Redefining Bipartisanship in Today’s Political Climate
By Lilly Kurtz
When Biden accepted his nomination to be the Democratic candidate for the 2020 election, a new precedent was set that would dictate the modality of U.S. politics for years to come, should Biden get elected this November. The precedent that has entered the political climate is that moderate, centrist Democrats will get the nomination. As both the right and the left slip into the far ends of the political spectrum, centrist candidates will become less and less appealing to the electorate---a dangerous condition for America's future. In this time of division, it seems counter-intuitive to unite the country if we encourage divisive views; however, moderate views will get us nowhere as we strive to unify this nation moving forward. This is why we, as a nation, need to encourage having a firm hold on one's beliefs and destigmatize polarizing views.
Finding bipartisanship in today's political climate is borderline impossible. Discussions may become so lackluster when either side of the discussion has too large of an emphasis on respect. On the other hand, you have two moderate lib-lefts who are detached from traditional party politics in the first place and come to an agreement on said debate topic, thus ending the political discussion too quickly.
The other option---the one we see most often---is that political debate will digress into hurling insults across the aisle that aim to damage the character of the opposition. This is especially exemplified by career politicians in Congress, as well as the 2016 and 2020 election debate floor. If you take a look at C-SPAN archives, you will notice that candidates spent the majority of their time building an argument against the integrity of the opposing candidate, and spent less time debating tangible policies and actual change they would make if they were in office.
Since these debates, politics have become more tolerable--- and even embrace--- embarrassing candidates. Therefore, no change is made and the concept of bipartisanship only falls further away. With the nomination of Biden, centrist, moderate beliefs have become irrevocably correlated with bipartisanship. We are now left with the question of how to alter the definition of bipartisanship, so that we can debate bold and controversial opinions rather than moderate debates with little substance and nothing achieved in the end.
Both sides look upon Biden and Trump and wonder, what's the difference? The difference comes down to two things. First, which party they ran for. Those who are registered Democrat and have historically voted Democrat will be more likely to continue voting Democrat. The same is true for Republicans. Second, how many sexual abuse allegations the other has managed to rack up. The 2020 election will be based on who is the better person and less of a sexual predator. The third factor that could be introduced but has no weight is, who is the career politician? This answer is obvious. Joe Biden has held a position in office since 1970. Nearly fifty years of political experience versus Donald Trump's measly four years---if you count those years as politics. While in office, Biden is the prime example of a registered Democrat who treads the fine line between parties. He is the definition of a centrist, and has managed to glide through fifty years of being in office, not making any real or impactful changes. Many see this as bipartisanship.
On the 2020 debate floor, Biden referred to "bipartisanship" numerous times. He references bipartisanship as working with the other side---working with Republicans to make decisions in the Senate and the House. The problem with this, however, is that this is exactly what Democrats have been attempting to do for the last twenty years. No difference has been made, and if anything party lines still complicate the relationship in the house.
Yes, working with Republicans has been proven effective before---but on minor, inconsequential bills such as the weak Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017. This is not bipartisanship, this is a moderate bill that anyone with a conscience would know is crucial to American welfare. On bills that can enact tangible, real change, such as the Green New Deal---which would take a step in securing the future of our planet---strong advocates are needed that portray it in a controversial light, rather than a watered-down idea that cut out crucial aspects of the bill. In the past we have compromised; however, this nation is at a breaking point where compromise should no longer be an option.
Politicians who have the capacity to enact real change also happen to be more radical, namely Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and The Squad™. On the other side, we have Ben Shapiro, and Mitch McConnell, who are uncompromising in their beliefs and ideas. The content that Shapiro posts is highly controversial, and I find myself debating with fellow members of the YACU over said content. That is bipartisanship. Agreement from both parties does not mean bipartisanship, it is the ability to debate and share views to prove where one's views originate and why they have merit. The culture of respect where you feel proud to share your views is bipartisanship. Not coming to a compromise where you sacrifice or devalue what you believe, that should not be labelled "bipartisanship," rather call it what it is---compromise. Compromise and bipartisanship are not a package deal, for they do not go hand-in-hand. This is the attitude we need in Congress, as we approach the 2020 election, and look in the future: past Biden, past Trump, past 2020.
So what is bipartisanship, and how do we find it? Bipartisanship is currently defined as agreeing with the other side and committing to the red and blue labels that define all debates. The change we need to make is that bipartisanship is coming to an agreement without coming to a compromise. In order to achieve this ideal of bipartisanship, it has to come from first, listening to the people---the constituents---and acknowledging as well as understanding their needs. It has to come from what is best for the people, what benefits the people the most and promotes welfare. Politicians cannot get caught in the micro details and must accept valid points from both sides; they must be willing to let partisanship go in the event that an amendment would improve the livelihood of their people. Having basic respect---both for the individual themselves---as well as respecting that they have different views. Your views do not have to be the views of the person you are debating.
As humans, we have different thought processes, different opinions, infinite views on one issue. At a certain point, when politicians can no longer debate factual aspects of a bill, debate devolves into harsh criticisms of the other side and those advocating for said side. Before you enter a debate, you must self-reflect and consider if you are willing to debate the other side and refrain from taking points personally. Would you be able to detach yourself in a commitment to bipartisanship?
While this is a criticism of bipartisanship in today's political climate, this does not mean that bipartisanship as a concept is a lost cause. Bipartisanship as a concept is valid, it just has to evolve and change. The benefits of bipartisanship far outweigh the flaws that we need to overcome. A bipartisan culture would mean that our government passes bills that benefit the people, those who are marginalized, those in need of support from our leaders in power. Bipartisanship would mean that we, the people, can debate our political views and opinions and be able to draw from the example of politicians to establish proper behavior and debate culture. Bipartisanship would mean that the government is truly for the people.
Politicians, like Biden, who walk the line as a moderate Democrat, should not boast that they are for bipartisanship because they do not represent what bipartisanship truly is. People naturally disagree and have opposing views on issues, so a people-pleaser whose views are barely left and agree with views of moderate conservatives should not be the token bipartisan politician. Just as bipartisanship is unachievable in Trump's America, bipartisanship will be just as unreachable in Biden's America, should Biden win the presidency in November. The concept needs to evolve and reframe into respect and coming to an agreement about a debate topic. The primary goal should be educating those on the other side and proving one's points, not winning an argument. This is crucial for Congress as we approach the election, so that the effects of Trump's presidency can be cleared and we can once again be a progressive nation, invested in the rights of the people--- all people--- not just those in the top one percent funding Trump's reelection. When this fundamental respect is achieved, it is then that we can claim America has become a bipartisan nation.