USA Today, We Deserve Better

Posted by & filed under 2012 Election, An Independent Viewpoint, Bipartisanship, Controlled by Parties, Fixing Congress, In the Press, The IVA Angle, WTF?

better editorials


USA Today op-ed writer Duncan Black must have thought he was on to something very unique and contrarian when he formulated yesterday’s opinion piece entitled “No, we shouldn’t get along” arguing that “While bipartisan efforts sound appealing, they simply provide cover for bad policy.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Black forgot that while there’s plenty of “bad policy” to go around in today’s political climate, there isn’t very much bipartisan cooperation producing it. When Independent Voters of America sees such an awful argument propagated by the American mainstream media (assuming USA Today still counts as mainstream media), we’d be remiss if we didn’t offer a point by point takedown of such tomfoolery.

Where can we start with this op-ed smackdown? How about the first paragraph:

“It’s conventional wisdom in Washington that there is something inherently good about bipartisanship, but that conventional wisdom is wrong. When both political parties team up to enact a bit of legislation, aside from the naming of post offices, odds are they teaming up to do something deeply unpopular. Bipartisanship provides the cover. If everyone is to blame, then no one is, leaving no way for voters to register their objections at the ballot box.”

Well, that’s a doozy… Let’s examine a Congress completely void of this so-called terrible “bipartisanship” and see what happens in reality. Look — we’ve got one now, the record setting 112th Congress. 10% approval ratings! Fewest bills passed, ever. Most polarized since American Reconstruction! A complete lack of bipartisan cooperation! So where’s that… accountability?

Next, let’s debunk the cry that ‘we shouldn’t wish for the good old days’ when bipartisan cooperation actually occurred:

“Pundits often recall mostly imagined glory days of American politics, when after a hard day of contentious negotiations, former House Speak Tip O’Neill and President Reagan would put aside their differences and have a friendly drink. They bemoan our supposed increased political polarization, and wish for a less contentious politics.”

Supposed increased political polarization? What do you mean, supposed? Mr. Black, we could refer you to any number of data sets, charts, or studies (see: those linked above) actually showing that partisanship and gridlock have increased hand in hand over the past number of years, but here’s our favorite from the widely respected and non-partisan Pew Research Center:


Interesting… it seems that since 1987, the gap between Republican and Democrat voters on partisan “values” questions has almost doubled, and correspondingly during that time, we’ve elected more extreme, partisan politicians. This in turn has led to greater intra party disagreement between moderates and ideologues, less effective legislation, and hyperpartisan conflicts like 2011′s ‘debt ceiling debacle’ that resulted in the historic lowering of America’s AAA credit rating. Go figure.


Last, let’s take a look at Black’s concluding paragraph, where he speculates about the upcoming lame duck session of Congress:
“After the election there will be a lame duck session of Congress, a period when many elected representatives who have decided to retire or who have been voted out of office will be able to vote on important bills without any fear of voter reprisal. This a great opportunity for those who wish to implement unpopular policies, such as cutting currently promised Social Security benefits. We should not applaud those who also attempt to avoid accountability by hiding behind the cloud of bipartisanship.”
What “cloud of bipartisanship” is this? The one that will suddenly emerge to assuage 2012′s record drought with the passage of a Farm Bill? Not likely. The one that will obscure DC’s bitter partisan differences to avoid the coming “fiscal cliff?” We certainly hope so.
One final rhetorical question we’d like to ask Mr. Black, USA Today, and doubters of hyperpartisanship everywhere — if bipartisan cooperation was really so bad, wouldn’t our [terrible] record setting 112th Congress already have found a way to wholeheartedly embrace it?

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