Monday, August 4, 2008

America is not polarized, say Cal and Bob

Despite what one might think from reading colunns in the media, blogs, political bickering in Washington, and talk radio, most Americans and most politicians are not partisan at all.

Most Americans are not so caught up in politics that they have taken a firm grip on any particular issue. They mostly want what appears to them to be best for the nation as a whole.

And most politicians are moderates. What is a moderate? I will refer to Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas in their book, "Common Ground" for a definition:

"Moderates are not necessarily people without convictions, though some such species exist. Moderates may hold strong convictions, but they are often willing to compromise with someone who disagrees in order to advance a policy that benefits the most people. Today, polarizers would rather have no legislation at all than have a bill that does not reflect 100 percent of their views or protect 100 percent of their financial interests."

We saw polarizing to a tee when conservatives were adamantly opposed to any idea of amnesty, and liberals were adamantly opposed to closing the borders. Therefore, no deal was made to the benefit of most people.

We see this all the time in Washington. We read about things like this daily in the papers and on the Internet. Today, most votes in Washington are done along party lines. It never was like this in the past. President Clinton's 1993 economic package garnered not one republican vote, and President Bush's prescription drug package garnered only nine democratic votes.

One of the main reasons, as I wrote about (as I wrote about in a previous column) is due to a lack of communication across party lines, and where every one on the other side is considered as an enemy instead of as a "friend."

But this is how it is in Washington, the authors write, not among the people in general.

Bush and Clinton got caught in the height of partisanship, but both were willing and able to cross the line and negotiate deals with the other party. Clinton signed NAFTA, welfare reform, and a bill that resulted in a capital gains tax cut. Bush teamed with Ted Kennedy in the No Child Left Behind Act, signed the Prescription Drug program into law, supported amnesty, and increased government spending far more than his so called "liberal" predecessor.

So, while they both ran as partisans, they both acted as bipartisans. And that, I have to add, is one of the reasons why so many conservatives hated Bush, because he was too liberal in their view. Polarizers on the right were fed up that there wasn't more polarization.

It's also why they hate McCain, because he's too willing to compromise. Remember earlier in the election cycle when Conservative talk radio (Limbaugh, Hannity, Inghram) were talking about how if McCain was the candidate they'd vote for Hillary?

It's not that McCain is not a good conservative, it's that he is willing to negotiate to the benefit of the most people at the expense of getting 100% of what conservatives want.

Still, like Bush and Clinton, most presidents have not been partisan. Here are some facts as provided by Beckel/Thomas:

  1. The first president to publicly criticize welfare was not Ronald Reagan, but FDR.

  2. For most of the century, it was Republicans who supported tariffs and Democrats who strongly opposed them

  3. Speaking of opposition, Republicans after World War II opposed increases in the defense budget, while Democrats strongly supported increases in military spending

  4. Democrat John Kennedy attacked the Eisenhower/Nixon administration for allowing a "missile gap" to develop between the U.S. and Soviet Union. He said the U.S. was on the wrong side of the gap. Although the gap didn't really exist, JFK made it a centerpiece of his 1960 campaign.

  5. Democrat Jimmy Carter established the Defense Department's Central Command for the Middle East. It was under this command that George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush launched wars against Iraq.

  6. Democrat Bill Clinton negotiated and signed a welfare reform act that dramatically lowered the number of people on welfare by putting them to work.
  7. Conservative Republican David Frum wrote in his book my eight step solution to the energy crisis, of which I reviewed a few weeks back, that conservatives should work to keep oil prices high to because they make alternatives competitive. Yet polarizers on the right bash democrats such as Obama for wanting to keep oil and gas prices high.

Sure, you may say Clinton signed welfare reform for political gain, but he was willing to cross party lines, as was Bush.

The 2000 and 2004 elections ended in virtual ties. This goes to show that America is split right down the middle -- not so partisan.

As Cal and Bob write, "The polarizers, and their polarizing sympathizers in the press, academia, and lobbying and pundit communities, declared that the results proved just how polarized the country has become. Ridiculous. The vast majority of voters in both elections were neither polarizers nor polarized. For example, the vast majority of voters who supported Bush favored strong environmental regulations, as did those who supported Gore. The vast majority of voters who supported Kerry supported a strong national defense, as did those who voted for Bush."

Thus, Cal and Bob proclaim, "The country is not polarized. Polarizers and their amen corner in the press and among political elites are the ones who are polarized, and who have much to gain from continuing to stir the pot."


S.W. Anderson said...

"Bush and Clinton got caught in the height of partisanship, but both were willing and able to cross the line and negotiate deals with the other party.

That's how come Republicans shut down the federal government several times during Clinton's presidency — which is unconstitutional — and ended up trying to impeach Clinton. Republicans crossed a line, all right, but never in the spirit of bipartisanship or compromise.

Clinton signed NAFTA . . .

NAFTA was Clinton's own Big Idea, something he hoped would be his big legacy thing after Hillary's plan for universal health care insurance got shot down by right-wing and industry attack ads and demagoging.

. . . Bush teamed with Ted Kennedy in the No Child Left Behind Act,

Kennedy has hated Bush's guts ever since, because Bush failed to keep his end of the bargain. Bush shafted the schools and kids who were supposed to be helped by not fully funding the plan. He would not fully fund it in 2002 and has not at any time since. When it was clear to Kennedy he had been duped, had been used for a photo op, he went ballistic. I don't blame him. That whole episode was the exact opposite of being an exercise in compromise or bipartisanship. It was a political con job and a dirty trick designed to delight the Kennedy haters in Bush's radical-right base.

. . . signed the Prescription Drug program into law,

That was no compromise; Democrats had no hand in creating the legislation, Big Pharma wrote the legislation to first and foremost benefit Big Pharma, and Republicans rammed it through Congress, holding the wee-hours House vote open for more than three hours. And oh, BTW, not long after it passed, then-Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., the House sparkplug in ramming the bill through, resigned his seat to become the head of Big Pharma's industrywide PR organization, for multi millions a year.

(If you're thinking that stinks to high heaven of corruption, you're not alone.)

. . . supported amnesty . . .

Bush supports amnesty for illegals for political and ideological reasons. He believes Mexicans are strong family and church people who will become Republicans if granted citizenship. But aside from that, he sees illegal immigrants as good for business because they don't dare make a stink about starvation wages, excessive hours and bad, even dangerous, working conditions. Even better, in Bush's view, illegals make a powerful tool businesses can use to marginalize and bust unions — one of his top priorities. Bush's attitude on this had nothing to do with compromising with Democrats or being bipartisan. Quite the opposite.

So, while they both ran as partisans, they both acted as bipartisans.

No, in fact, Clinton rarely acted in a truly bipartisan way and Bush prides himself on not compromising, in part because his base won't stand for it.

I strongly recommend ex-Republican John Dean's excellent book, "Broken Government," to you. It's available from Amazon and elsewhere at a very modest price now.

Using carefully researched and well-documented facts, Dean will give you a good read, solid information and a more-realistic understanding of this whole matter.

Freadom said...

S.S. Anderson: Great response. Keep in mind first this is a book review and not necessarily my take on the topic. However, I highly recommend this book. It was a great read.

However, you kind of help me make Cal and Bob's point:

1. It was republican partisans who shut down Congress. Most Americans were opposed to it.

2. NAFTA is a republican principle, something Clinton picked up so he could show he was willing to cross the isle. Most
democrats were opposed to it.

3. The prescription drug program is a democrat program, something Bush picked up to show he was willing to cross the isle. Most republican partisans thought Bush was out of his mind supporting it.

4. No Child left Behind Act was a
democrat program written by a liberal democrat. Bush picked it up because he wanted to show he was willing to cross the isle. Most republicans and conservative pundits were flipping in their seats over this.

5. Bush funded NCLB as much as the initial bill called for, which was the largest educational funding increase in HISTORY. It is a liberal idea to increase spending in areas that don't necessarily show that they are working. Conservatives wanted school choice.

5. Bush supported Amnesty, while conservatives were down right opposed to this. In fact, it was partisans on the right who put an end to this bill.

I agree with you that Bush and Clinton both had alterior motives with every bill they signed or supported. You are 110% right with your facts here. However,
both Bush and Clinton were both willing to adapt ideas from the other side of the isle, which is -- in the end -- bipartisan.

I will read that book because I like to hear all opinions. However,one must keep in mind that Dean is one of the leaders of the partisan movement that the authors write about in their book.

S.W. Anderson said...

A president getting some kind of legislation passed on a matter the opposite party supports, regardless of what the legislation is actually like, doesn't qualify as bipartisanship in my book. It can just as well be an exercise in subversion or window dressing.

Far from being any kind of partisan leader, John Dean is a registered independent and has been for years. He has friends — and detractors — in both major parties.

Those things are important for him as an author, because otherwise Republicans or Democrats who see him coming, notebook and pen in hand, would say, "Oh yeah, here's Dean and he's out to do another number on ..... (fill in the blank)." And with that he wouldn't get people to share information or verify information he has.

Dean has come down hard on Republicans, but also takes some hard shots at Democrats when the facts justify that.

If you think Dean is partisan, check his footnotes and references. He meticulously provides support for virtually everything he puts in a book. Also, you'll notice there's no buzz about him getting his facts wrong after he comes out with a book.

Freadom said...

Keep in mind again this was a book review. Cal and Bob named Dean as a partisan. They also names Newt Gingrich as a partisan. However, I think both of these guys have made moves in recent years to change their images.

Righty64 said...

This is what drives me crazy. There is NOTHING wrong with partisanship. What is wrong is when it deteriorates into personal assaults. I am a Republican because I believe that the Republican party is closest to my thinking and is the party that can get the things done that I and other Republicans believe in. And, I believe in electing Republicans anywhere and everywhere in the United States. Sometimes, for what ever reason, we find that our political, and I mean politcal, enemies turn out to be on the same side on some given issue. And, that is OK. The Democrats are all but running out Joe Lieberman because of his support for the War Against Islamofacist Terror. The Republicans spent millions of dollars trying to save the senate seat of Lincoln Chaffee. Go figure. What is important and sometimes hard to remember is that we should not read into people a political motive for every aspect of our lives.