Americans hope for bipartisanship in politics. We hope that Democrats and Republicans can work together and come up with common-sense solutions to the problems we face. So when a presidential candidate tells us he will reach across to the opposition party and work with them, we have a tendency to support that effort. The speeches of bipartisanship work well when you are running for president, but when you have a second term that you have to run for, that opposition party has no reason to cooperate.
Barack Obama told us he would reach across to Republicans in hopes of a bipartisan effort to restore this country. He kept Defense Secretary Robert Gates on staff to continue the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. He nominated Republican Sen. Judd Gregg to be commerce secretary and made 35 percent of the stimulus package tax cuts Republicans asked for. He drank beer with Republicans, invited them over for football games and held economic summits giving Republicans clear access to the president. Despite all of this, the vast majority of Republicans know exactly what they want to do the next four years: be the party of “no.”
When you run on a stance of bipartisanship, you take the risk of the other side using that promise against you. Obama can do whatever he wants, but in the long run, if the Republicans give in, they allow the president to use bipartisanship against them in 2012. If they pretend like Obama is ignoring them and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are keeping them out of the bill-writing process, then Obama will fail to uphold his promise. The Republicans, in the end, have little reason to actually be bipartisan. Despite the stimulus bill containing tax cuts, not a single Republican in the House and only three Republicans in the Senate voted for the bill. Despite this, certain Republicans are going around the country touting parts of the bill. Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri went around his state touting that the bill will create 700 new housing units and 3,000 jobs. He voted no on the bill. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana complained the bill is wasteful spending, and he will refuse to take the $100 billion for unemployment insurance for his state. He has no problems, however, taking the other $3.7 billion allotted.
There have been two saving graces from the Republican Party: Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. I rarely have a kind word for our governor; I have called for his recall. But I would say it is nice to see his efforts to work with Democrats in our own state senate and assembly as well as with Obama. Then again, Schwarzenegger can’t run for president, and has nothing to lose by supporting Obama. Charlie Crist on “Meet the Press” this weekend touted the stimulus package, acknowledging it will be great for his state. His efforts, however, have been described as “switching sides and putting on the other team’s jersey.” He, as well as the three Republicans who voted for the stimulus bill in the Senate, gets labeled as a “RINO” or Republican in name only.
It appears Republicans are talking out of both sides of their mouths. Sure, they voted no for the stimulus and attacked it, but they are making sure to have statements supporting it just in case it succeeds. Sure, they want to make Obama appear partisan — but should their constituents accuse them of partisanship they have sound bites praising Obama’s efforts to be bipartisan. Sure, the Republicans cheer when Obama states that he will eliminate a tax cut for businesses that outsource, but in the end they voted against closing that tax loophole four times. For once I would like to see an honest effort from Republicans. When their fellow Republicans try to work with Democrats, I would like to hear praise, not RINO. If the Republican Party has any hope of coming back in 2010, they should wake up and smell the change. Otherwise I’ll be looking forward to a filibuster-proof Senate.