The ground has shifted. With the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the discussion surrounding bipartisanship and post-partisanship has taken on dramatically new dimensions.
The fact that President Obama is our President, after he spoke so ardently on the campaign trail in favor of instilling a new ethic of post-partisanship in Washington, is a giant step forward. More importantly, as President, he has continually advanced this ethic, from his expressed desire for greater collaboration to his outreach to officials of all philosophies; and from his inclusion of leaders with diverse views in his meetings and summits, to his initial policies that result therefrom.
We are not yet where we want – or need – to be; but we’re on the right path. The institutionalized forces of government do not easily facilitate bipartisanship; but having a President who strives toward that goal has made it a benchmark of good government. The processes which will enable greater bipartisanship are in their early stages of development; but efforts are being made, both by the Administration and by some in Congress. The openly antagonistic elements of partisanship have receded somewhat; but the American people still want – and expect – much more progress toward collaboration in governance across party lines.
The nature of bipartisanship and post-partisanship in the President Obama era is still evolving. There are signs that it may manifest itself in any of a number of ways, such as:
- diverging from adherence to any long entrenched approach that has been associated with a single political party or philosophy;
- embracing the views of differing philosophies on a rotational case-by-case basis as each new legislative opportunity presents itself;
- crafting solutions that piece together elements of appeal to different groups within the same legislation;
- transcending traditional party-aligned approaches to formulate new alternatives that neither party has routinely rejected nor embraced, so as to offer “fresh” solutions that the majority can find agreeable, or at least tolerable;
- all the above and more, as each new situation arises, maintaining flexible yet sound judgment as the principal determinant, rather than ideology.
Bipartisanship will most likely continue its upward trajectory through a series of peaks and valleys, rather than a straight line. But, with President Obama’s leadership, it is destined to increase in practice, magnitude, and impact over time.
The Bipartisan Bridge was established due to frustration, concern, hope, and a call to action. With President Obama’s leadership, the frustration has been abated and the concern has been mitigated, although both are subject to resurgence if the general positive trajectory does not continue. Hope and its progeny – optimism – have become the predominant theme, in light of the great efforts being expended toward progress. And the call to action has firmly taken root, especially since the President is its principal proponent.
The American people must remain vigilant in urging greater bipartisanship and the advancement of collaborative governance. The election of President Obama does not by itself constitute victory for these principles, since bipartisanship relies on actions in Congress just as much as the tenor set by the Chief Executive. However, as a nation, we are very well positioned for further progress by virtue of President Obama’s leadership. Now is the time to intensify the call for the bipartisanship that we seek, rather than assume it to be a fait accompli, in order to support the efforts of the President and all others of both parties who are working toward this goal.