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What the Sequester Fight Shows About the Bipartisan Fetish

Speaker of the House ohn Boehner

Speaker of the House John Boehner

The sequester was created in the most bipartisan way possible. It was a proposal from a Democratic President to find a way around an impasse with House Republicans that both sides each believed would eventually advance their long-term agendas. It was approved by a Republican House, a Democratic Senate and signed by a Democratic President. As a result, everyone will agree this is a truly horrible policy that will needlessly hurt the country, but no one responsible for it will probably ever pay a political price.

This is why bipartisanship is so fetishized in Washington by so many. It gives politicians a way to approve unpopular or even knowingly bad policies without fear. This sequester fight is probably the purest demonstration of exactly how bipartisanship is exploited to destroy accountability.

Top Republicans are telling their base it is all Obama’s fault. After all, Obama did come up with the idea, he thought it would work for him, and he signed it into law. For Republicans it is the “Obama Sequester.”

Liberals get to tell the Democratic base that their President is mostly blameless. They argue that Republicans voted for it, Republicans demanded only spending cuts, Republicans called it a victory, and Republicans aren’t making an effort to replace it. Apparently, the buck no longer stops at the President’s desk.

Much of the media can report it as both sides are equally to blame, because to a large degree they are, but politically that is a wash. Even if both parties approval ratings drop because they knowingly adopted a bad law, it doesn’t matter. Two-party political systems are a zero-sum game. As long as both parties are hurt equally, the net effect on elections is nothing.

Thanks to bipartisanship a law almost everyone admits will be bad for the county is likely go into effect and no one will really be held responsible since it is “everyone’s fault.” This is why bipartisanship is so prized during pushes for things like military actions, cutting entitlement benefits, or national security measures that will shred our freedoms.

Rarely do you get to see the accountability shell game being played before the policy is actually put into place. Normally, a bipartisan compromise is enacted with great fanfare and this blame shifting game is only played much latter once the “totally unforeseeable” negative consequences begin happening.

Photo by Gage Skidmore released under Creative Commons License

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at