Despite Admitted GOP Strategy Of Partisanship, Washington Post Blames Democrats

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Was today's Washington Post ghostwritten by the RNC press shop? Based on all the unsupported -- and unsupportable -- suggestions of excessive Democratic partisanship, it sure looks like it.

Let's start with Shailagh Murray's portrayal of Democrats of being newcomers to bipartisanship:

Never mind that Democrats didn't pass a health care reform package that created a single payer system, or even one that included a public option, but rather passed a package that reflected longtime Republican health care priorities, like an individual mandate. To the Washington Post, the fact that Republicans voted against a plan chock-full of ideas they had long advocated means the Democrats weren't behaving in a bipartisan manner. And never mind that the Democrats passed a stimulus that was significantly smaller, and more tax-cut laden, than many economists, from Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman to Christina Romer, thought was necessary -- and did so in an effort to win Republican support. To the Washington Post, the fact that Republicans almost unanimously opposed it despite those concessions means the Democrats weren't behaving in a bipartisan manner.

Murray's Post article asserts:

Many voters thought Democrats had overreached and were governing by fiat, and they responded in November by giving Republicans control of the House and narrowing the Democratic hold on the Senate.

Really? I've never seen polling demonstrating that widespread anger at Democrats for "governing by fiat" was key to the GOP's electoral gains last November, and I strongly suspect the Washington Post hasn't, either. Meanwhile, there are plenty of indications that a poor economy had far more to do with Democratic losses than a perception of "governing by fiats" -- but that doesn't fit into the Post's neat little storyline about Democratic overreach. Indeed, given that the 2009 stimulus package was smaller than many economists thought it should be, attributing last fall's election outcomes largely to the state of the economy would directly undermine the Post's storyline -- and might even suggest that Democrats suffered politically because they were too solicitous of Republicans. But instead of changing their narrative to fit reality, the Post makes up an alternate universe in which fiats weighed more heavily on the minds of voters than did jobs.

Next, let's take a look at Chris Cillizza's "Ten members to watch in the 112th Congress":

North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad (D): Conrad watched as Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) retired and former Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D) were defeated in the last cycle -- and now must decide whether or not to run again in his own right in 2012. If Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, does decide to retire, it could actually help the chances of a bipartisan budget deal as he would be less concerned about the political fallout from any compromise.

Again, the idea that recent lack of agreement by the two parties on fiscal measures is a result of excessive partisanship by Kent Conrad is absurd. On the biggest legislative items of the last Congress -- things like health care and the stimulus, the very things Republicans and journalists invoke as evidence of Democratic partisanship -- Democrats again and again made concessions in an attempt to win Republican support, and Republicans refused that support anyway. It was the GOP's entire legislative and political strategy. Don't take my word for it: Mitch McConnell has explicitly said it was the Republicans' approach. He has bragged about it. Here's McConnell:

"We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals," McConnell says. "Because we thought—correctly, I think—that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the 'bipartisan' tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there's a broad agreement that that's the way forward."

In light of the fact that Republicans like Mitch McConnell have explicitly said that they pursued a strategy of opposing everything the Democrats did, specifically so nothing could be called "bipartisan," it's simply dishonest to blame Democrats for insufficient bipartisanship.

The Washington Post
Chris Cillizza, Shailagh Murray
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