Is Bipartisanship Overrated?
By Ben Pershing
Thirteen hours from now, President Obama will stand before a joint session of Congress in the House chamber and -- we're making an educated guess here -- speak of the importance of bipartisanship. He will say that the monumental challenges of our time demand that the two parties work together. He will tell Republicans he wants to hear their ideas too, and that the political ways of the past will no longer suffice in dealing with a potentially frightening future.
Obama sounded similar themes Monday during his Fiscal Accountability Summit, calling on Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike (oddly, as though they were reporters) and asking for their views. And he has emphasized bipartisanship since the day he was sworn in, sometimes to his own detriment, as Obama's words were used against him throughout the economic stimulus debate. But new polling released in the prelude to Obama's joint address suggests that maybe he needn't worry so much about bringing people together. Maybe bipartisanship is overrated.
In the new New York Times/CBS News poll, respondents were asked which of two options should be the "higher priority" for Obama -- "working in a bipartisan way" with Republicans, or "sticking to the policies he campaigned on." Fifty-six percent chose the latter option, while 39 percent chose the former. But the results were flipped when people were asked what the congressional GOP should do; 79 percent said they should work with Obama and his fellow Democrats, while just 17 percent said they should stick to Republican policies. The poll's message: Despite all of Obama's rhetoric, it's a lot more important for Republicans to be bipartisan than it is for Obama. Perhaps because he won the election and they lost.
Posted at 8:20 AM ET on Feb 24, 2009
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