Redefining What Bipartisan Support, Infrastructure, and Cancel Culture Mean

May 3, 2021

An unexpected string of policy accomplishments during the first 100 days of the Biden Presidency was helped by redefining the meaning of some concepts that previously had ground legislation to a halt.

The first of these changes concerns the meaning of bipartisanship. President Biden campaigned that he would restore bipartisanship, and Republican lawmakers, who universally rejected the American Rescue Plan and the other big programs that Biden is proposing, claim that he broke a promise to work with the GOP. In defending his actions, Biden has redefined the meaning of bipartisanship. The job of lawmakers is to fairly represent the policy preferences of their constituents. If opinion polls consistently reveal policy approval well above 50% for legislation among people who self-identify as either Republican and Democrat, the proposed law can be said to meet the test of bipartisanship regardless of what elected officials think. This redefined condition in fact hark back to the founding of the Republic before political parties had formed and when the common identity of everyone was American and when sovereignty was vested in the “people,” rather than party professionals.

A second redefined term is “infrastructure.” Republican lawmakers have focused on the classic use of the term as applying to public works like roads, bridges, rail lines, subways, electric grids, airports, broadband, etc. Biden has taken a step back, asking first why such items are important. The answer is that without transportation, workers cannot perform their tasks, and he is augmenting that view of  infrastructure with other items that workers need to do their jobs. Like the narrowly defined things that are considered elements of infrastructure, these additions, such as affordable child care and adequate investment in pre-school or post-secondary school education, tend not to be forthcoming on their own from the private sector. Preparing for and halting the severity of climate change is another example of a process that only is going to happen with government incentives and pro-active support and, if unaddressed, will make it increasingly difficult for workers to do their jobs.

A frequent complaint of Republicans against Democrats has been the claim  of “cancel culture.” But who, really, is doing the canceling? Labeling as “fake news” anything or anybody with whom one disagrees is tantamount to canceling truth itself. Likewise, the frenzied efforts of state legislatures to change election laws in order to suppress the right to vote or to reconfigure congressional district lines to promote minority rule is an assault on the foundational American idea that sovereignty is vested in the people, not a monarch, political party, or individual states of the republic.

Copyright 2021, Larry Greenberg. All rights reserved. No secondary distribution without express permission.

 

 

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