Pundits and politicians are calling for bipartisan hugs and kisses between the red and blue teams with the new closely divided Congress. The parties will need to work together and stop the bomb-throwing we are told. The Washington Post today says that the Democrats should resist the temptation to act “highhandedly and unilaterally.”
That’s nonsense. In a closely divided legislature, partisanship and attacks on the other team are the logical course for both parties. Because both parties know that either House or Senate could easily switch back over in 2008, they will do their best to deny the other side any legislative victories. The GOP’s strategy now will be to show that the Dems can’t get anything done, so they block, filibuster, and veto. They are the opposition in the House, so their job is to oppose.
The Dems will use their chairmanships and control of the House floor to schedule partisan hearings and votes to try and make the Republicans look bad any way that they can. The most important thing for Nancy Pelosi will be to hold onto the majority and line up some divisive issues to hammer on to help the party’s 2008 presidential nominee. Note that she won’t be scheduling votes on tax hikes anytime soon, because that would immediately revive the GOP and jeopardize 2008.
You can get “bipartisanship” if the legislature is lopsided and the minority thinks that they will be the underdog for a long time to come. In that case, the minority knows that they will have to be nice to the majority to get any of their own priorities accomplished.
Whether any of this is good or bad for the country is another issue. I like a divided and gridlocked legislature, and I like ideologically polarized parties because it gives voters cleaner choices and helps strengthen party brand names.