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Looking for Bi-Partisanship in a 'Post-Partisan' World

by Indy, published

They say we now live a "post-partisan" world.

The phrase implies that in 2009 we have all risen to a practical, solutions-based approach to politics that flies above your garden variety partisan rancor.

I'm not so sure.

If anything it seems like the political killing fields in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. have grown even fiercer in recent weeks -- if that's possible. It seems that hope -- hope that meaningful bi-partisan solutions to the many complicated economic and social problems we face here in California and across the nation's face have once again become an early casualty of the rhetorical warfare being waged in the capitols.

In Sacramento, a small handful of Republican true believers continue to hold the state's budget hostage. These anti-tax apparatchiks have effectively used the state's arcane constitutional budget rules to block the passage of the state budget -- a critically-needed financial blueprint for 8th largest economy in the world.

As these conservative politicos brag about how they're holding the line against evil "tax and spend" liberals, real Californians are hurting. Construction projects lay idle, state employees have been put on furlough and IOU's -- not real tax refund checks -- are being sent out. Meanwhile, without funds flowing from Sacramento, local governments are starting to "brown out" fire stations and cut back on other essential public safety services.

GOP extremism reached new intimidating heights recently when a sate Republican Party official declared that any Republican lawmaker voting for the Democratically-led budget plan should be publicly censured. C'mon, what's next? Tarring and feathering?

In Washington, Congressional Democrats have gone out of their way to include colleague Republican lawmakers in the negotiations for the $800 billion economic stimulus bill -- a bill that President Obama and some of the best economists in the world say is needed to pull America's fat out of the financial fire.

But with the exception of three brave Republican senators (who have thankfully joined Democrats to make the stimulus package bill filibuster-proof), the GOP has adopted a strategy that essentially forces Democrats to craft, live and/or die with their own handiwork when it comes to the stimulus bill. They'd rather play to their limited constituencies than roll up their sleeves and help craft a viable package that both sides can live with.

And just like in Sacramento with the ongoing budget crisis, the arguments of the California GOP anti-tax zealots are ringing hollow, too.

Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger understands that California needs tax increases and new sources of revenues if it has any hope of surviving this mother of all economic storms. And, if Schwarzenegger, the head of California Republicans, gets it, why can't these others?
Californians just want their government working with them -- not against them. They want their elected officials to get things done, not play petty partisan games.

It would be easy and understandable to write off this polemic as some sort anti-GOP screed. It's not. If the shoe were on the other foot and Democrats were playing the role of obstructionists, this writer would be condemning them with the same vigor.

No, this polemic laments a new (perhaps re-animated?) era in California and national politics when the art of civil political discourse and debate has been replaced by a "take no prisoners -- it's all or nothing" ethos. It's not good enough just win the day on the merits and to lobby the most votes anymore. No, victory in politics these days is measured by how well you've crushed your "enemy" to his or her political death.

Is it any wonder, given this attitude, that piqued Californians have embraced the state's flawed ballot proposition system? At least they argue, something -- anything -- is getting done. They'd be right, too.This week promises to be a memorable one in both Sacramento and Washington. The huge stimulus bill may get a vote in the U.S. Senate and a vote may actually be taken on the state budget.

Given what's on the line let's hope that the Republicans think more about the big picture, work with their Democratic colleagues and do the right thing for people that need their help now -- not later.

Jeff Mitchell is a Bay Area-based journalist and political junkie. He can be reached at [email protected]

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