Anyone for Bipartisanship?

The Wall Street Journal just published a farewell column by its Washington bureau chief Gerald F. Seib, who is leaving his post “after three stormy decades.” Although Seib believes “our democracy has always adapted and can do so again,” his column deals mostly with the stormy weather that is now battering this country. 

“America’s political system is fractured and polarized, and reasonable debate seems to have given way to mindless shouting,” Seib writes. “Democrats seem unable to hold on to older rural voters, Republicans unable to talk to young urban voters. The unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 presidential election was somehow stolen from former President Donald Trump represents a dangerous cancer growing inside the body politic.” 

 Seib deplores the paucity of “lawmakers from both parties who are willing to risk their jobs by reaching out to the other side and to take steps that displease the most extreme elements of their parties.” Although Seib never implicates the Left specifically in any wrongdoing, he does mention a bipartisan failing, namely the “brazen actions [taken] at the state level to redraw congressional districts into uncompetitive sinecures.” 

Nowhere in Seib’s column are there references to the exuberant support Democratic leaders gave Black Lives Matter thugs during the 2020 “Summer of Love,” the throwing open of our southern border to expand the Democrats’ voting base, and the critical race and LGBT indoctrination energetically pushed by Democrats at all levels of education and public administration. Seib calls instead for more “bipartisanship,” a goal that can be reached by removing “extreme elements in both parties.”

Seib appeals to bipartisanship in the same way as my leftist academic colleagues 40 years ago invoked moral equivalence in the struggle against the Soviet Union. Everyone was supposedly equally to blame for communist aggression and tyranny, but Western countries were perhaps a little more guilty for whatever reasons the Left could come up with. In the same way, Seib cites the “cancer” of disputing the 2020 election returns and strongly suggests that if the elections this year become “corrosive,” that may be due to Trump’s mischievous complaints about the last presidential election. 

Not surprisingly, a kindred spirit, Bret Baier, celebrated Seib on Fox News after his valedictory was published. Baier strongly affirmed both Seib’s call for bipartisanship and his attack on the “dangerous cancer” of disputing the last presidential election.  It would seem that acceptance of the official results of that contest is a precondition for making our society and government sound again. Seib also looks back with nostalgia to the “bipartisan stewardship” that made the budgets of the Clinton era possible. Perhaps we could return to that high point in American history once we get past our reprehensible gerrymandering and the “cancer” of Trump’s dissing the vote counters.

Allow me to note the following relevant points: Democratic presidential candidates, perhaps most stridently Hillary Clinton, have refused to concede their defeats in past elections, but such denials do not constitute for our retiring Journal columnist a “cancer in the body politic.” Ever since her defeat in a Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018, black activist Stacey Abrams has been angrily contesting her loss and attributing it to racist Republican administrators. Why isn’t Abrams’ denial and incitement to racial strife an irritant worthy of mention? 

Even more significant, why are Trump and his followers wrong to criticize what was, at the very least, a problematic presidential election? It may be the case, as Miranda Devine argued after viewing Dinesh D’Souza’s “2000 Mules,” that we’re beyond the point of being able to right the electoral fraud that occurred in 2020. But we can learn from it. We should make sure that similar abuses won’t happen again. (That’s my view, too.)

 For Baier and Seib, however, these electoral abuses are not worth discussing. In fact, dwelling on such matters, we learn, could be “corrosive” and dampen popular enthusiasm for democracy. If Democrats aren’t admitting their election losses, then perhaps we shouldn’t care. We should just go on trying to be bipartisan. Any hesitation to do so will divide us more, and this may be the case even if our questioning is fully justified.

Finally, Seib keeps pointing to a more agreeable Democratic Party than the one we now have. Of course, the two Democratic Parties are hardly interchangeable.  In the 1990s, Bill Clinton and his cabinet did not stigmatize parents as terrorists for complaining about antiwhite racist instruction in public schools. The Democrats did not leave our borders deliberately open while flooding the country with criminal cartels and Fentanyl. Clinton’s administration did not establish Ministries of Truth to silence opposition or equate its Republican opposition with violent white racists. There’s no indication the Democrats even now, with the economy tanking, intend to control inflationary spending.  And, oh yes, as late as 2006, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was calling for a border wall.  

I’ve no idea how Trump’s unwillingness to meekly accept his defeat in 2020 caused all this to happen.

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About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

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