7 Reasons Why Obama Bipartisanship Lives

Last week was a big week for both Barack Obama and the Republicans.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

For all those who have their knickers in a twist because Barack Obama has not waved a magic wand and melted the hearts of Lindsey Graham and Eric Cantor, here are a few reasons why it's a bit too early to pronounce the death of bipartisanship.

1. It's too early to pronounce the death of anything, for Pete's sake. Audacity hasn't been in office for a month. An administration that is still filling cabinet positions—much less dozens of deputy and assistant secretary jobs—and whose members are still trying to find the cafeteria is, in a word, inchoate.

2. If Obama-ism is anything, it has to be post-partisan. Audacity staked his claim on the American presidency with his "no-blue-states-no-red-states-just-the-United-States" speech in Boston in 2004. His popularity rests on the voters' belief that he is a talented pragmatist, who will get things done for them and, above all, not waste time with partisan rancor. It is who he is. He has to keep at it. He has no choice.

3. Team Audacity actually did pretty well on the stimulus. In the Senate, they kept all the Democratic centrists in camp with little fuss, including Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman and the Udall cousins and the Dakotans and Jon Tester and the Virginia twins, and got the necessary Republican votes (with one to spare) to defeat the filibuster.

They accepted amendments and proposals from GOP senators (like Charles Grassley) who did not vote for the bill, but will remember the courtesy. (In the Senate, you didn't have the level of whining about being "locked out" that you had in the GOP cloakroom in the House.) And, let's face it, the magic number—60—in the Senate is everything, folks. Watching Audacity get to 60 is gonna be the ballgame for another two years—unless the blue dog Democrats in the House start getting restless.

4. Audacity has no alternative but to find votes where he can. There is too much coming at him, too fast. Let's see, now that the stimulus, child health care, reproductive rights and equal pay for women fights have been won, the White House can move on to...the auto industry, the banks, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the climate, China, trade, terrorism, Putin, energy, Supreme Court appointments, globalization, health care reform, nuclear proliferation, gay rights, entitlements and tax reform. On more than half of those issues, having Nancy muscle stuff through the House and hoping to pick up Susan and Olympia just won't be enough.

5. It is good for presidents to keep campaign promises, and the Republicans helped Obama do so. Am I the only one who was so naive as to believe that Obama's campaign vow to cut taxes was for real? And that packing hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts in his first big legislative initiative was darn near a moral requirement, given what he pledged last fall? The tax cuts were not just concessions to the GOP, and some sort of shameful compromise—they were a president doing what he said he would do. Wake up, liberal pundits. Audacity should not be apologizing about the size of the tax cuts; he should be flying around the nation, taking high fives and crowing.

6. Republican intransigence might make good policy. Oh, I know we are all trained to think that the members of the other side are just a bunch of dumb galoots—but they actually represent our fellow Americans, who have good ideas, and legitimate interests, even if they come from another part of the country or a different line of work.

How one of my favorite all-time states—Texas—can be so thick-headed politically is beyond me. But there it is. You gotta love 'em, despite big John and Kay and W and the rest. Someday they will see the light.

And while I may not agree with what Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ultimately decides on off-shore drilling and carrying concealed weapons on national lands his immediate instinct—let's slow things down and see what we've got here—is good. Being reflexively anti-Republican is bad.

7. Finally, let's be real. The Republicans needed a week like they had. We have a two-party system, and the opposition serves as a check against majoritarian hubris, corruption and ideological folly. Which, given the track record of we muddle-headed liberals in the last 50 years, will eventually prove to be an invaluable asset for all Americans.

In the end, they lost. Even on Saturday Night Live. But surely we can all agree that it will be a particularly good thing if the newly-rediscovered and repeatedly-professed Republican commitment to soundly-financed government comes to define the GOP in the years ahead. (Though I'm not counting on it.)

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