Sunday, July 11, 2010

Echidne On The Game Of Bipartisanship

*settles down comfortably, moves snake to the other shoulder, clears throat, begins*

How do you define victory in politics?

Let's use the American political system for that. If you control the administration, the House and the Senate, aren't you pretty close to a temporary victory? Wouldn't you think (ignorant as you are of the rules of the Congress and also of the multi-dimensional chess game Democrats play) that controlling all these three would mean that you have been victorious? Or at least capable of -- hmm -- getting change done?

That paragraph is what an outsider might think, and it turns out to be all wrong. It turns out that having the administration, the Senate and the House means that your hands are tied! Probably behind your back. Except, of course, if your party is called the Republican Party.

Democrats in power are impotent without the support of the opposition (who hates your guts), and to get that support requires that you compromise on your policies, make them smaller. It is as if you agree to douse only every tenth of the fires that burn wild, not all of them, if only the opposition (who hates your guts) will vote for more fire-fighting money.

Some of them will pretend to do exactly that, but withdraw their support at the very last moment (Lucy and the football in Charlie Brown). Then, because of some multi-dimensional chess strategy (impossible for mere mortals to fathom), you will still go on with the plan to attack only every tenth fire.

This the opposition (who hates your guts) will use in two ways: First it will scream about all the fires still raging. Obviously the government can't fight fires and it should not even try.

Second, it will scream about all that money spent on fire-fighting. We can't afford to put even 10% of the fires down! Who will think of the children of the future? They are paying for all this fire-fighting, and would in any case prefer to be born into a scorched land.

And suddenly even the lukewarm compromise policies appear too dangerous. Hence the desire to actively copy Republican policies instead, such as watering down Social Security and putting Medicare on a strict diet.

The opposition (who hates your guts) can't possibly fight against its own policies, right? Except that it can, of course. It hates your guts, after all.