Bipartisanship Strikes Again

It’s a common theme whenever pundits discuss our dysfunctional political system and the “gridlock” in Washington. Oh, how horrible it is that the two parties are at each others’ throats all the time. Shame on all of them for not being able to work together on behalf of the voters who put them in office and fix the problems they were elected to fix. If only we could elect more “centrists” who care more about getting things done than they do about pandering to their respective bases—THEN we could start making progress and get the country rolling again.

To which I very bluntly and emphatically say: bullshit. It is precisely when our so-called “leaders” of both parties get together and agree on a particular piece of legislation that we the people get screwed the hardest. Since this ridiculously naïve (or duplicitous) theme just doesn’t seem to want to die despite its sheer absurdity, let me recount some of the most notorious examples of “bipartisanship” from the past couple of decades:

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 1994 –  “Free” trade is only free for the elites who reap the profits from the lowering of trade barriers. Working and middle class Americans are the ones who have paid dearly for NAFTA as well as other such measures like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades through the loss of tens of millions of good paying jobs that have been sent to places like Mexico, India and China. The potential loss of such jobs was easily predictable beforehand, and yet NAFTA was passed back in 1994 in a bipartisan vote that included a total of 166 Republican Senators and Representatives and 129 Democrats before being signed into law by a Democratic president (Clinton).

Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, 1999 – Probably the most damaging piece of financial legislation in recent times was the repeal of the Great Depression era banking law and the removal of the barriers between investment and commercial banking. The demise of Glass-Steagall was a huge contributing factor in the financial crash of 2008. And yet, the final version of this horrendous piece of legislation was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 362-57 in the House and 90-8 in the Senate. It was then signed into law by a Democratic president (Clinton), effectively thumbing his nose at a key regulatory provision enacted under the revered lion of his own party, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The Patriot Act, 2001 – The greatest single legislative curtailment of individual liberties in United States history was, of course, passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks when politicians across the political spectrum declared that the terrorists “hate us for our freedom” even while they worked to curtail much of that same freedom. The act created the Orwellian-named Department of Homeland Security and set the tone for all of the Constitutional abuses (electronic surveillance, militarization of police departments, “free speech” protest zones, intrusive airport scanners, etc) that have followed. And yet the final bipartisan vote on the act was 357 to 66 in the House and 98 to 1 in the Senate (the 1 “Nay” being my personal hero, former Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin).

Iraq War Resolution, 2002 – Anyone who was paying attention and actually had a conscience (not always the same thing, unfortunately) knew that the Bush administration was blatantly lying about its case for going to war against Iraq after 9/11. One wag even commented that it was as if in the wake of Pearl Harbor, America had declared war on Mexico. Our so-called “leaders” who presumably had access to most, if not all, of the real intelligence on Iraq were better positioned than even the average citizen to know that the case for war was complete bullshit. And yet, the final tally in favor of launching an unjustifiable attack on Iraq and butchering several hundred thousand of its citizens was 297 to 133 in the House (including 82 Democrats) and 77 to 23 in the Senate (including 29 Democrats). Even such alleged far left “liberals” as Hillary Clinton voted for the resolution.

The Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) law, 2008 – After Congress’s previous bipartisan screw-up in repealing the Glass-Steagall Act helped lead to the financial crash in 2008, they decided to compound their error by giving $700 billion in taxpayer money to bail out the big banks and Wall Street. After the initial effort to pass the TARP failed in the House (with the far left and the far right of each party most opposed), the “leadership” of both parties engaged in political arm-twisting and gamesmanship until they secured enough votes to pass the bill in the face of overwhelmingly negative public sentiment. The final tally was 263-171 in the House and 74-25 in the Senate. A total of 211 Democratic Senators and Representatives as well as 126 Republicans voted “Yea” on a measure that was then signed into law by a Republican president (Bush). Moreover, had you opposed the TARP law as a voter you had no one to vote for in that November’s presidential election as both Republican candidate John McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama voted in favor of it.

And now we have the most recent example of this hideous dynamic in action with the bipartisan Senate vote to allow the U.S. military to indefinitely detain citizens suspected of “terrorism” anywhere in the world. If this awful measure becomes law, you might as well take the 235-year-old “damn piece of paper” that is the U.S. Constitution and run it through the shredder because it will have been rendered invalid. As reported by the Huffington Post, here is one of the more outrageous quotes in support of the proposal:

Backers of military detention of Americans — a measure crafted by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) — came out swinging against Udall’s amendment on the Senate floor earlier Tuesday.

“The enemy is all over the world. Here at home. And when people take up arms against the United States and [are] captured within the United States, why should we not be able to use our military and intelligence community to question that person as to what they know about enemy activity?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.

“They should not be read their Miranda Rights. They should not be given a lawyer,” Graham said. “They should be held humanely in military custody and interrogated about why they joined al Qaeda and what they were going to do to all of us.”

Yep, here you see the very worst of bipartisanship in action—a conservative Republican Senator from the Deep South rhetorically creaming his jeans in support of a piece of legislation drafted by a supposed northern “liberal” Democrat. Senator Graham is the worst kind of bloviating, conscienceless windbag. There has not been a successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil in more than a decade, and yet in response to the miniscule possibility of another one he wants to subject all American citizens to being taken off the street at anytime, anywhere, based upon any spurious allegation made by a jealous ex-lover, spurned former business partner or aggrieved neighbor. Bill of Rights? We don’t need no stinking Bill of Rights, even though it has served America quite well for more than two centuries.

The final vote tally was 61 Senators voting in favor, including 16 Democrats, and only 37 opposed. Only two of the “Nay” votes were Republicans, to include Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. The only hope we have now to defeat this provision is that President Hopey-Chagey claims he opposes the measure and has threatened to veto it. But we have seen time-and-time again how easily Obama backs down in situations requiring him to take a strong moral stand, so I wouldn’t bet on it.

There you have it folks, bipartisanship in all of its appalling glory. At this point, it won’t take too many more bipartisan measures to destroy this country completely. So the next time some pundit or office holder gets up on Fox News or MSNBC and decries the partisan rancor in Washington and imploringly asserts the need for bipartisanship, you’ll know that not only are they completely full of it, but they probably have in mind some nefarious plan designed to grab you, the citizen, by the neck, forcibly hold you down and sodomize you like Marcellus Wallace in the basement torture scene from the movie, Pulp Fiction.

William Hicks lives in Northern Virginia writes about peak oil and economic issues on his blog, The Downward Spiral, a Requiem for the American Dream. Read other articles by William.