David Broder: Bipartisanship for its Own Sake

This column from David Broder is full of wistful reminiscences about the good old days, when even though people disagreed everything in Washington was more or less peachy:

But on the hustings, he said, people hunger for a return to the spirit of the Reagan years, when Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan quarreled over policy but then shared stories and trust.

How nice. The conceit of Broder’s column is that the middle way is the best way, and that it makes people antsy when the political parties disagree with each other. The value-neutral measure of political success is just getting something, anything, done:

the Republican-controlled legislature ended its regular session in 2005 deadlocked over the state Supreme Court funding mandate, Sebelius, a Democrat, called the lawmakers into a special summer session. They cobbled together a $148 million fix, and when the court said that was still inadequate, something dramatic happened.

“The legislative leaders of both parties said, ‘We have to have a plan, and we want to be at the table when it’s hammered out,’ ” Sebelius said. The result: In February, a new, bipartisan proposal for a three-year boost in school budgets . . .

Associated Press reporter John Milburn wrote, “Unlike previous years, when school finance plans were hatched by dissident Republicans and a handful of Democrats and sometimes tended to reflect narrow interests legislative leaders put their heads together with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius from the get-go to find a solution.”

Let me get this straight. Republicans deadlock the legislature. The compromise fix is inadequate. Everyone thinks they look stupid. They are right. They come up with a budget that works. Isn’t it nice when everyone plays nice together?

Except, Broder seems to be forgetting who was at fault–the “Republican-controlled legislature.” It was they who deadlocked over the mandate, they who watered down the fix to make it inadequate, and they who finally had to do the right thing out of shame. When one party is in charge, i.e. the Republicans in Washington right now, they have the power to make things happen. Or not. For David to diffuse the blame for broken government around equally is dishonest.

And there is the requisite Hillary bashing:

But what about Hillary Rodham Clinton? She leads all the early polls for the Democratic nomination. But can she avoid being seen simply as a battle-scarred veteran of the partisan Washington wars? Is there anything in her record that speaks to the hunger for consensus?

Again, no mention of whether the battles that scarred her were noble and right, or not. The hunger for consensus, so lionized by Broder in this column, is not an end in itself. Compromise with tyranny, or with insanity, is not honorable–it is cowardly. Hillary knows that. Broder, not so much.