HIGH BRODERISM…. It is, in some ways, as predictable as the sunrise — David Broder will write a column touting the benefits of bipartisan cooperation, criticizing those who believe otherwise. Today’s installment is more of the same, urging President Obama to look beyond “the Democratic side of the aisle.”
[T]he real reason Obama should ignore this advice is that he will need Republican votes to pass the remaining parts of his program.
Broder proceeds to run through a litany of policy areas — energy, healthcare, immigration, entitlements, trade, and foreign policy — where, he argues, the president will be well served by engaging Republicans directly, at least if he intends to get anything done.
I think Broder misunderstands the criticism. The problem isn’t that bipartisanship is inherently bad, or that President Obama might simply blow off the failed minority party altogether. Putting aside concerns about propriety, so long as Republicans mandate a Senate supermajority to pass any and all legislation, that’s not even a practical option available to the White House.
Rather, the concern here is two-fold. First, while the president shouldn’t give up on reaching out to Republicans, he should de-emphasize it. The goal has to be the value of the policy, not the nature of the process. Republicans oppose the president’s agenda. Given the GOP’s role, they’re supposed to oppose the president’s agenda. Why, then, govern with their wish list in mind? This isn’t to say the White House should disregard Republican input altogether, it’s simply a reminder that putting “bipartisanship” at the top of the priority list doesn’t make sense.
Second, it’s only prudent to recognize that the Republican minority has no apparent interest in being a credible governing partner, and no intention to negotiate honestly. After the last couple of weeks, I’d hoped that was obvious. As Joe Klein recently argued, the president “should have no illusions about the good faith of his opponents.”
Broder, naturally, wants to see Republican outreach. I don’t doubt that this will happen. In fact, since governing with Democratic votes exclusively isn’t a realistic option right now, Broder is offering a prescription to a problem that doesn’t really exist.