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Partisanship Works. One-Party States Don’t.

| September 23, 2012

Your founding congressmen at work. Matthew Lyon is the one with the fire tongs. Roger Griswold has the cane.

They are two of the most repeated claims you’ll hear every four years: That this is the most important election in our lifetime. And that partisanship is demolishing the country. Rubbish.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive I’ve been voting in these elections since the Reagan-Carter contest of 1980, when some of us thought electing Reagan would mean war with the Soviet Union. The guy ended up making peace with the Soviet Union, and a year after he left office, the old evil empire collapsed. If Bill Clinton was elected we were told his high taxes would paralyze the economy and socialize our lives. His high taxes created 23 million jobs, more than any two-term president in history, and he erased the budget deficit.

We can skip the valiant disaster of the Bush years. But four years ago we were told that an Obama presidency would have us palling around with terrorists and spelling depression. Instead, Osama bin Laden is dead and the economy, while nowhere near its Clintonian days, at least hasn’t gone the way of Herbert Hoover’s.

Obama isn’t the apostle of change he promised to be, proving more conservative than any Democrat since Woodrow Wilson. Romney doesn’t pretend to be more than an Etch A Sketch for right-wingers’ political fantasies, and in most ways he’ll be a whiter shade of Obama. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The country is in mending mode, and considering where it’s been, it’s not doing too terrible a job of it. Nor is the world anywhere near its hair-trigger anxieties of cold war years despite Israel’s saber-rattling over Iran’s nukes and continuing deceptions about its own. This election may yet prove to be one of the least consequential of our lifetimes, if only media’s loudest talking heads would lower the volume a bit.

As for the demise of bi-partisanship, every time I hear that old moan I’m reminded of Roger Griswold and Matthew Lyon. Griswold was a Congressman from Connecticut, Lyon a Congressman from Vermont. They were from opposite parties. They despised each other. During one vague proceeding or another on the floor of the House, Griswold charged Lyon with cowardice. Lyon spat in Griswold’s face. Griswold’s motion to expel Lyon failed to get the required two-thirds majority. So Griswold, right after the chaplain’s prayer opening another day’s House session, attacked Lyon with a cane. Lyon defended himself with fire tongs. A motion to reprimand both men failed by one vote.

That was back when the Founders were still founding—John Adams was president, Thomas Jefferson was vice president, Alexander Hamilton was scheming left and right. When George Washington died a year after that incident, Jefferson gladly skipped the funeral. Partisanship had estranged the two that much. The 185 towns that offered up eulogies to Washington drew a distinct divide with those that didn’t in the country’s earliest version of red and blue geography. That, too, is part of the nation’s DNA.

Partisanship isn’t the problem, as the nation’s hyper-partisan but creative founding years proved. Lack of partisanship is. Florida’s one-party state eliminates the need for bi-partisanship. But it’s not producing better governance for Floridians. Partisanship and divided government balance interests, force debate, compel imaginative solutions. George W. Bush was an extremely partisan president who had little more than contempt for Democrats. But he got things done, unfortunate though those things were (two pointless wars, two massive tax cuts, the unfunded expansion of Medicare).

Obama’s mistake was for too long to subordinate leadership to the mirage of bi-partisanship with an opposition that had no intention of dealing, and for the same reason that Romney could strap 47 percent of the nation to the roof of his campaign as excess luggage. Should he win, Obama may yet make the next four years the transformational term his first four could have been, but only if he abandons all pretenses of pretend harmony in favor of what transformational presidents must to do: lead.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter.

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12 Responses for “Partisanship Works. One-Party States Don’t.”

  1. Lonewolf says:

    Our one party state is broken…we need more than just right wing extremists

  2. Yellowstone says:

    There’s a lot missing here, other than the partisan bickering about one man: the President of the United States (POTUS).

    It takes a nation with common goals to bolt this fractured country back together. It took just a decade and 535+ maligned individuals to break ‘the dream’ into a nightmare.

    If, for some unfortunate fate, the GOP is able to take the US Senate AND the POTUS – there will be chaos. Our government is designed as a check and balanced system. But it won’t be if one party takes all.

    Please see partisanship as it is – it’s meant to be! It’s the design. The current problem is the GOP party has demonstrated its true form – they say, “JUST SAY NO”.

    Progressive means progress. Liberal means liberty and freedom.

    Conservative means pay your own way – and not other’s way.

    There’s a difference.

    Vote your best shot at making the ‘the dream’ come true. VOTE!

    • sam8131 says:

      We are so free that we get to determine if we need to buy health care or not. We get to decide whether or not we want to put our money into a bankrupt retirement system or not. If you want to buy a 17 oz coke in NY you are free to do that too or maybe a happy meal in SF rows your boat. You can say a prayer in school whenever you like. We get more free everyday under this liberal leadership.

      Yup, the economy is doing great, jobs are plentiful, gas prices are great, more free money is being printed and put into circulation everyday. Soon bread will cost 4 bucks and our electric bills will double but that’s okay, all is well. BAAAAAAA BAAAAAAAA

    • sam8131 says:

      There will be more than chaos when we hit bottom on the current course.

  3. DoubleGator says:

    It is refreshing to see such an article. Two thumbs up. The article provides depth where in today’s world it is wholely lacking. I wish there were more people to open their eyes. We can only hope and keep on keeping on. Sadly, Florida is, at this time in history, a straight jacket of one party. It would appear to me that last December the Reps in Tallahassee decided that Mr Hutson’s family, being a good and important Rep, was owed the soon to be created seat which included all of Flagler County. A debt is a debt. So the Flagler County Reps cowtowed (and no one had the ____ to run) ….. thanks. You deminish Flager County ….. thanks twice. Sorry this County had no competent REPUBLICAN to run…. oops were you were TOLD to stand down. Now roll over. Sit up. Speak. Flagler County it too trivial for a voice in State politics ……. so it would seem. Shame on you.

  4. Ralph says:

    Stop the borrowing and the over spending. That should be the common theme in this country for starters.

  5. johnny taxpayer says:

    “Obama’s mistake was for too long to subordinate leadership to the mirage of bi-partisanship”

    This claim often gets repeated by writers as if it’s true, but a simple look at the facts shows just how blatantly false it is. Let’s recall that when Mr. Obama took office in January of 2009 his party controlled both houses of congress. And he used those majorities to cram through his signature legislation without any support of the minority party whatsoever. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Obama Care, Dodd Frank, the list goes on… Not once did Mr. Obama or the Democrat leadership in either house solicit input invite the minority leadership of the house or the senate, hell Mr.
    To say that Obama’s problem was “he was too bi-partisan” is a laughable claim that wouldn’t hold up to the most slanted of fact checking websites because the facts show he couldn’t spell bi-partisan until after he got all his pet legislation forced through congress, and the people reacted by turning the house back over to the other party in the mid-term elections of 2010.
    But that is not the only ludicrous claim in this “article”… the author further forgets history to make the claim “George W. Bush was an extremely partisan president who had little more than contempt for Democrats”. But once again facts are stubborn things. Look at the roll calls for all the major legislation that passed while George Bush was President. Did he force all those democrats to vote for war in Afghanistan and Iraq or for the prescription drug plan, or for the “Bush tax cuts for the rich”? How about No Child Left Behind legislation which included none other than Ted Kennedy seated at the signing table as the legislation champion in the Senate?

    So in reality you have a President who works with the minority in congress to pass major legislation and he’s branded the “extremely partisan” President, while another who crams through even more significant legislation, socializing 1/6th of our economy and the largest single spending bill in the history of the congress, (Obama Care, Stimulus Act) without ever so much as talking to the minority party, and he’s branded as being “[subordinate] to the mirage of bi-partisanship”. We’re entitled to our opinion, we’re not however, entitled to our own facts.

  6. tulip says:

    @DOUBLEGATOR Milissa Holland is running against Hutson and I think she has an excellent chance of winning, Hutson may have a lot of money and the silver spoon in his mouth but Millissa has worked long and hard for Flagler County and knows its problems, weaknesses and strengths inside and out, and is quick to defend and stand up for what she thinks is right or deserved and people know that. The only thing Hutson knows about Flagler county is where his headquarters are.

  7. Ralph says:

    “The current problem is the GOP party has demonstrated its true form – they say, “JUST SAY NO”.
    What a lie.

    The GOP HOUSE passed a budget, that is not exactly saying NO. Obama’s budget was defeated in the Senate by 99 votes. Everybody said NO.

    It appears Obama is out of his mind most of the time and just won’t negotiate, and when he does he doesn’t keep his word, like the debt ceiling deal where he pressed for higher taxes after he had already given his word for the deal. What a skunk.

    Now we are faced with the up coming CLIFF because of this dysfunctional human carcass.

  8. Dorothea says:


    Let’s explain exactly what was defeated when Obama’s budget was supposedly defeated 99-0.

    “But, it just isn’t true.

    Just as they did in March in the House of Representatives, Republicans forced a vote on a bill that was supposed to resemble the president’s budget, but wasn’t actually the president’s budget. A Republican Senator submitted it, and called for the vote.

    But the headline would look very different if it said, “Senate Unanimously Rejects A Budget Offered By Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)” which is what actually happened.

    Republicans forced this issue because they want to contrast Obama’s non-budget with their own which is based on the Ryan Plan.

    Read more:

  9. Ralph says:

    September 14, 2012
    Lie: Everybody talks about how partisan everything is. Listen, I am happy to work with Republicans. I want their cooperation. If they want me, I’ll wash the car, I’ll walk the dog for them — — to get a deal done for the American people.
    —- Barack Obama 9/14 in Golden CO

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