Bipartisanship Is Defined By The Minority Party; Success Should Be Defined By The Majority

At a press conference the other day, President Obama seemed clearly annoyed that bipartisanship is not working like he thought it should:
"Bipartisanship can't be that I agree to all the things that they believe in or want, and they agree to none of the things I believe in and want, and that's the price of bipartisanship, right, but that's sometimes the way it gets presented," Obama said.

The problem is that Obama is just wrong. By definition, for a piece of legislation to be bipartisan, some members of the minority party must vote for it. This gives the minority party the sole ability to make a bill bipartisan. It is one of the only important things they can do while out of power.

As legislators, the members of the minority have the right, and some would say the duty, to vote against anything that does not meet their standards. They don't need to reach a compromise to help achieve the goals of the majority party. The minority party--in this case the Republicans--can set whatever high price they want from Democrats in exchange for GOP votes.

Personally, I think the demands of the Republicans are completely unreasonable, but I don't question the right of Republicans to make their demands. The important thing is that Democrats don't need Republican votes. They are the party in power, and can move forward with passing their top legislative goals on their own.

The problem for the past year has been President Obama's pathological obsession with bipartisanship, and he clearly has a warped understanding of what bipartisanship really is. It is not achieved by finding some middle ground between your ideas and the other party, it is simply about doing as much as the minority party requires you to do in exchange for their votes. Obama made a mistake by focusing more on bipartisanship than passing the best, most popular legislation he can.

The secret to getting bipartisan support for a bill is not to constantly give in to the demands of the minority party without getting promise of their support in return, the secret is to make the bill so popular that the other party fears the political ramifications of not voting for the bill.

Obama spent months making changes to try to make the bill popular with Congressional Republicans. These changes, like dropping the public option and adding the excise tax, killed the bill's popularity. They were the wrong audience. If, instead, Obama had spent that time focusing on making the bill as popular as possible with the American people, he would have had a better chance of getting Republican votes in the end. Many Republicans would have a tough time voting against a bill that polls in the high 60s, but no Republican has a problem voting against this current bill, which polls in the high 30s.

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