Partisanship is like the tango — it takes two sides to make it happen.
On one side of the aisle:
- A majority of House Republicans voted to disenfranchise an entire U.S. state because it voted for the Democratic presidential candidate.
- One House Republican tweeted out the Democratic Speaker of the House’s whereabouts during a violent insurrection inspired by the conspiratorial lies her party told in hopes of disenfranchising multiple states because they voted for the Democratic presidential candidate.
- During that insurrection, multiple Republicans refused to wear masks while on lockdown in a room with dozens of their colleagues, despite the requests of older Democratic lawmakers who feared exposure to COVID-19 (some of whom subsequently contracted COVID-19).
- Another House Republican snuck a gun into the Capitol building weeks after that violent insurrection, while several others routinely flout the security protocol put in place following that event.
- House Republicans refused to expel another one of their members, after it came to light that she had endorsed the execution of the Democratic House Speaker, argued that Muslims don’t belong in government, and accused the Rothschilds of starting California’s wildfires with a space laser.
But Democrats have been no better. For one thing, some in Nancy Pelosi’s caucus have argued that they shouldn’t have to serve with the aforementioned House Republican who called for their deaths, an argument that Republicans have rightly derided as a violation of “Biden’s calls for unity,” which “could poison the well for future bipartisanship.”
But that isn’t the half of it. The Democratic Party’s true affront to bipartisanship is this: They are insisting that they have the right to pass the policies they campaigned on, simply because their president won November’s election by millions of votes, while their party’s Senate and House majorities represent tens of millions more Americans than their GOP counterparts.
This week, after Republicans made clear that they would not support a COVID relief bill anywhere near as large as the one that President Biden proposed, Senate Democrats announced that they would move forward without GOP support.
“Only big, bold action is called for,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday, signaling that his caucus intends to advance COVID relief legislation through the budget-reconciliation process, a move that would enable the bill to pass the Senate with a simple majority (i.e., without GOP support).
Republicans were understandably enraged by this move, which is exactly as divisive as endorsing the view the other party’s leader deserves “a bullet to the head.”
“It would be like declaring war around here,” one GOP senator said of Democrats using reconciliation to pass new relief measures for those suffering unemployment or lost income during a pandemic.
Maine Republican Susan Collins, for her part, told Politico that she was confident Biden would not allow his party to do something so divisive, as she believes “the president is sincere in his commitment to bipartisanship.” And no one would question the sincerity of Collins’s own commitment to that ideal. After all, when Republicans won full control of the federal government (even as a majority of Americans voted against their president and Senate caucus), and proceeded to pass a partisan tax cut through reconciliation, Collins voted against it on principle.*
The American people need unity now more than ever. To achieve it, Republicans must try not incite assassination attempts against their Democratic colleagues or willfully infect them with COVID-19, while Democrats must stop trying to increase federal unemployment benefits or prevent red states from being forced to lay off public-sector workers due to pandemic-induced budget problems. As a wise woman once said, we are stronger together.
* This is not strictly true.