This was a fun post to title. I knew I wanted to use an old song title since it’s about David Broder’s blathering yet again about the glorious “bi-partisan” era of his younger days. I don’t think Broder had a youth: he was born middle-aged in a suit. I ended up with a Captain Beefheart title but seriously considered Traffic’sDear Mr. Fantasy orShootout At The Fantasy Factory.
From my seat, I was looking directly at the large photo mural of former senator Dole and his frequent partner, Rep. Gerald Ford of Michigan, the House minority leader.
One of them — Ford — achieved the presidency only briefly, when Richard Nixon was forced to resign. The other — Dole — failed each time he ran. But no one regards them as political failures, because they realized that victory is counted in more than vote totals. They won the ultimate tests of character for two reasons. They did not sacrifice their political principles. And they acknowledged that they shared the responsibility for making this system of government work.
It helped that they came to Washington as young military veterans, survivors of a war against an implacable enemy. They knew the difference between the Nazis, who were truly evil, and the Democrats, who were simply fellow Americans with different political beliefs.
For Obama and the Republicans to establish a productive post-election atmosphere, it may require nothing more than the recapture of that wisdom of their political forebears. Behave as if you are veterans, and today’s political disputes will recede.
Where do I start? First of all, if I had a c-note for every time the Obama administration has been compared to the Nazis, I’d be a rich man.
Second, Broder’s memory of how Dole and Ford *really* acted while in office is hazy. In 1966, sensing victory in what has come to known as the “backlash election,” Ford and House Repubs withdrew support from LBJ’s Civil Rights agenda and commenced racial dog whistling. That’s right: even back in the good old days politicians acted like politicians. Shocking, I know…
Then there’s Bob Dole. In the late 1960’s Dole did work with George McGovern on the food stamp program but because he was a farm state Senator and not because he gave a rat’s ass about the poor. Dole’s subsequent record was one of unrelenting partisanship leavened by the occasion “bi-partisan” remark intended to placate gullible reporters such as Broder. As Senate minority leader, Dole’s caucus was united in opposition to Bill Clinton’s agenda, in part, because their leader wanted to be President. The trend continued when Dole became Majority Leader in 1995: then as now the GOP was the party of no.
Old fartism is a natural impulse but in this instance Broder is expressing the CW of the inside the beltway punditocracy. They’re past masters at picking and choosing examples of “bi-partisanship” and of conveniently overlooking how things really work. Broder and company’s real notion of “bi-partisanshp” is that the Democrats should give in to the Goopers and allow the latter to claim victory. It’s an old dance that many of us are sick of but as long as the Broders and Halperins are still around, we’re stuck with listening to them pontificate about it.
Earth to Broder: There were NO good old days. Just ask Don Van Vliet: