Saturday, January 10, 2009

Post partisanship, or The Way of Broder

Some presidential mottoes:

George H.W. Bush: "What works?"

Bill Clinton: "How, fighting against the tide of Reaganism, can I keep things working?"

George W Bush: "What do the conservatives want me to do?"

Barack Obama: "What does David Broder want me to do?"

Establishment Washington didn't care for H.W. Bush much, loathed Bill Clinton and still do, both liked and feared W Bush, and adore, for now, Obama, although if Obama continues being their bitch that adoration will become tolerance mixed with contempt, as always happens in relationships with that dynamic. H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were exactly what establishment Washington says it wants: pragmatists. Bush was an ideologue, and Obama is beginning to look like one as well, just not a liberal idealogue, as I'll get to in a moment. Why the establishment hates most those who behave the way they say they want them to behave is a question for the psychiatrists (and one Obama should be asking himself), and it's an important question, but beyond me for the present.

Now, filtering every policy through the lens of "What does David Broder want?" is not non-ideological governing; neither is mandating that all policies and decisions be defensible as "bipartisan." Broderism is an ideology just like every other "ism." And like any dogma, it has its limitations, limitations which its practitioners must live with. Let's look at those limitations with regards to the current stimulus plan "debate."

If Obama's stimulus plan fails, the Republicans will say, "He got everything he asked for in his stimulus plan, and it didn't work." And Obama will have no reply, like he would have had he asked for more and been forced into negotiating a compromise with the Republicans. Then, he could have said "I wanted X, the Republicans wanted Y, and Y wasn't enough." But when you are a follower of Broderism, the fear of being seen as "partisan" is much greater than the fear of failing the country, so really super tricky, complicated, arcane things like proper bargaining procedures never cross your mind.

If Obama's plan succeeds, the Republicans will say it was because of the tax cuts, and the next time they assume power, they will re-institute the exact same policies that fucked everything up. But when you are a follower of Broderism, super tricky, complicated, arcane things like "thinking ahead" never cross your mind. Just head straight for the center of every issue, do not, under any circumstances, make any normative judgments about the merits of the arguments on each side, and you will be a success, regardless of the outcome of your policy decisions. Broderism is about process, not results; results are what the little, partisan people worry about, and by embracing The Way of Broder, you have grown beyond such pettiness.