The Death of Bipartisanship


By Malick Nythern Doucoure

The Trump administration hits its 90 day landmark this Thursday and a quick glance at its scandals and achievements reveal deep divisions that will scar American politics for the next four years and unfortunately, the same could be said for the next few decades. The US Legislative branch’s de facto policy of Bipartisanship has been a major driving force behind the success of countless committee hearings, bills and senate approvals, thus one cannot emphasise enough the importance of bipartisanship for the maintenance and continuity of the US political scene. 90 days ago, political commentators were writing on the importance of Bipartisanship. Now, political commentators are writing obituaries for it.

Bipartisanship is usually defined as co-operation, or a compromise, between two parties – particularly within the context of political parties. The United States has a wealth of political history when it comes to cooperation and Bipartisanship. Even in its infant days, smaller states ferociously fought against efforts by larger stages to modify the equal representation they were entitled to as a result of the Articles of Confederation. Smaller states did not want to end up with a ‘quieter voice’ whereas the larger states pointed out the injustice of equal representation despite having very unequal differences in population. However, all sides agreed on a compromise that resulted in the creation of a proportional House of Representatives and an equal Senate, thus illustrating how this example of bipartisanship/compromise gave birth to a major component of US politics.

At the height of a very tense pre-civil war political atmosphere, Abraham Lincoln did the unthinkable in an attempt to reach a compromise with his political opponents. He appointed each and every one of his political rivals within the Republican party to cabinet positions and then went on to add a Democrat to his team. This cross-party, rivalrous coalition was a much needed compromise that could be summarised by one of Lincoln’s many renowned statements: ‘I have no right to deprive this country of its strongest minds simply because they sometimes disagree with me’. Lincoln and his Cabinet famously went on to end a great injustice and emancipate the slaves. This is yet another example of the great wonders that can be achieved with Bipartisanship.

After 6 long years of blood, sweat and toil, President Harry S. Truman found himself in a rather peculiar position that bares some resonance to today’s political climate. As President, he was charged with the task of appointing a new Supreme Court Judge. With the majority of serving Supreme Court judges affiliated to the Democrats, as a Democrat himself Truman was widely expected to further empower the influence of the Democrats in the Supreme Court with his pick. However, in a gesture described by the Bipartisan Policy Center as “an Olive Branch to the legislative Republicans”, Truman nominated a Republican Senator to the position, putting unity and compromise above political differences at a time where the nation – and the world – had a lot of rebuilding to do.

One could write an encyclopaedia on all the instances of bipartisanship and compromise in the United States, ranging from the aforementioned examples to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Great Society program of 1965, the Creation of NASA, Social Security reform to even the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002, Bipartisanship has achieved great things and there truly aren’t enough words in the world to accurately describe its importance.

Thus I cannot begin to explain how much of a Greek Tragedy the Trump Administration is, in regards to Bipartisanship. It has taken a mere 90 days for over 240 years of compromise and bipartisanship to be flushed down the drain. Americans are now living in a political society where Senate appointment confirmations and Intelligence committees – members of whom usually try to cooperate and compromise with one another (with a few anomalies ofcourse) – seem to be plagued with political grievances and disputes. The death of Bipartisanship has brought about a scenario where political disputes seem to be on top of everybody’s agenda, with Devin Nunes – former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee – stepping down from his position after becoming the subject of an ethics inquiry, illustrating how even someone in a role of paramount importance to national security isn’t exempt from the political infighting and chaos of a United States without Bipartisanship.

Things seemed to have reached a climax when on the 6th April, or just 76 days into Trump’s administration, the Republicans “took the historic step of Changing US Senate rules in order to ram through confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court pick”. Usually, Bipartisanship is critical when it comes to confirmation hearings because, as Senator John McCain once said, “it is imperative that we have a functioning senate where the rights of the minority are protected regardless of which party is In power at the time”.


However, in a political atmosphere where bipartisanship no longer seems to be the norm, Senate Democrats felt the need to use filibusters “for the first time in half a century to block the nominee”. The fact that Democrats felt the need to go to this extreme length is hugely overshadowed by the Republican decision to change the rules of Democracy in order to discard the worries of the minority.

My sheer surprise at this near-unbelievable turn of political events is further exacerbated by the realisation that all of this chaos has occurred in less than 90 days of Trump’s Presidency. In less than 90 days, Donald J. Trump has managed to end 240 years of Bipartisanship. In less than 90 days, Donald J. Trump has managed to get millions of concerned Americans protesting against him on the streets. In less than 90 days, Donald J. Trump has almost spent the same amount of money on Travel that Obama spent in 8 years.

If the past 90 days are indicative of what’s to come, to say that I look towards the next 1350 or so days with concern is more than just an understatement.


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