Columns, Opinion

2020 Breakdown: Bipartisanship is a bitter pill

To be able to compromise is commended as one of the most moral and effective skills public servants should hold. 

This ideal is held in such high esteem that an entire D.C. think tank, the Bipartisan Policy Center, is devoted to fostering bipartisanship by “combining the best ideas from both parties.”

President-elect Joe Biden ran on these ideals, promising to unify and “restore the soul” of the nation. 

“We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country,” Biden had said on the campaign trail. “It’s time to unite America, and we’ll do that by choosing hope over fear, science over fiction, truth over lies and unity over division.”

This was ultimately a winning message for Biden, and it comforted so many Americans who were exhausted by the four long years of hateful rhetoric and hyper-partisan politics that burgeoned with the rise of President Donald Trump.

Though I am overjoyed for Trump’s reign of idiocy to be over and believe in compromising on the right things, this is a point where I’ll have to burst some bubbles. 

While the promise of bipartisanship and unity may sound nice now, it will be a very bitter pill to swallow later. 

Bipartisanship has a long history in the United States, and most of it isn’t the rosy picture elite figures paint it to be. 

The Great Compromise, one of the country’s founding decisions, established the two chambers of Congress and immediately skewed the way our democracy functions. 

By creating two chambers — the House of Representatives, which represents Americans proportionally, and the Senate, which represents Americans disproportionately by overrepresenting the populations of smaller states — the Great Compromise allowed the votes of people in less-populated states to hold more weight in the Electoral College. 

Because the number of electoral votes a state is allotted comes from the number of representatives the state has in the House and Senate, a state’s electoral votes are disproportionate to its population and therefore skew representative democracy.

But we don’t have to stretch that far back in our history to find examples of harmful and downright irresponsible bipartisanship.

In 2002, the decision to invade and declare war on Iraq drew overwhelming bipartisan support. Seventy-seven senators, consisting of 29 Democrats and 48 Republicans, voted in favor of a ridiculous and unnecessary war in a country where we still have troops stationed nearly 20 years later. 

In 2010, former President Barack Obama extended the tax cuts made by his Republican predecessor to make good on his promise of bringing bipartisanship back to the White House.

During the tail end of the Great Recession, those Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of earners cost the American economy $120 billion because elites evaded paying high taxes. 

The tax cut extension was more expensive and worse for the country’s financial deficit than the crucial stimulus package Americans desperately needed after the 2008 financial crisis. But, that didn’t stop Republicans from criticizing the stimulus on the grounds of being too expensive. 

Are you starting to see the picture? 

Politicians on both sides have, at one point or another, found common ground on atrocious things such as slavery, the Three-fifths Compromise and countless wars. 

The list of ways in which lawmakers have distorted bipartisan ideals to support the worst policies goes on and on. 

When it comes to compromise and bipartisanship in this country, one side gives, the other side takes and Americans always get the short end of the stick.

Bipartisanship does not hold any intrinsic value and isn’t morally good just because two opposing sides ultimately agree.

It isn’t something we should strive for or uphold if the outcome is detrimental to Americans.

But just as bipartisanship isn’t morally good, it isn’t morally bad either. We shouldn’t shy away from working with the other side when the outcome of that work will be to the benefit of American citizens. 

The First Step Act, passed in 2018, was the most outstanding criminal justice reform we’ve seen in decades and was the product of overwhelming bipartisan support. 

The act loosens up the three-strike policy that previously gave offenders with more than three convictions an automatic life sentence. It also lightens mandatory minimum sentencing at the federal level and will reduce prison sentences over time. 

Compromise can result in good outcomes, and those are ultimately what we should support and strive for — not bipartisanship for bipartisanship’s sake. 

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