This sort of thing drives me nuts. According to the dependably annoying David Broder, a bipartisan group of mostly ex-office holders are planning to issue a demand that the major party presidential nominees agree to support a “government of national unity.” Otherwise, they threaten, they’ll support a third party candidate, probably NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a potential independent candidate for president, has scheduled a meeting next week with a dozen leading Democrats and Republicans, who will join him in challenging the major-party contenders to spell out their plans for forming a “government of national unity” to end the gridlock in Washington.
Those who will be at the Jan. 7 session at the University of Oklahoma say that if the likely nominees of the two parties do not pledge to “go beyond tokenism” in building an administration that seeks national consensus, they will be prepared to back Bloomberg or someone else in a third-party campaign for president.
Conveners of the meeting include such prominent Democrats as former senators Sam Nunn (Ga.), Charles S. Robb (Va.) and David L. Boren (Okla.), and former presidential candidate Gary Hart. Republican organizers include Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), former party chairman Bill Brock, former senator John Danforth (Mo.) and former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman.
Boren, who will host the meeting at the university, where he is president, said: “It is not a gathering to urge any one person to run for president or to say there necessarily ought to be an independent option. But if we don’t see a refocusing of the campaign on a bipartisan approach, I would feel I would want to encourage an independent candidacy.”
Seriously, what planet do these people live on? Here on earth, we have two major political parties: one that wants endless war in Iraq, opposed by another that (at least in terms of its rank and file) wants the war ended. We have one party whose dominant wing seems to want to transform the United States into a Christian theocracy, opposed by another party that still (mostly) believes in the Separation of Church and State. We have one party that believes that we need even more tax cuts for the wealthy and even less governmental protection for consumers and workers, opposed by another that wants to return at least a little fairness to our tax code and our economy.
So, just exactly what is this proposed “government of national unity” supposed to stand for? More tax cuts for the wealthy, just not quite as many? Not ending the war, but continuing it in a more unified way? Ending the Separation of Church and State, but doing so with a smile?
What Broder and his ilk can’t seem to get though their heads is that the American people aren’t divided because they’re in a prickly mood. They’re divided because of real disagreements over critical issues of policy.
Forming a government of national unity can make sense (although it makes more sense under a parliamentary system) in times of crisis, when people are joined together in a common cause. But that’s far from the situation that exists in the United States today.
Another point — to achieve unity would require Republicans and Democrats to compromise on a somewhat equal basis — to meet halfway. But meeting a political adversary halfway only makes sense if one’s starting from a position of reasonable parity. As it happens, however, nothing close to parity exists between the left and the right in American politics today: for decades, conservatives have been successfully pushing this country further and further to the right. For the left to meet the right halfway now (which the right would refuse to do anyway) wouldn’t be unity: it would be surrender.
I don’t doubt the sincerity of unity government advocates, but if they really do run Bloomberg, a billionaire who could easily self finance, all they’ll succeed in doing is handing the White House over to yet another right wing Republican against the will of the majority of Americans (Bloomberg, as a social liberal, would almost certainly steal more votes from the Democratic nominee than from the Republican).
Screw bipartisanship. We have more important things to worry about
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