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COLUMN: Bipartisanship does not exist in American politics

Chandler Gory

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Bipartisanship is for wishful thinkers and overly optimistic independents. I am neither of those things.   

One day, school children will read about this foreign concept, and they’ll laugh. Democrats and Republicans actually got along with each other? What a marvelous concept. Then, all of us ageing millennials will have to assure them that yes, we all used to know how to work together. We got legislation passed that actually helped people and didn’t just maintain our shiny ideological purity. 

I’m almost too young to remember it: A time when the Paul Ryans and Nancy Pelosis of the world could come together, join hands and sing a little kumbaya. But there was a time. 

And okay, sure, Congress has had a few bipartisan victories lately. In 2016, the Senate passed the 21st Century Cares Act by a vote of 94-5. The $6.3 billion bill was the first major mental health legislation passed in 20 years. That’s something to be proud of. 

Yet, almost a year later, Congress can’t agree on whether or not 23 million Americans deserve to live in debate over healthcare, or whether 800,000 young people who are making a real difference in our country deserve to stay here through DACA. 

What happened to us? When did being a Democrat or Republican suddenly matter more than being an American? 

The worst part is that, when we do have bipartisan victories, everyone walks around with their tails between their legs because one side lost and the other side won. No, both sides compromised. 

When Donald Trump struck a deal with Democrats to extend the debt ceiling and provide funding for Hurricane Harvey victims, the Republican Party was furious. Why? I thought they elected Trump because of his vast knowledge in “the art of the deal.” Or did I misunderstand what the president meant when he billed himself as a fantastic, superhuman dealmaker? 

Clearly, bipartisanship no longer means ‘compromising.’ Now it means ‘bow to what the majority party wants or else.’ If the Republicans don’t get exactly what they want then it’s not bipartisanship; it’s weakness, a shoddy deal, poor politics. In fact, the very idea that Trump somehow cut an immigration deal with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi last week was so abhorrent that the White House had to deny it. No deal to see here, folks! 

It’s a shame, really, because when I saw that Trump compromised on DACA and the wall, I was actually proud. I was proud of Donald Trump. 

However, my pride was short-lived, as most things regarding the Trump White House tend to be (see: the Mooch). The White House’s denial of an immigration deal with the Democrats made it abundantly clear that bipartisanship is only good if the Republicans are the real winners. If Democrats get a single inch of anything then it’s a no good, very bad deal. 

Now don’t get me wrong, the Democrats do it too. Barack Obama wasn’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to wheel and deal with his buddy John Boehner, now was he? 

That doesn’t make it okay. Neither party should be completely writing off the other. In the end, we’re all fighting for a common goal. Wouldn’t it be nice if we achieved that goal together? 

I want to stand there before a football game and be proud to put my hand over my heart and sing the National Anthem. I want to be proud to stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t know when I stopped being proud of my country. Maybe it was November 8. Maybe it was January 20. Maybe it was the day in fifth grade, back during Obama’s 2008 campaign, when I realized that politics is just one big game of ‘us vs. them.’ There will always be winners and losers in politics. When did the loser become the American people? 

What I do know is that I’m ready to be proud of my country and lawmakers again. I’m tired of watching news coverage of 535 grown men and women snubbing each other like teenagers in a bad 90s high school drama. I’m ready for our lawmakers to get back to work. I don’t think reaching across the aisle every once in a while is going to hurt anyone. In fact, for many Americans, I think it would be a welcome change. 

Chandler Gory is a junior majoring in political science. Her column runs biweekly. 

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COLUMN: Bipartisanship does not exist in American politics