Those supporting ongoing bipartisan outreach… at least have history on their side. According to recent studies by such respected political scientists as Frances Lee and James Curry, in their book, “The Limits of Party” (2020), most important legislative enactments, both over time and more recently, have been passed with substantial bipartisan support. Those bills that pass one house or the other on party-line votes are more likely to wind-up on the ash-heap of legislative history due to blockages down the road.
The question is often asked, “What do you want, an issue or a policy?” Parties love to run on their issues, especially when they don’t have a big bag of policy accomplishments to point to. Whether voters can distinguish between issues and policies is hard to gauge. If candidates are called out for their lack of real problem-solving successes, they respond, “There’s always next year. Reelect me.” Such excuses, however, wear thin as the number of unresolved policy challenges mounts.
All this certainly is not meant to excuse or encourage minority party Republicans who tend to oppose anything proposed by the majority, waiting in the weeds for Democrats to stumble. But that’s not how it is supposed to work in our non-parliamentary system; we do not have public votes of confidence over a unitary ruling party.
Our system was founded on the expectation that various factions would, through the process of deliberation, resolve their differences and act in the best interests of the nation. The Constitution’s hard-wired checks and balances and separated powers are why, as Lee and Curry explain, it will not produce the results that party government would, even though today’s hyper-polarized, partisan Congress is about as close as you can come.
All this brings us back to the majority party’s debate over which fork in the road to take. To avoid being a sideline kibitzer, I will come down squarely on the side of Yogi Berra and urge both parties to take the best road for the country.