One of the top sellers at the International House of Buzzwords these days is the adjective "bipartisan", invoked seemingly on a daily basis by the usual gang of Beltway bandits. Both the President and Congressional leadership routinely decry the other's tactics as "partisan politics", and call for a "bipartisan effort to solve the nation's problems" or something comparably high-minded. At the state level or below, things are little different.

"Bipartisan" is definitely all over the place politically, which makes me uneasy about its very ubiquity. Compared to its dictionary definition, its use in these contexts is accurate; a bipartisan accord, just as you might expect, becomes such when it is agreed to by both parties. Unspoken, but certainly implied by your favorite politico, is the notion that if both Democrats and Republicans can come to this particular agreement, it must therefore be a Good Thing. And farther down in the subtext is the notion that those two particular parties somehow manage to subsume the whole of American political belief; you got your Democrats, you got your Republicans, and what's left isn't worth a bucket of John Nance Garner's bodily fluids. As any registered Libertarian will tell you — in those states where the bipartisan efforts of Republicans and Democrats have somehow failed to make it impossible actually to be a registered Libertarian — this is a crock.

Add to the neither-first-nor-second-party political landscape the Perotistas, the wackos too conservative for the GOP, the few remaining card-carrying leftists, a large body of putatively-disaffected professional grumblers, and a far larger body of nonvoting cynics, and what you have is a repudiation of all that "bipartisan" stands for. Contrary to the Beltway mythos, what's good for the Democrats and for the Republicans is not necessarily good for anybody else. The sooner we quit thinking of "bipartisan" as something to be praised, the sooner we'll get some meaningful changes in the way we've let ourselves be governed.

The Vent

#63
1 August 1997

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 Copyright © 1997 by Charles G. Hill