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January 5, 2001

Good Gridlock!

“The current mania for bipartisanship is wrongness with a purpose, a not so subtle attempt to strip George Bush of his victory. … [I]t amounts to an invitation to political suicide. … Bipartisanship? Sure. Bush should talk the talk. Reach out, assuage, hold hands, conciliate. Lovely. But when it comes to policy and legislation, he must not walk the walk, or he effectively concedes his legitimacy and forfeits his presidency.” –Charles Krauthammer

Now that Albert Arnold Gore’s Coup de Tort has been turned back, the airwaves are full of liberal politicos and their media talkingheads proclaiming that comity and bipartisanship must now dominate the American political colloquium. Because Mr. Bush narrowly failed to win a plurality of the popular vote, they reason, he must institute a coalition government. (How quickly they “forget” that Bill Clinton never won a majority, and was elected to his first term with only 43% of the popular vote.)

The Demos argue that because neither presidential candidate won a decisive victory, the nation is not divided along decisive ideological lines. That assertion, which has been repeated ad nauseam, is patently false.

From the earliest days of the Republic, there have been calls for bipartisanship – always from those not in power. Some things never change.

As noted by Cal Thomas, “It’s not that we haven’t seen this before when Republicans have won the White House. Candidates for the losing Democrat side – in this case Gore/Lieberman, but in previous elections, Mondale/Ferraro and Dukakis/Bentsen – say that the winning Republicans should abandon the issues on which they ran and adopt the positions of the people they defeated. … Did Democrats ever follow their own advice when they controlled the White House and Congress? … When Democrats win the White House and/or control of Congress there is no talk of bipartisanship, inclusion, or power-sharing. Democrats understand that power is something to be used, not negotiated away. … If Democrats win back one or both houses of Congress in 2002 – a distinct possibility – and the White House in 2004, Republicans can look forward to the back-handed treatment they used to receive from Democrats when Democrats ran the show.” –Cal Thomas

Fred Barnes adds, “This ‘reaching out’ issue seems only to apply to Republicans and conservatives. When did anyone say that Bill Clinton or Al Gore should reach out to pro-lifers, or…to the NRA, or…to white males who voted heavily against them?”

The Founders proposed a constitutional government dependent on strong debate, and even gridlock, should one party to that debate undertake to infringe upon the liberties of the people by expanding the limited role of the central government as established by our Constitution. They intended to make the conservation of our Constitution’s prescription for limited government paramount, and any contravention of that prescription a deliberate and contentious process. Unfortunately, since FDR’s New Deal, when Americans were divided up into constituencies and encouraged to vote themselves largess from the federal treasury, gridlock has failed to stem, with a few exceptions, the erosion of liberty and the unmitigated growth of the central government.

Thus, the most prevalent and immediate danger to our liberty is not “gridlock” but this notion of bipartisanship. In the absence of strong debate among parties with broadly divergent views, liberty and free enterprise suffer great peril. The call for bipartisanship would be answered wisely with great skepticism.

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