Obama's Big Bipartisan Stick

The stimulus passed, but not without plenty of Republican hand-wringing over the failure of bipartisanship. Did Obama really leave Republicans out of the process, as they allege? In The New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg points out that the stimulus “had already been tailored to soothe Republican sensibilities. It included tax cuts as well as direct spending, and its size, however huge by normal standards, was not even half the output—two trillion dollars—that the recession is expected to drain from the economy in the next two years.” Obama has said “the Republicans were brought in early and were consulted.” Hertzberg speculates, “Fifty years ago, the civil-rights movement understood that nonviolence can be an effective weapon even if—or especially if—the other side refuses to follow suit. Obama has a similarly tough-minded understanding of the political uses of bipartisanship, which, even if it fails as a tactic for compromise, can succeed as a tonal strategy: once the other side makes itself appear intransigently, destructively partisan, the game is half won.”