Tag Archives: Bipartisanship

Power-Sharing

There is a dry, but very deep, humor in a bipartisan delegation from the U.S. Congress urging an end to the sabotage of government in Northern Ireland, where one party is exploiting a power-sharing agreement by refusing to participate in necessary compromise.

I may not have all the details exactly right, but my general understanding is that government in Northern Ireland essentially guarantees participation for multiple political factions, backed up by a powerful veto on even the formation of government after the questionably-meaningful elections.

Any readers probably don’t need me to spell this out, but… that’s all too similar to how American government works, or rather doesn’t work, given the similar sabotage ongoing, here.

For the purposes of this post, the details of Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol and the Good Friday Agreement are largely extraneous. The essential point is that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), one of the political factions with a guaranteed place within and veto over Northern Ireland government, is now pursuing its agenda by taking governance itself hostage. Quoth The Guardian: “The DUP has thwarted the formation of an executive and assembly at Stormont in protest at the protocol.”

It is especially funny that the DUP are offended at members of the US Congress calling on them to release the hostages, given that the US Congress is in its own affairs as inspiring a model as the DUP could wish for.

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A bit more about bipartisanship

Attorney Marc Elias seems, often, to get very close to seeing a big part of why American politics has become unworkable, without quite confronting the full implications.

Yes, in a very important sense, the Republican Party is a toxic cancer devouring American democracy. But nearly all the body’s systems regard it as a vital organ. We are making nil progress toward solving this problem; this is demonstrated very well by the ability of someone as smart as Elias to get so close to recognizing it and still not make it the whole way.

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Bipartisanship Deconstructed

Our political culture of reverence for “bipartisanship” has become like a cargo cult. Few have really caught on to the reality that the rituals aren’t working, let alone questioned their origins. Many simply carry on apparently convinced that going through the motions and chanting the magic phrases—”find common ground,” “reach across the aisle,” “bipartisan“—must eventually revive the politics of decades ago.

If one can manage even basic pattern recognition, it’s easy enough to dismiss this. Fake radios don’t work, the Ghost Dance didn’t work, repeating clichés with no relevance to contemporary politics won’t work. But ignorant superstition is not a convincing complete explanation, here, and it’s worth examining how America became so attached to this concept in the first place.

Much reference to “bipartisanship” seems like a shorthand. It’s an overused gesture toward cooperation and reasonableness, employed out of habit. Or it’s an all-purpose endorsement of policy, in place of details which few will follow.

But a deeper reflection on bipartisanship reveals an important part of governing and America’s social contract itself, for well over a century.

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