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The Sound of Ideas

The Problem with Partisanship

Posted Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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There's growing consensus that the political process is completely hamstrung by partisan gridlock. It's on display in Columbus with last year's protracted budget battle, and it's at play in Washington in everything from health care reform to the confirmation of low level cabinet appointees. At this point, the important question is two-fold: How did we get here? And how do we get out? Tuesday morning at 9, join Dan Moulthrop and guests to talk about just that.


Economy, Government/Politics


David Cohen assistant professor of political science at the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, University of Akron
Barbara Kellerman James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

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Bob Hetzel 10:40 AM 2/23/10

Frankly, it’s rather frustrating to hear that Barack Obama is not “seeking the center”.  Off the top of my head, several things he’s signed or worked on have been centrist ideas: 1) tax cuts were 30% of the stimulus even though democrats didn’t really think that would help and republicans never voted for it anyway 2) he’s suggested that closing failing schools and outsourcing education in the process rather than fixing them, is OK, 3) He wants to make permanent the tax cuts for people making up to $250,000.  Liberals would probably want to make that number much closer to $100,000.  Defense spending will likely continue to dramatically increase, the prison at Guantanamo bay isn’t closing any time soon, the list goes on and on.  Obama is far from being a liberal at this point, but I’m still hoping he’s much better than Bush was.

Chris Armbruster 10:42 AM 2/23/10

To reach a bipartisanship I think more needs to be done on the grass roots level.  Much related to your comments earlier - how legislators no longer socialize with each other - they no longer socialize with AVERAGE constituents.  When legislators speak, usually the radical supporters are the people who show up to attend those events, that is not a good cross section of the AVERAGE American.  Legislators need to get oriented with middle ground supporters if Washington is supposed to reach middle ground compromises.

Lastly, media outlets, the blogsphere, etc. tend to pickup on things which cause conflict, as opposed to compromise.  Conflict sells, we all know this.  It would be refreshing to see a major media outlet focus on the average as opposed to the extreme (but then who would watch the news?).

Amanda 10:45 AM 2/23/10

I think one important thing that is being left out of the conversation is the general population. I’ve been able to vote for less than 10 years, so perhaps I’m just new to the political arena, but the voters seem just as polarized partisan, if not more than, the politicians themselves. I haven’t witnessed a respectful conversation between two people who identify with different political parties in a very long time. It seems like even at the voter level, the idea is to get your party to “win” rather than to get certain legislation passed.

Cathy Leuenberger 10:49 AM 2/23/10

There has been virtually NO attempt at bi-partisanship from the Democrats, except in Committee hearings during which they are REQUIRED to provide them a voice.  First of all, the Democrats have totally missed the boat on the health care issue - they need to stress health care and insurance cost reductions, not reform health care access or quality.  NO consideration has been given to any of the Republican proposals on health care, such as medical malpractice reform, buying insurance across state lines, etc., which could very likely reduce costs.  The President’s offer for a bi-partisan “workgroup” on health care reform on Feb. 25th is a sham - he’s starting with basically the Senate version of the bill and asking Republicans to build on that.  It’s like a couple deciding to buy a new car together, but the husband requiring that the car be a Mercedes and offering that the wife may choose the color.  Oh, brother.  It makes the Democrats appear as if they are only interested in their political skins, not actually solving any problems - it could very possible cause their demise in Congress.  From a frustrated Independent.

Andrew Auten 10:56 AM 2/23/10

Listening to the conversation so far, I think there is an emphasis on President Obama’s missteps which has lead to the toxic partisanship.  I think that this is off the mark.  Let’s not ignore that the far-right’s strategy has been to paint Obama as a Bolshevik Boogie-man, and the Republicans found it easy to use this as cover for their political strategy of blocking a legislative victory for Obama and the democrats. 

If I recall, Obama and the senate gave Grassley (R-Iowa) a long time to work through a bipartisan deal.  Once it seemed clear that this was more a delay tactic than a negotiation, that’s when the decision to rely on the super-majority was made.

It’s not as if Obama when straight to a Democratic only strategy.

Karen 10:57 AM 2/23/10

Democrats compromise more.  I want to remind Mr. Cohen the “prescription drug” bill got through because of the Democrats.  The Republicans have use the filibuster threat in the last year more than any other party in the history of this country. The Republicans do not want to work with the Democrats or Obama.  When you have GOP leaders saying HCR will be Obama’s Watherloo--you have people thinking only about their next election and do not care about the people of this country.  If it was a Republican President you would have Repubs voting for HCR.

Mark Robeson 10:57 AM 2/23/10

Your guest this morning mentioned the importance of language in the public political discourse, bringing up the number of recent references to Hitler, etc. But I think the problem of language used by our society in the current political climate is even deeper than that - issues are always framed in absolute, contentious terms, and then exacerbated by the various talk show hosts on both sides. It sounds simplistic, but one thing *all* Americans could do is to look at the language they’re using to express their political opinions and ask themselves if the terms they’re using would be considered extreme. Even taking as simple a step as changing the vocabulary you use to talk about important topics such as health care would be a huge improvement in getting something done. I really believe language helps to frame reality in this regard, and we need to change the way we talk to each other about these issues.


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