The Difference Between Republican and Democratic Partisanship

This morning, Mike Allen lamented the loss of Indiana Senator Dick Lugar with—predictably—a complaint about partisanship on both sides:

Look at the two Blue Dogs who lost primaries in Pennsylvania last month, plus the Lugar result, and the quick extinction of moderates in both parties over the past decade, and there is one inescapable conclusion: This town could get even more ungovernable and polarized in November.

I’m not going to dispute the idea that Congress has grown more polarized, though, the era of bipartisanship was a historical aberration, not the norm. But there is a difference between Republican and Democratic partisanship. Simply put, Democrats don’t see Republicans as somehow illegitimate. Indeed, the first two years of President Obama’s term were defined by constant efforts to accommodate Republicans and appease conservative Democrats. Blue Dogs weren’t punished by the party for breaking discipline, and Democrats worked to include Republican objections into their plans (see: the Gang of Six).

By contrast, here is a statement from Richard Mourdock—not to be confused with Modok—the Indiana state treasurer who defeated Lugar in the primary:

“I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view,” Mourdock said on Fox, according to Politico. “You know, I’ve said many times through this campaign that one of the things I hope to do is to help build a conservative majority in the United States Senate and continue to help the House build a Republican majority and have a Republican White House and then bipartisanship becomes having Democrats come our way. So that’s what we’re working towards and I think in the days ahead, Mr. Lugar will join our effort.”

For anyone who says that partisanship is equally bad on both sides, I challenge you to find a Senate or House Democrat who defines “bipartisanship” as forcing the other side to adopt your views.