street Journal, 2/18/09) explains the corporate media’s fetish for bipartisanship:

For the Beltway commentariat, however, transcending partisanship is the most meaningful of issues, more important, one senses, than the economic problems that trouble those people at town-hall meetings. “Nothing was more central to [Obama’s] victory last fall than his claim that he could break the partisan gridlock in Washington,” wrote the Washington Post‘s David Broder a few weeks ago, in an altogether typical expression of media perceptions.

The way I remember it, the No. 1 issue in the election was the collapsing economy, followed at some distance by the Iraq war. On both of these questions, Mr. Obama prevailed because he was the candidate who promised most convincingly to reverse Republican policies–not because he planned to meet the GOP halfway across the charred ruins of American prosperity.

The reason the Washington media think bipartisanship is the top issue, even when economic disaster stomps Americans like Godzilla, is because of the way it reflects their own professional standards. They are themselves technically impartial, and so it’s only natural for them to wish for a hazy millennium in which everyone else in Washington is impartial, too.

Frank delineates the really insidious nature of what “is supposed to be high-minded stuff, this longing for a bipartisan golden age”: “In some ways it is the most cynical stance possible. It takes no idea seriously, since everything is up for compromise.” See the recent FAIR Media Advisory: “Bipartisanship=Shifting Right?: Media Mull White House Failures Over Stimulus Partisanship” (2/3/09)