Bipartisanship: A Love Story
Article by Jacob Wilkowsky (Q19)
Waking up on the morning of November 7th, I quickly grabbed my laptop and went online. Although out of the country, I followed the election race closely. Depending on whom you asked, President Obama was an 86% favorite or Governor Romney was a point ahead. But as we now know, the former was the truth. President Obama won the race by a very safe margin. In addition to the president’s reelection, gay marriage ballots passed in Maine and Maryland, and ballots on the legalization of marijuana for recreational use passed in Washington and Colorado.
In retrospect, we will always remember November 6th, 2012 as a celebration of our most fundamental democratic liberty. However, the day will not be remembered for its bipartisanship. In fact, many have claimed, with merit or without, that America has been more divided these past years than any other time since the civil war. Now I hope that is an exaggeration, but in past years we have clearly witnessed a blaring lack of bipartisanship in our government. In recent years, Congressmen refused to pass widely supported job bills during a crippling recession because, by admission, their number one goal was to get President Obama out of office. Senators were unable, or more likely unwilling, to pass budgets so that our government and economy could work most efficiently, and most importantly, leaders from neither side were able to break the a extended gridlock in the legislature and create compromise. This extreme partisanship has real costs on our government, economy, and the confidence of Americans. It should be noted that this incompetence is not limited to elected officials. More and more Americans have seemed to assume a polarized point of view.
As partisan as our elected officials acted, it is difficult to discern whether our elected officials have been feeding the fire or just representing their constituents. Partisanship has no more a pronounced form than deeming the President of the United States a terrorist, claiming he is an illegal alien, or labeling him a radical Muslim. Let alone making all three of those claims the foundation of your political party. These beliefs took roots and grew. In response, many citizens badgered fellow Americans about their personal faith. These attacks were equally as repugnant, and further divided our country. Whether we can discern the cause of the partisanship, I am not certain. We can however recognize that the ideal of compromise has long abated the national political conversation.
So now we face the question stands, “How does partisanship affect this country?”
Luckily, this election offered Americans a window into a changing United States and its future. While the sight might not be fully visible, hopefully there is a discernible image that can help us answer this question.
- The first black president elected to his second term.
- The Gay Civil Rights movement making its most significant gains against conservative America to date.
- The long controversial War on Drugs finally in the spotlight.
We find that the United States is pursuing a more liberal agenda. Older generations say they never thought they would see a black president. Well, he is on his second term now, and I never thought I would see POT LEGALIZED FOR RECREATIONAL USE. American liberals are making gains. Has the base grown? Certainly, in coming decades minorities will replaces whites as the majority of this country—demographics are changing. Maybe the increased presence of college students in politics is playing a role? There are many factors to consider, however, to truly understand this growth maybe we should look backwards about 40 years.
Peering through the lens of history, we see these current “radical” changes emanating from social tensions that have existed for decades. It was 44 years ago that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, fighting for the rights of blacks to drink from the same water fountains as whites. It was 35 years ago that Anita Bryant launched her gay crusade to remove homosexuals from their jobs in every state. It has been 41 years since President Nixon started the War on Drugs, which has turned a multibillion-dollar industry into a black market, fueled Mexican cartel violence, and has incarcerated American minorities overwhelmingly disproportionately. Today doesn’t seem so radical now. These tensions between “liberals” and “conservatives” have existed for decades. And through the natural push and pull of American politics we have reached where we are today.
And that’s democracy. It’s push and pull. If we want change, we can throw everything and the kitchen sink to get it. That’s where our partisanship has grown from. However the ones who were truly great, the legends like Harvey Milk and Martin Luther King Jr., they weren’t the sink throwing types. The ones who created generation-defining change, they rose above the sink throwing. The great leaders elevated the conversation, because they knew it isn’t as simple as liberal and conservative. They knew how to make progress by strengthening our union, not diminishing it. They led their country by uniting its people, and provided an example for us to do the same.
Finally let’s get back to that question, “How does partisanship affect this country?”
The short answer is not well. Because a government of the people, by the people, for the people is only as unified and effective as its parts. The problems we face today are descendants of the problems we faced yesterday. How we face those problems is what defines our success or failure. And the burden we leave to future generations is how history will remember us. It’s the natural course of things, and we need to make sure that every citizen is focusing on process innovation.