With left-of-center columnists critiquing the Beltway obsession with bipartisanship even in outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, it’s no wonder that David Broder is upset (Washington Post, 2/19/09). He calls the idea that Obama should stop worrying so much about attracting Republican support “the worst advice he has received,” warning that without reaching out to Republicans, Obama won’t be able to “offset protectionist impulses among Democrats,” and “Democrats will never tackle Social Security.” Horrors!
To be fair, Broder does suggest that Obama can only achieve some other more progressive goals via bipartisanship, but his argument on these issues is farther-fetched:
When it comes to energy, regional and commodity interests will inevitably divide the Democrats. They always do. Oil, coal, natural gas and consumer groups will exert their will. If Obama writes off the Republicans in advance, he will end up with a watered-down bill–or nothing.
The problem with this claim is that, if you look at voting patterns, every Republican in both the House and Senate is to the right of every Democrat. While Broder nostalgically recalls the days of “Lyndon Johnson’s forging the great civil rights acts with Sen. Everett Dirksen and Rep. Bill McCulloch, and Ronald Reagan’s steering his first budget and tax bill through a Democratic House,” the parties no longer include the Republican moderates and Democratic boll weevils that made such ideological crossovers possible.
Realistically, Obama will only be able to increase “bipartisan” support for his proposals by shifting them to the right. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to keep Broder up nights.