About That Partisan Divide

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall makes a point I have often made: partisanship today is different than it used to be, not just in intensity, but in kind.

Marshall’s essay was focused on what he sees as inadequacies in media coverage of the GOP’s “health care” bill, but in the course of that discussion, he made the following observation.

.. coverage of national health care policy is fundamentally distorted by the imperatives of false balance or forced balance coverage. The idea here is that the two parties are so set in their ideological corners that they can’t constructively come together and find points of compromise to address issues of great public concern. But this sentiment only makes sense if you think both parties are trying to accomplish something approaching the same thing, albeit perhaps with very different strategies. That is simply not true….

We talk a lot about how Republicans real focus is getting the ACA money for a big tax cut, which is unquestionably true. You can only get the tax cut if you get back the money that went toward getting people covered. But at a deeper level this is a philosophical dispute, a basic difference in goals. It’s a difference in desired outcomes, not an ideological dispute over the best way to achieve them. (Emphasis mine.)

Perhaps my memory is faulty, but back when I was a Republican, fiscal conservatism meant crafting more cost-effective policies to achieve goals we held in common with Democrats–policies that would help poor people, for example. We favored programs that would help those who needed that help without inadvertently distorting markets in ways that deepened the original problem.

An example would be rent control. The shared goal was affordable housing for low-income renters; opposition to rent control as a means of accomplishing that was based upon the belief that rent control would deter investment in additional, desperately needed units. You could agree or disagree with that analysis (I agreed), but the opposition wasn’t based on a belief that government shouldn’t help low-income people find decent housing.

We were arguing means, not ends.

Today’s Republicans and Democrats do not share a belief in the nature of the common good. Democrats believe that government has a responsibility to ensure access to healthcare. Republicans don’t. As Marshall says,

When you try three times to ‘repeal and replace’ and each time you come up with something that takes away coverage from almost everyone who got it under Obamacare, that’s not an accident or a goof. That is what you’re trying to do. ‘Repeal and replace’ was a slogan that made up for simple ‘repeal’ not being acceptable to a lot of people. But in reality, it’s still repeal. Claw back the taxes, claw back the coverage.

Pretending that both parties just have very different approaches to solving a commonly agreed upon problem is really just a lie. It’s not true. One side is looking for ways to increase the number of people who have real health insurance and thus reasonable access to health care and the other is trying to get the government out of the health care provision business with the inevitable result that the opposite will be the case.

That difference cannot be bridged with pious calls for “bipartisanship.”


  1. And so it continues. As I recall, Social Security was created with ZERO Republican votes. Medicare was created in the face of Republican resistance. Medicaid was created with much Republican resistance. They just don’t like the rest of us. Awful people. They were in the 30’s and they are today. They still vote the same. They just LOOK crazier.

  2. The current Congress now displays most clearly the division in itself which reflects the great divide in the population. That division is between those who see life as a competition and those who see life as cooperation. It’s “every man for himself” vs “can’t we all just get along?” It’s the takers vs the givers.

  3. “… partisanship today is different than it used to be, not just in intensity, but in kind.”

    Issues at the forefront today are NOT political in substance; they have been made political because there is money to be made in politicizing them. Health care is a life-and-death situation – is that Democratic or Republican at it’s source? Religion is our inner, most personal belief system, our freedom of thought, word and deed; is it Democratic or Republican at it’s source?

    The money being made by health care coverage and health care providers, Big Pharma and tax exempt churches with schools are getting our tax dollars – contrary to denial of such in the Constitution. FOLLOW THE FUCKING MONEY! That is the “kind” of politics we are facing today and the “intensity” of the control by the 1% is terrifying.

  4. Theresa’s comment is apropos. The distinction between competition and cooperation involves the kind of society people wish to live in. Margaret Thatcher was fond of saying that “society” does not exist. Individuals exist. She could not see the forest for the trees. Ronald Reagan thought similarly, when he thought about anything other than watching Grade B movies each evening at the White House. Isn’t it interesting that he watched movies and Trump watches cable TV. Neither of them capable of an original thought. Perhaps history does repeat itself.

  5. The Constitution was written as a rule book for the war between beliefs, not as a pitiful plea for us all to get along. Our problem is we–WE–have permitted, even participated, in paying off the referees and burning the rule book. Until we correct that, the winners will always be the ones with the most money.

  6. “War between beliefs”? Really? WAR???

    Silly me, I could have sworn that the Constitution was written to elevate mankind to a higher level of governance than to referee some never ending war of beliefs.

  7. We are the Revolutionaries. They are the Tories. It would be good for us to remember that. And how to build guillotines.

  8. I was heartened this morning when I read that Dr Jerome Adams had been selected as Surgeon General, pending confirmation. After reading everything I could find about the doctor, I came away thinking he possesses stellar academic credentials, a track record of identifying public health priority needs, and the people skills to speak easily with both the downtrodden and the intellectually inclined. I sensed no partisan leanings but rather that he’s intent on working toward good health for all.

    Five Fast Facts about Dr Adams…http://heavy.com/news/2017/06/jerome-adams-surgeon-general-trump-indiana-health-commissioner/

  9. A little personal note here:
    I never cease to learn something here with all of you. I guess when it comes to healthcare, I see things in a more simplistic way than many and that is, to me it boils down to the greater good. The greater good either is a reality in the power brokers’ minds or it isn’t and we all know it usually isn’t. Warren Buffets are few and far between.
    Yes, I am also worried about myself….I do get some help from Medicaid, and at my age, I understand that I probably suck more out of the system than someone in their 30’s barring people suffering with life long illnesses such as diabetes, etc. That being said, I was very healthy as a younger person, so in my politically untrained mind I believe I have broken even. Now, I will say this – again..I have almost given up believing that these two power parties are even willing to work things out for the greater good (based on a country also being a society), All I’m hearing is that anyone in this country at present who is a part of the current health care system is a drain and needs to be cut loose; and let the chips fall where they may.

  10. The Rs have no issue at all in taxing the working class to pay for a bloated military and they continue to demand increased spending on it.

    Yet, they refuse to allow those same people to have access to health care by claiming that we cannot afford it.

    Bottom line: let’s spend our money on military might to keep our citizens safe while we allow them to suffer and die from a lack of health care at the same time.

  11. I wonder if this has occurred to either party and would it bring them together on our current dilemma or force them further apart?

    Trump is a self-professed multi-BILLIONAIRE; if he is impeached and forced out of office within months of his inauguration, will he and Melania be eligible for receiving presidential/first lady paychecks and paid Secret Service protection for he and his family the remainder of the natural lives? He is already increasing his vast wealth ILLEGALLY by receiving millions in income from businesses he has not divested himself of which has been and continues to be a requirement of all presidents. Doesn’t this rankle other Republicans (or bother the Democratic party even a little) or are they all increasing their personal wealth the same way? Have they been receiving money from Trump to ignore his illegal and mentally unbalanced actions and is he holding that over their heads…or does he have information on them which could destroy their political careers?

    “About That Partisan Divide” How can we be sure there IS any division between them?

  12. I received this in my E-Mail today: >>Democrats cannot just resist Trumpcare. They must unite behind a bold and clear alternative like Medicare for All, also known as “single-payer” health care. Early this year, Rep. John Conyers introduced a Medicare for All bill in the House (HR 676). And recently, progressive champions Sens. Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley and Elizabeth Warren called on Democrats to push for a national single-payer health care system.<<<

    Obama-Care (ACA), was a rickety bridge across a raging torrent of disease. The Corporate Politicians and their masters in the for profit heath-care had to be pleased, so a toll bridge was installed. Insurance companies would manage the toll bridge. The Insurance Company toll takers would have to be subsidized. Only a certain number of people could afford to cross the bridge. Premiums, co-pays and high deductibles were an additional charge.

    I cannot see the Corporate Democratic Party allowing Single Payer to be seriously considered as an option.

  13. JoAnn @ 10:59 – “About That Partisan Divide” How can we be sure there IS any division between them?
    Eugene Debs answered your question:
    The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.

    The Republican and Democratic parties are alike capitalist parties — differing only in being committed to different sets of capitalist interests — they have the same principles under varying colors, are equally corrupt and are one in their subservience to capital and their hostility to labor.

  14. “Silly me, I could have sworn that the Constitution was written to elevate mankind to a higher level of governance than to referee some never ending war of beliefs.”

    You swore mistakenly and naively.

    The authors of the Constitution were realists and knew that the war of beliefs would never end and always culminate in violence that simply regenerated the war and the violence…unless a device could be invented to manage the war. And so they invented the devise–the Constitution. It even keeps score and is divided into time periods–two, four and six years each–winners, losers, rookies, old pros, wannabes, strategies, tactics, fair play, cheaters, fouls, penalties, stars, journeymen, leaders, followers, quitters and hangers on; captains and privates, clerks and shock troupes, advance and retreat, offense and defense, and all the treasured spoils and painful wounds of war–even death.

    Roberts Rules of Order is another device that is not meant to be just another version of Kumbaya around a campfire while moist-eyed sissies hold hands. It, too, is a rule book for fighting it out.

    We dream of and wait for everyone to just get along at the peril of all. Taking recess from reality is suicide.

  15. My earliest memories of partisan politics was both parties could agree to help the poors, but wingnuts insisted on rewarding the wealthy at the same time.

  16. Larry, your understanding of the Constitution is entirely different than my understanding.

  17. We will not have the healthcare available to citizens of other industrialized countries because the top 20% of Americans have decided to engage upon a class war against those earning well below them.

    In the mean time,Republicans want those outside of the donor and investment class to go die because of…..Markets.

    According to Democrats,what is our most pressing problem?? OMG,RUSSIA!!

  18. It is not surprising that Democrats and Republicans are capitalist-oriented since we all live in a capitalist economy, but along that spectrum of give it all to the rich vs. give it all to the poor there are many stops. I, for instance, am a proud and lifelong liberal but one who wants a buck’s worth for a buck, a fiscal conservative as it were, and it honks me off big time to bear witness to Republican stripping of our treasury to pay off those in the rich and corporate class who in turn finance the election of their benefactors while poor-mouthing the rest of us on healthcare, median wages that haven’t moved (adjusted for inflation) for forty years while the Dow is in the stratophere etc., so no, I do not agree that Republicans and Democrats want similar outcomes as they did in New Deal days. We want dissimilar results and I say those I want are fairer and more equitable than the ones Republicans want based upon Lincoln’s Gettysburg understanding of a government of, by and for the people, not huge corporations and the already and obscenely rich. Anti-rich socialist? Nope, rather one of the last few who still think that a managed form of capitalism will work and have no big problem with those who are rich if they agree to take the rest of us along for the rid.e

  19. Gerald, I like what you wrote. And, I have a question for you as you are a level-headed educated man who’s been around for several years. When we speak of the ‘rich’, is it possible to define ‘rich’ in dollar amounts as I have friends and acquaintances who define ‘rich’ as the person who has the largest house on their street. Obviously, the ‘rich’ are always those who have far more money than I, but that’s not a fair definition, simply a subjective take on ‘rich’.

  20. Good point – BSH. I have come to conclude that rich does mean a trove of assets, including money, but more than that. There are a few Buffetts among us, but those who own a bundle of assets seem to have gravitated away from what’s fair, just and equitable for the rest of their fellow citizens in favor of policies (for which they pay) that enhance their trove, but even so, I have no problem with rich people because they’re rich; it’s how they use their wealth to provide for negative results for the rest of us, and especially the needy and poor, who didn’t ask to be born into poverty. We are an immensely rich country and there is more than enough to go around. There is plenty of wealth to have a society where there are still the rich but no poor which I think would have a negating effect on the politics of greed practiced today, provide for strengthened social cohesion, and mitigate envy between classes. So what is the essence of “rich?” I think my idea of rich is a combination of assets and power which can be put to either negative or positive use. I agree that subjectivity has reared its ugly head in my view, but it occurs to me that a stack of money in a Swiss bank does nothing by itself; that its owner determines the social good or ill that can come from the power to influence that it represents. You may have a different view on what is rich since you and I have had different experiences upon which our respective subjective judgments are based. I have often argued in polite company that Nelson Mandela and Gandhi were rich, a really subjective conclusion that had nothing to do with money, but to each his (or her) own. What’s your take?

  21. Gerald, your sentence mentioning Mandela and Gandhi is the one sentence that strikes home with me. Thinking of several families I knew from my childhood who’d at one time had a great deal of wealth but lost it for whatever reasons, I was always aware that despite their meager bank accounts that they were immensely rich in that intangible I call ‘class’ which included good manners, graciousness, and an overriding respect for all who crossed their paths. They existed alongside the nouveau riche who had no class at all.

  22. BSH and Gerald; I have enjoyed your conversations so much. Reminded me of some thoughts I had recently regarding wealth; I feel blessed to have enough to pay my bills and help my family once in awhile. To me, that is wealth. Millions or billions of dollars in local or offshore bank accounts to me is merely numbers – big numbers – on papers – stacks of papers. What good are those numbers doing anyone; are they buying food for someone who has been out of work for months or years, paying a utility bill or two for someone who had unexpected expanses or paying a medical bill to provide needed surgery or medical care in an emergency? They are numbers on pages.

    Some of you know my uncle who died a year ago this past February, was Don Davis of Don’s Guns. Multi-millionaire; times with he and Aunt Vicky centered around family and a few friends, eating at favorite restaurants – not the most expensive in this city – simply where they served our favorite foods. Times in their home were always, kick off your shoes, put your feet up, grill hot dogs or hamburgers or enjoy Aunt Vicky’s incredible pork roast with brown potatoes, carrots and onions. Sharing family memories or Uncle Don’s always hilarious stories. The public never knew about all of the money he shared with so many organizations to help all kids have better lives. That is true wealth; rich in heart and sharing what you have much of with others who have little of.

  23. BSH, @ 11:38, I read the article in the Sacramento Bee. What the article does not report is the amount of money, currently spent on premiums, deductibles, co-pays, or the costs to people who have no insurance all. One man, Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), shelved the bill last week. One man stood in the way, of the California going forward.

    Max Baucus a Democratic Senator from Montana said “single payer was not an option on the table.” This was back in 2009. From 2003-08, Baucus received $3,973,485 from the health sector, including $852,813 from pharmaceutical companies, $851,141 from health professionals, $784,185 from the insurance industry and $465,750 from HMOs/health services, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Total expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP.
     Source CIA World Fact Book 2014
    Australia 9.4%, Canada 10.4%, France 11.5%, Germany 11.3%, Japan 10.2%, USA 17.1%. The percentages cited by the World Bank are exactly the same as the CIA’s.

    Total health expenditure per capita (per person) in US dollars. 2015
     Source Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
    Australia $ 4,420, Canada $ 4,608, France $ 4,407, Germany $5,267,
    Japan $4,150, USA $ 9,451.

    Average life expectancy at birth in years, and rank out of 183 countries.
     Source Data List by the World Health Organization (2015)
    Australia 82.8 years rank # 4, Canada 82.2 years rank # 12, France 82.4 years rank # 9,
    Germany 81.0 years rank # 24, Japan 83.7 years rank # 1, USA 79.3 years rank 31.

    I am old enough to remember JFK’s call to place a man on the moon and bring him back again safely. It was rocket science that ventured into unknown territory. The can do spirit and the political will was there. The best minds were assembled to solve the problems.

    Health Care is not “rocket science” other countries have done it, with less costs and better results. We have Medicare and Medicaid with it’s various flaws we can look to as a base. I reject the defeatist proposition that it is too difficult to vastly change our Health Care System.

  24. Too difficult to accomplish = The lives of insurance executives matter.
    Without the enormous profits,how will those executives have the ability to pay those exorbitant country-club fees?

    Palin was right about death panels….Except she forgot to mention those death panels are the provenance of insurance executives and their lackeys.

    Palin couldn’t bring herself to vilify the execs. Much like Democrats such as Baucus et al.
    Healthcare for Americans isn’t a priority for the donor/investment-class.

    To paraphrase Madeleine Albright,the lives of 500,000 American children and adults do not matter to us as long as their suffering furthers our agenda.

    Iraqi children and ordinary Americans……Simply fodder for the PTB.

  25. Sheila; aside from today’s issues and comments, I HAD to take this few minutes out to thank you, a huge thank you for recommending the book, “Al Franken Giant of the Senate”. The comments with the photos had me chuckling; I have only read the first two pages, plus top of page 3 of the Forward and “A note on style from the author:…” and I am totally hooked. Once I “get into” any book, I rarely take time to do much but read; didn’t want to put off my “thank you” till I finish the book.

    “About That Partisan Divide” Actually; from what I have read so far the book appears to be dedicated to Sen. Franken’s view on today’s issue. Again; thank you!

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