Bipartisanship: the gulf between rhetoric and reality

by Jay Stevens 

Jennifer McKee has an amusing piece in today’s paper about the spirit of bipartisanship in the Montana legislature:

The first recorded vote of the 2007 Montana Legislature in the closely divided House of Representatives on Wednesday fell along party lines.

The 51-49 vote came just minutes after House Minority Leader John Parker, D-Great Falls, gave a gentlemanly speech on the spirit of cooperation.

Cooperation was in slim supply moments later when Democrats tried to change the makeup of the House committees that take first crack at all legislation.

All 50 Republicans and Constitution Party Rep. Rick Jore of Ronan, a former Republican, voted to reject the Democrats’ initiative.

Hilarious. As shown throughout the last six years of federal-level Republican rule, any GOP request for “co-operation” means “do as we say.” Yesterday, Montana Republicans operated under the old playbook.

But I also expect Senate Democrats to give House Republicans a difficult time, too. While everyone trumps up “bipartisanship,” it’s obvious that this legislature in reality is going to be rancorous. What else would you expect when the Republican House Speaker – Sideshow Scott Sales – declares “war” on state Democrats?

Compare Republican legislative promises – war, obstructionism, opposition to the Governor at every chance – to the Democrats’ agenda:

In the Democrat-controlled Senate on Wednesday, Majority Leader Carol Williams, D-Missoula, the first woman to hold that post in the Montana Legislature, outlined what she sees as core issues to address this session.

Those include investing in a “world-class education system,” extending health care coverage to children and others without it, improving relations with tribal governments and protecting Montanans’ access to “rivers, streams, hunting grounds and fishing holes,” she said.

I can’t wait for Sideshow Scott and his dog & pony show to obstruct health care for children, or protection of open spaces, or improving education. At least rhetorically, as a blogger. As a father, homeowner, and taxpayer…well…I’ll probably be p*ssed.

Yup, it will be fun in 2007 – for bloggers!

  1. Bipartisanship has become enshrined in a really stupid way. The key test should be responsiveness to the public, not whether you’re working with crazy folks from the other side of the aisle.

  2. One of the reasons I remain “independant” is this idiocy with partisanship rampant in every level of Government. The idea that our governmental representatives work for us has been dead and buried for a while now. I had hopes that at least the Montana Legislature would get over themselves but it is painfully apparent that they are going to argue until the cows come home and the citizens of Montana are going to pay the price.

    For the record, though, I see this partisanship on both sides of the aisle – not just the Republicans. While I think some of the Leadership of the Republican Party (and thier pet Constitutionalist) are complete wastes of human flesh, I also don’t see a lot of cooperation on the Democrat side. I find it interesting that the first vote of the new session was a politically motivated one rather than one meant to better life or make life safer for Montanans.


  3. I do think partisanship has its place. I also believe that many of our representatives actually do work for us. And why should our legislators always agree on everything?

    The Democrats’ call for a extra committee chair makes sense if committees should be allocated based on the proportion of representation in the legislature. It is partisan — as was the rejection — but it made sense — as did the rejection — from a political perspective.

    I think Matt hit the nail on the head: the key should be “responsiveness” to the public, not how well you play with crazies.

  4. While I freely admit to being somewhat touchy right now about “partisanship”, (and, no, I am not just refering to Party Partisanship) – anyone reading my take on my local government will understand why – I still have a fundemental issue with the amount of time arguing “politics” and the lack of time solving actual problems or working for the people that elected these representatives. I don’t see a lot of “responsiveness” in any level of our government at this point and it is not only depressing, it is angering. I DO have a problem that committee assignments were more important on the agenda than other issues. We can rant all day about the “unfairness” of the committee assignments but while we are doing that, they are NOT working on the real issues that face us – the citizens of Montana. I truly don’t give a rat’s behind what makes “political sense”. I care about things getting done that make life better and safer for me and my family…


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