By Mark Fishbein
Traditional partisanship holds less sway at a time when fewer people identify with the major parties. And bipartisanship, understood as some soothing landscape where less entrenched Republicans and Democrats meet to “get things done”, is similarly on life support if it hasn’t flatlined completely.
But if we are willing to cast aside preconceptions and accept a new paradigm, there is a developing consensus between political adversaries that goes well beyond mere coincidence.
We’ve all heard this is the political season of the outsider. The cliché is well worn, but the facts on the ground are somewhat unique. Most of the clamor has been on the GOP side, where the first results saw well over 60% of voters turning to candidates for whom the political class has no great love. The size and enthusiasm of crowds for Donald Trump, a real estate tycoon in the public eye for decades but a political novice, defy convention. Bernie Sanders went from a 25-year obscure novelty backbench congressman to a 74 year old rockstar.
At first glance, the Sanders throngs and Trump throngs would appear diametric opposites. Interview some Trumpies and they’d dismiss a bunch of naïve granola eating, America dissing PC types enticed by government handouts while blaming their woes on “the man”. Ask folks “feeling the Bern”, and those Trump gatherings are dark nativist places driven by xenophobic anger and unwelcoming to an American vision of compassion and modernity.
So goes the conventional wisdom, which is always conventional and rarely wise.
But if you ask the people in each crowd, both would describe their candidate as listening to them when their pleas fall on deaf ears in Washington. Both turn on their televisions to a media who talk past them and only into an elite echo chamber. Both crowds see an entrenched political class, bought and paid for, that they aren’t allowed in and a genuine candidate that can’t be had. Neither crowd knows a Beltway cocktail party or Hollywood gala. Both know the burden of loans and the realities of foreclosure and unemployment in the face meaningless positive economic indicators. Both know that politicians live a certain way and talk a certain way, but their candidate talks straight. One crowd was so hopeful for change in 2008 and 2012, victorious, yet still sees little future and a mountain of debt while Wall Street coasts along. One crowd sought constitutional restoration in 2010 and 2014, reigned victorious, yet saw their deceitful leaders take them for fools and pursue the status quo.
Are the throngs cheering for Sanders and Trump really that different, or are they the unorthodox occupants of our Bipartisan Lounge?
Our talking heads blather on in an outdated concept of this place between right and left where government is supposed to work for the people. But it doesn’t. It works only for the governing and not for the governed. Our leaders are elected to serve us, not to perpetuate themselves. The Bushes and Clintons, for all their dollars and aggregate sense of entitlement, still haven’t gotten the memo.
There’s an entrenched political class, and there’s us. We the people are the bipartisans, even if we come at it from different sides. So imagine the supporters of Sanders and Trump/Cruz, backs to one another, weapons drawn, and beginning to pace opposite directions as opponents in an old fashioned duel. But in a nod to David Bowie, they do not pace in a straight line, but instead travel the width of a circle until eventually they meet face to face in exactly the same place and join hands.
We are American brothers and sisters who fiercely exchange opposing ideas on how to best improve the country we love. We are not enemies. Keep our lounge clean.