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Achieving Bipartisanship

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Mickey Edwards

The dysfunction in Washington is less a matter of disagreement over policy — which can be amenable to compromise — than of excessive partisanship and the desire to present a cohesive front as part of an election strategy. Barack Obama will not want his legacy to be that of a president whose two terms in office were defined by presidential arrogance and John Boehner will not want to go down in history as a knee-jerk obstructionist, but both work within a political structure that rewards intransigence and incivility and punishes compromise and cooperation.

One possible mix for the immediate future would be for the Left to give up its insistence on raising taxes for the upper brackets — which would then allow a bipartisan budget agreement — and for the Right to back off on some of the non-economic issues (immigration?) This could remove some of the thorniest obstacles to bipartisan policy-making. Is it likely? Only if the public makes it clear that it is not compromise but lack of compromise that will be punished.

Mickey Edwards was a Republican Congressman from Oklahoma for 16 years, serving as a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, as well as a senior member of the House Republican leadership. He teaches at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, directing a political leadership program for the Aspen Institute. He was an adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell. On Bill Moyers Journal, Bill and Edwards discussed changes in the conservative movement and the Republican Party’s choice of John McCain as its 2008 presidential nominee.

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