Is bipartisanship a remnant of the past?

Bipartisanship was so yesterday.

In today’s Washington, you’re not cool unless you find a way to block some sort of legislation. Even a bill to honor the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker needs a dopey politician to obstruct its passage. Bipartisanship on Capitol Hill wobbles on the edge of existence, waning in popularity, until utterly cremated and scattered along the Potomac River.

History tells us that cooperation in the U.S. Capitol building was once somewhat in vogue. In the 1960s, a time of great turmoil for citizens, elected officials in Washington enjoyed bipartisan support on numerous federal initiatives — namely, Medicare, civil rights reform and environmental law. Medicare passed the Senate on a 70-24 vote and the Civil Rights Act passed by a vote of 73–27. True, these landmark pieces of legislations were debated and threatened by the filibuster. However, according to UCLA political scientist Barbara Sinclair, only 8 percent of major legislation in the 1960s had “extended-debate-related-problems” like the filibuster.

In the ‘80s, the filibuster became a popular lethal weapon on Capitol Hill, as both sides of the aisle — Democrats and Republicans alike — blocked each other’s executive and judicial appointees. Today, the filibuster is just one tool in the Republican’s legislative repertoire to spoil progress in the hopes that steam emanates from Uncle Sam’s ears. The GOP’s playbook is merely a page in length, inscribed with only one word: stall.

According to Sinclair, about 70 percent of bills between 2007-2008, when Republicans were in the minority, were subject to the aforementioned “extended-debate-related-problems.” A stark contrast from the 8 percent in the 1960s.

Since January 2008, about 420 bills have passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, yet are abandoned in the Senate and thus seep into the Capitol’s sewer system instead of our nation’s fabric. It’s no surprise that a popular rallying cry among upset voters is, “Democrats haven’t done anything for us in Washington.” No kidding. The obstructing, delaying and clogging of policy eclipse the well-intended accomplishments.

This neglect of sound policy in the name of politics isn’t a bad habit for both Republicans and Democrats. The scorecard is uneven, as the GOP leadership has taken the filibuster to heart. The most the Democrats used the filibuster when in the minority was 58 times in 1999-2000.

The midterm elections will, most likely, serve as a chance for unhappy voters to redress grievances against the Democratic Party. Undecided voters will take this weekend as a final opportunity to consider who deserves to lead our country. Yet, consider this: In the past two years, Republican leadership has “governed” by austerely declaring “no” to any Democratic proposal. The seething rancor Republican politicians have espoused by doing nothing successfully transformed public opinion against the Democratic majority, but has it solved any of our nation’s problems or simply exacerbate them?

There is nothing democratic about playing politics to foil cooperation. Governing is a process that requires input from the majority and the minority, as the framers intended. Voters should prefer elected officials that choose to debate and vote. At a time when the wrought economy stains our nation’s potential, we should prefer proactive leaders who wish to address the issues. The Republican leadership gives conservative voters a bad wrap. I do not doubt that my conservative peers hope to work together with liberals to find sensible solutions for the problems that irritate all Americans. But the policy of selective hearing from a determined alliance of GOP honchos serves no one.

What will it take to make bipartisanship in Washington cool again? You might just have to snoop around the least cool place in the city: the Library of Congress.

Stephen is a senior in Media.