Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the bipartisan football

LUCY, CHARLIE BROWN, AND THE BIPARTISAN FOOTBALL…. This notion, which I suspect we’re about to hear a whole lot of, strikes me as wildly misguided.

The narrower majority will force more White House engagement with Republicans, which could actually help restore a bit of the post-partisan image that was a fundamental ingredient of his appeal to voters.

“Now everything that gets done in the Senate will have the imprimatur of bipartisanship,” another administration official said. “The benefits of that will accrue to the president and the Democratic Senate. It adds to the pressure on Republicans to participate in the process in a meaningful way, which so far they have refused to do.”

This is a great idea, isn’t it? All the White House and Democratic congressional leaders have to do is continue to work on their policy agenda, while reaching out in good faith to earn support from congressional Republicans. Bills will start passing with bipartisan support; the public will be impressed; David Broder will start dancing in front of the Washington Post building; a season of goodwill and comity will bloom on Capitol Hill; and Lucy really will let Charlie Brown kick the ball.

Or maybe not.

Look, much of the political landscape has changed over the last year, but if there’s one thing that’s been consistent throughout, it’s that congressional Republicans aren’t interested in working with Democrats on bipartisan policy solutions. Boehner, McConnell, Cantor, & Co. have a list of priorities — destroy the Obama presidency, block the legislative process by any means necessary, undermine confidence in American leaders and institutions, rally the right-wing base — but “getting things done” isn’t on it.

Will that change after Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts? The only rational expectation is that the scorched-earth strategy of the last year will get worse — they’ll be less interested in “participating in the process in a meaningful way” when they smell blood in the water and have the votes to filibuster literally everything.

The Republican establishment no doubt realizes that, as the midterms approach, there will be two competing messages:

* GOP: Dems ran Congress, pushed liberal ideas, and couldn’t deliver.

* Dem: The “Party of No” wouldn’t let us govern. Maybe, with a few more votes, if Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman don’t mind, things will get better.

If Republicans have to choose between this message match-up and working with Dems on bipartisan problem-solving, the choice has already been made. Hoping for a different outcome is unrealistic.