DIVIDED BY DISASTER. The NYTimes reports on how, less than two weeks after the Minneapolis bridge collapse, partisanship is showing. I'm always surprised by the mistaken belief that disasters will cause the parties to set aside their differences and work together. That sounds rosy, but the reality is that the two parties have fundamental differences, and how to handle a disaster naturally exacerbates these differences rather than diminishes them.
We saw calls for bipartisanship following 9/11. That worked badly. We ended up with unchecked executive power and major election and legislative losses for Democrats and progressivism. What people really mean when they talk about bipartisanship is one side giving up an agenda and ceding to whoever is in power. The bridge collapse allows Democrats to highlight a major platform issue: investment in public goods. It offers an excellent opportunity to point out that this is an extreme case, but it illustrates the problems with cutting back spending on social programs and public infrastructure, and allows Dems to point out that there is a real cost that comes with constant tax-trimming. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants to rebuild as quickly as possible while trying to maintain his "no new taxes" policy in an attempt to impress party leaders. These divisions are basic about the function of government, so it's no surprise that such partisanship is showing.