There are serious national issues which should be
bipartisan, according to conventional political thinking.
The problem today, however, is there does not seem
to be any issue, large or small, which has not become
a partisan battleground.
Here are some issues which will continue to plague
the nation, and almost certainly will become more a
threat to broad national interests as they are allowed
to fester while politicians of both parties make it
impossible to resolve them with non-partisan action:
Foreign policy involving national security
Employment of technological innovation
Here, on the other hand, are some other issues which are
inherently part of the historic partisanship between the
two major political parties:
Foreign policy involving domestic economy
Roles of the executive, legislative and judicial branches
Relationship between the federal and state governments
Let me address briefly the latter first. Partisanship is a vital
part of the American representative democracy. Some issues
will always be contended, and properly so, at the local, state
and national political levels. It is completely unrealistic to
seek and expect from elected officials constant “bipartisan”
agreement on these issues; they are part of the fundamental
political “tension” between the evolving “liberal,” “centrist,”
and “conservative” philosophies that most Americans hold.
On occasion, there may be a consensus on a specific one of
these issues, but generally they are resolved through the
election process. Majorities, when they exist, enact laws
concerning these issues.
On the other hand, some of the most pressing and contentious
issues today in the U.S. are only “ideological” because
individual leaders and groups have imposed themselves on
them or have taken them “hostage” to the larger electorate
by employing essentially non-democratic means. As examples
of the latter are the uses of non-representative caucuses,
conventions, regulations imposed without accountability, and
the widespread lack of transparency in government at all levels,
to force conditions and rules not supported by a majority of
Some political figures are today employing the technique of
“creating” laws, regulations, and conditions knowing full well
they do not have public support, and also believing that once
in place, these laws, regulations and conditions will not be
repealed. This is exactly contrary not only to what the so-called
“founding fathers’ desired, but also contrary to the evolution
of the consensus of the public interest as the Republic has
grown and matured. Like the recent rise of “administrative law,”
this legislative phenomena operates deliberately outside of the
“consent of the governed.”
As our Republic has aged and grown affluent, a certain
extralegal “impatience” has overtaken some on both the left and
the right. Authentic liberalism and authentic conservatism,
as well as authentic centrism cannot survive, much less
flourish, in such a political environment.
The question is whether the present election cycles and the
increasing institutional obscurantism will give the voters timely
and sufficient oversight to governmental activity.
If not, the always recurring potholes in public life will not be
repaired in time or sufficiently. Bipartisanship is often an
abstraction and not always a cure-all to this dilemma. In an
“information age,” solutions lie in the direction of accurate and
fairly presented information, openly discussed and debated, and
available to all citizens.
The United States is inherently a majoritarian nation. Minority
views, and those who hold them, enjoy freedom and protections of
their rights. One of those rights is the opportunity to persuade those
who hold a majority view to change their minds. But minority
views cannot be imposed. The electorate are the true "market" of
a healthy democracy. Bureaucracies exist to serve, not to give
When this is fully realized, and voters can undertstand what is at
stake, then decisions and choices must be deliberately made by
their representatives. If those decisions are not made, the
representatives must be replaced in elections, no matter how
long they have previously served.
This is not a prescription for political idealism. It is a prescription
for critical realism, national survival and prosperity.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.